Saving Salinger From Himself

Salinger is suing, as we know. Ron Rosenbaum, who revisits the “What the fuck has he been doing all these years?” question, at Slate seems to think that we the people, as some kind of right, deserve to see Salinger’s work. Most of Rosenbaum’s speculations are unlikely. Because let’s face it, we know there are finished works locked in Salinger’s freezer, and I think there’s going to be a masterpiece hidden in there.

What strikes me most is the fact that Salinger, who hides so obsessively from media spotlight, found the silly issue of an unauthorized sequel important enough to pseudo-emerge. At least he’s not dealing with zombies, after all. (Alas there’s no one to save Jane Austen from such a fate.) At this point, Holden Caulfield is as much a part of popular culture as, say, Chevy Chase. Not that the character should legally belong to the public domain — Caulfield is authentically Salinger’s — but why does the guy care so much? It’s not like anyone’s mistaking 60 Years Late Coming Through the Rye for his own, or the new character of Holden for anything other than a phony. Either Salinger is bonkers, and I think we’d probably have a better idea if he was, or he’s sitting on a whole lot of genius.

If Salinger is indeed sitting on masterpieces, I commend him. By waiting to publish posthumously, he experiences none of the glory. Sure, writers have been known to be secretive, but this is extreme. Salinger is either so self-involved he’s willing to forfeit every ounce of possible glory and riches for eternal indestructibility, or he doesn’t give a fuck and simply wishes to write without silly obstacles. Whichever it is, Sal, carry on. Just leave your freezer unlocked.