We talked recently about an article in the New York Times from January 2010 that covered J.D. Salinger's life in Cornish, N.H., and his relationship with Cornish's other residents.
Kevin: So what did you think of that article when you read it?
I thought the tipping $2 to the waiters at church dinners was amazing
Anthony: I think we should go to Cornish--I mean, that was my first thought
Kevin: Yeah. I would love to.
Anthony: For like Thanksgiving.
Kevin: So soon!
Anthony: Maybe every year.
Anthony: Thanksgiving in Cornish
Kevin: And ask where his house is?
Over and over again
Anthony: And stay with his widow
Kevin: She would welcome us
we'd be like, 'we're different'
Anthony: We're not like the other writers who came here
Kevin: Not at all. We're really fans
Anthony: It's hard to find fans like us.
Kevin: Who own every edition of every book
Anthony: I dress like Fanny every day. And a lot of my thoughts are similar to Holden's.
Kevin: And I remember from school you would often collapse on backroom couches and whisper to yourself.
Anthony: When did you first read Salinger?
Kevin: I read Catcher in high school and liked it, but it also weirded me out a little. Then I didn't read him again until the first year of grad school. I think I was put off by the rep. What about you?
Anthony: What was the weirdness?
Kevin: I think being enrolled in a boarding school and reading about boarding school kids was strange, plus a lot of it flew right over my head, and I was what might be generously called a lazy reader.
Anthony: I read Catcher when I was 17 or 18 but it was anti-climatic. Too built up. I preferred Dickens then to my now, dear Holden.
Oh yeah--so do all the guys in boarding school have crummy fingernails?
Kevin: No, most get manicures
Anthony: And do they sort the social order based on luggage?
Kevin: Haha, more on like, who can steal cable successfully.
Anthony: Are most Manicheans?
Kevin: for their dorm room
Anthony: Manicured Manicheans?
Anthony: Cable sweaters? I'm out of the loop on this cable business.
Did guys ever disappear?
And would you hear about what happened to them?
Kevin: Yeah, some guys did. They would leave for break and never come back
Or just not be there for class and then it would come out later that something happened with their family or they had a breakdown or whatever
there were definitely breakdowns, that's a real big thing to do in boarding school
Anthony: Wasn't the first appearance of Holden Caufield in the New Yorker in a story that referred to breakdowns?
Kevin: Yeah, I can't remember--slight breakdown off 57th street
or slight rebellion?
Anthony: Is it the separation anxiety or being in an enclosed group of teenage boys?
Oh yeah--slight rebellion. Not a breakdown!
Kevin: I think that has a lot to do with it. The stress of school plus having to demonstrate manliness, etc. on an everyday basis to prove yourself
Anthony: I have noticed that you prove yourself a lot.
Especially at checkout lanes
Kevin: Haha, I do try to show tons of virility
mostly in consumer environments
Anthony: The little speeches that you would give
I remember those
Anthony: "Kevin, you don't have to prove yourself to the Wal-Mart cashier."
But I could see how that would lead a person to find that everything is bullshit
Kevin: Yeah, I think that environment is tough to thrive within. The only ones who did later turned out to be pretty fucking crazy as in insanely aggressive
Anthony: It's weird--I was just about to diagnose some of Holden's anxiety as being about the uncertainty of what was happening at home, since his brother had died, and he was in this boarding school far away.
But he doesn't want to go back home--he wants to disappear even more.
Kevin: There's something to that, even with the stories too--like a need for self-effacement
Anthony: He wants to wipe himself out to everyone beside himself.
Kevin: Some of the other characters display that
Anthony: Literally there.
Kevin: There's a heavy world-weariness to the Glass kids
Seymour actually followed through
Anthony: Who would be most likely to follow him that way?
She seems most intense.
Kevin: That was my first thought
She would be it, though I guess it's tough to tell what happens to her after the events in Zooey
Maybe she recovers and gets married
Anthony: We could ask around at Thanksgiving in Cornish.
Do you think there are a lot of people dropping by?
Kevin: "Do you think Franny would kill herself?" Said to the policeman who pulls us over.
Anthony: Or is it too unsexy? Like VFW halls, etcetera.
Kevin: I think there are probably still people who go there
Anthony: Not like Jim Morrison's grave
Kevin: I would if I lived closer
Anthony: and Rimbaud's hair clippings.
Kevin: No, but it would be cool to see the town where he spent most of his life
The people seemed pretty great from that article
Anthony: Because of the intensity of his characters?
Kevin: I don't know. Did he write any of the stories in Cornish?
Anthony: Oh--I don't know when he moved there.
Kevin: The Glass stories, or were they all from before
If more stuff comes out, from the purported archive, do you think people will flock there again
Anthony: I'm surprised there's no bootlegs.
Or even fakes.
Kevin: Yeah, where are the dittos
Anthony: There's fake Beatles songs.
Kevin: Didn't that one guy try to do a Catcher sequel?
Or he did?
I can't remember if that got blocked
Anthony: Yeah--and an Iowa grad just wrote something else with Holden in it.
Kevin: Oh god
Anthony: I know. I'm not sure the point except publicity.
Kevin: That's what I was thinking...
Anthony: I wouldn't mind a go-kart game with the Salinger characters though.
Maybe for the Nintendo 3DS
Kevin: Oooh, good pitch
Who would be the fastest
Have to figure Holden's pretty thin/wiry
But maybe loose with the wheel?
Anthony: Seymour has the secret military training.
Was Seymour the Salinger stand-in?
Was his suicide the way Salinger brought about death to his ego so that he could get out of the way?
Oh shit--my coffee break is over.
Kevin: That's a god thought. I always figured it was Seymour and Buddy as the stand-ins, like different parts of him
Okay, so we can wrap it up
Kevin: Oh, I know what I wanted to ask you real quick--do you think the 'built-up-ness' of Catcher ruins it for some people, like they go into it expecting too much. I think that happened to me too...
I'd heard about it for so long, even when I was 16
Anthony: oh yeah
you should read it again!
Kevin: I know, I've forgotten so much of what happens.
Anthony: I'm surprised you haven't.
Kevin: Only superficial things stuck with me
Anthony: I read it three times for work in Singapore
since I taught it over and over again there
Kevin: Did it read better those times around?
As opposed to when you were in high school?
Anthony: It's really good.
Yeah--I had a religion teacher in college who made us read it
and that was my second time. I've loved it since then
Kevin: Hmm. Maybe I should've re-read it in college, I feel like it would've made more sense to me then, or I would've understood some of the emotions more.
It's weird b/c it's a canonical high school book, but it's not really for high schoolers, is it?
Anthony: It can be.
Kevin: or maybe not for high schoolers now?
Anthony: woody allen called it one of his favorite books
and has a good write up
Kevin: oh whoa
Anthony: "The Catcher in the Rye has always had special meaning for me because I read it when I was young – 18 or so. It resonated with my fantasies about Manhattan, the Upper East Side, and New York City in general. It was such a relief from all the other books I was reading at the time, which all had a quality of homework about them. For me, reading Middlemarch or Sentimental Education is work, whereas The Catcher in the Rye is pure pleasure. The burden of entertainment was on the author. Salinger fulfilled that obligation from the first sentence on. When I was younger reading was something you did for school, something you did for obligation, something you did if you wanted to take out a certain kind of woman. It wasn't something I did for fun. But Catcher in the Rye was different. It was amusing, it was in my vernacular, and the atmosphere held great emotional resonance for me. I reread it on a few occasions and I always get a kick out of it."
Kevin: So cool
Anthony: I just re-read that list because I found a reference to this Brasilian writer de Assis in an Elizabeth Bishop essay
and my brain was telling me that Woody Allen name dropped him
Kevin: haha, that's incredible that you remembered the reference
Anthony: I put it on my amazon wishlist!
so it stuck around a little bit
Kevin: Someone will send it to you anonymously like what happened with Woody Allen
I'd like to get anonymous books in the mail, with charming notes
You'll like this!
Anthony: that would be awesome