Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Two Women Wize

by H. Doc Burns, PhD
March 8, 2010

In recognition of International Women’s Day today, (March 8, 2010), I wanted to celebrate someone I have found to represent strength, wisdom and sheer force of will; the qualities which helped women come as far as they have, from chattel–under or unvalued property not considered fair trade for a goat–not that long ago, to heads of state and governments, corporate moguls and academic giants. I also wanted to spotlight the thoughts of women whose actions have spoken for themselves and whose words will give some foundation to those now and to come who will continue to work toward finally balancing the scales all the way to equal though different and have also made a difference in my life. Who showed gender neutral wisdom.

For a large part of the last century, there were two women, living during, perhaps a hundred weight of years in which a couple of hands full of women, for the most part short in stature, but in no other way small, making themselves large so that a greater number of women with things–important things–to say, have spoken out, regularly in the face of serious resistance and retribution of all kinds, and have been heard…have made themselves heard, in the Western and parts of the Eastern World, encouraging and emboldening women still facing seemingly impenetrable barriers–social, emotional and physical.

These two had things to say, and having spoken, went out in the world to back up their words after being strong and supportive for the men in their lives, getting things done by themselves as that was the only way they knew things would be done.

They both had the courage of their convictions and relied on actions along with words to see that their work bore fruit and was harvested.However, amongst their significant deeds, the words they left behind, mostly meant as a preface to their work and a call to all hands, are a precious legacy of often quiet thoughts for serious contemplation.

Eleanor Roosevelt and Mother Teresa left us a sense of the heights of mind and depths of soul their characters shared. Here are a few of those words from these two amazingly different women indicating the similarity of the thoughtful wisdom so often overshadowed by iron wills and sheer force of personality they shared, especially after both emerging from the long shadows thrown by men of longstanding and trusted leadership, men they loved, supported and promoted.

Mrs. Roosevelt had quite a dry wit, by the way, as did Mother Teresa, although somewhat more visible with Mrs. R.. They both knew a sense of humour can give one great strength and disarm their adversaries. Here are some samples of that verbal strength:

Mother Teresa

  • Life is a beauty, admire it.
  • Life is a dream, realize it.
  • Life is a challenge, meet it.
  • Life is a duty, complete it.
  • Life is a game, play it.
  • Life is a promise, fulfil it.
  • Life is sorrow, overcome it.
  • Life is a song, sing it.
  • Life is a struggle, accept it.
  • Life is a tragedy, confront it.
  • Life is an adventure, dare it.
  • Life is luck, make it.
  • Life is life, fight for it.”

— Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

EleanorRoosevelt

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, and equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them so close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
–‘This Is My Story,’ 1937

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.”

“A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”

“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.”
–“My Day”

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’.””Do one thing every day that scares you.”

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

“Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.”
–Eleanor Anna Roosevelt, (1884 – 1962)
US Diplomat, Reformer and former First Lady

These barely scratch the surface of Mrs. Roosevelt’s ‘bon mots’ and pearls from her writings demonstrating her quick mind and humour. These are two of her’s that are personal favourites:

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”

These words demonstrate the true power of these minds without any further embellishments from me, so I shall leave you with them to ponder.

As ever,
–doc-

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Feb.14, 2010

A Personal Comment:

For centuries Haiti has been the victim of invasions and crippling diplomatic blunders by many countries and far more than its fair share of natural disasters.

If the debt of so many shaky, questionable and downright dictatorial and illegal governments can be ‘forgiven’ in the name of political and/or economic expediency, certainly one of the most promising governments in Haiti’s history shouldn’t be further disabled with such debt while attempting to keep the people hopeful, the government stable and completely rebuild their infrastructure, especially when the earthquake damage falls off CNN and the front page.

In July of last year, (2009), the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, deciding Haiti had met internal poverty reduction and economic reform conditions, cancelled $1.2 bil, or 80% of Haiti’s debt. If their other creditors, including the Inter-American Development Bank, and countries like Taiwan and Venezuela, with the IMF and World Bank can find the last 20% of the debt in their coin purses and couch cushions, cancelling the remainder will, in the long run, do Haiti much greater service than donating a similar amount today by giving them some solid economic foundation as they rebuild housing and stable infrastructure foundations, by necessity, from the bedrock up.

By no means should this replace the emergency and intermediate aid so desperately needed, but, as is so prevalent in today’s society, especially economically, short sightedness and ignoring the future as long as things look good today, (or until the next election), is a recipe for disaster.

Haiti has had too much disaster.

H. Doc Burns, Ph.D

Read Full Post »

Attention–to whom it may concern:

February 7th to 13th is officially FREELANCE WRITER APPRECIATION WEEK! Honest! So why don’t you visit your friendly neighbourhood writer and buy them a cuppa*, sharpen some pencils, trim a quill, or tidy up the piles of crumpled paper, pizza crusts, worn out keyboards, Red Bull tins and gnawed desktop surrounding them, or even give them a hug, (but approach carefully–if more four letter words are being mumbled or screamed than are being entered into the manuscript, frenzied attacks and/or uncontrollable sobbing may occur). Perhaps it’s best if you appreciate them from outside leaping range, but please do something.

Staring at a blank recording surface, equally blankly, wondering why every muse and inspiration took this particular time to vacation in the Bahamas, can be a lonely, frustrating experience, and we tend to forget food, sleep, phones, Facebook and most everything else other than wondering when it will stop, and a touch of the milk of human kindness can be very soothing, especially in the cuppa.  Or when the words are flowing and the pages are piling up, writing can be everything up to and including transcendent as we are ‘in the zone’ and we tend to forget food, sleep, phones, Facebook and most everything else other than wondering when it will stop. I, for one, (or occasionally several), promise not to growl–well–for this week, too much, anyway.

As a freelance writer, I shall appreciate your appreciation.

Now I have another two deadlines, past and passing, respectively, to which I should return. Another about which I’m currently playing “Phone Hide & Seek,” (a variation of “Phone Tag”), with a charming editor, (as Douglas Adams once said, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.“), and I promise to appear delightfully surprized at any appreciation I receive this annual Freelance Writer Appreciation Week. Unless, I suppose, I am actually surprized, (startled) by the attention, at which time I am not accountable for and apologize in advance at any injuries, physical, emotional or psychological incurred by anyone present, nor for my complete lack of recognition, acknowledgment, response and/or rejoinder.

Enjoy the week,
and I’m sure your day is coming.
As ever,

–doc–
Dr. H. Doc (Cheshire Hobbes) Burns, MA, MFA, Ph.D, Writer (Freelance)

* Caution: upon ascertaining the current mental state of the writer dictates what liquid the cuppa should contain. This can be another incendiary moment. If a cup containing the wrong percentage of alcohol and/or caffeine appear, the ‘appreciator’ should be ready if flying crockery occurs.  -d-

Read Full Post »

Requiescat In Pace Sir Johnny

allmusic News Roundup: 2/08/2010
February 8th, 2010 | AMG Staff

R.I.P. “The First Knight of British Jazz,” saxophonist/clarinetist/arranger John Dankworth, who died on Saturday at age 82. Dankworth studied at the Royal Academy of Music in the ’40s and formed his first band, the Johnny Dankworth Seven, in 1950. Later that decade, Dankworth formed a big band and married jazz singer Cleo Laine. Along with UK chart success with 1956’s “Experiments with Mice” and 1961’s “African Waltz,” Dankworth moved into film work in the ’60s and became Laine’s musical director in the ’70s; during his career, he also worked as musical director for Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, and Nat King Cole. Dankworth was knighted in 2006; he and Laine had a son and a daughter, both jazz musicians as well.
[Independent.co.uk]

John Mayer, Arcade Fire and Haiti

allmusic News Roundup: 2/04/2010
February 4th, 2010 | AMG Staff

John Mayer and Arcade Fire have licensed two of their best-known songs to help with Haiti relief efforts. Along with donating $500,000, Mayer will contribute his 2006 hit “The Heart of Life” to Red Cross radio and television commercials. Meanwhile, Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” will be used in charity ads that will run during the Super Bowl; all of their licensing fees will go to Partners in Health’s Stand with Haiti.
[RollingStone.com]

Read Full Post »

“Real education must ultimately be limited to men who insist on knowing–the rest is mere sheep-herding.”

Ezra Loomis Pound

Ezra Pound (1885-1972) was born in Hailey, Idaho, grew up near Philadelphia, but lived much of his adult life overseas. In his early career he was the influential and a controversial leader of Imagism and Vorticism. He also championed young writers, including H.D., T.S. Eliot, and Robert Frost. Among his best-known works are “In a Station of the Metro,” “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley,” and The Cantos, a ranging, lifelong work that expounded his political and economic theories.

Possibly There Are Things to Come...
A Taste of Pound

Read Full Post »

Salinger,JD-byLotte Jacob

JD Salinger - photo Lotte Jacob/"Catcher In the Rye" Cover

J. D. Salinger, Literary Recluse, Dies at 91
By CHARLES McGRATH
Published: January 28, 2010
New York Times Books

J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died on Wednesday [January 27, 2010] at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.

J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died on Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.

Mr. Salinger’s literary representative, Harold Ober Associates, announced the death, saying it was of natural causes. “Despite having broken his hip in May,” the agency said, “his health had been excellent until a rather sudden decline after the new year. He was not in any pain before or at the time of his death.”

Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” the collection “Nine Stories” and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.”

“Catcher” was published in 1951, and its very first sentence, distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Though not everyone, teachers and librarians especially, was sure what to make of it, “Catcher” became an almost immediate best seller, and its narrator and main character, Holden Caulfield, a teenager newly expelled from prep school, became America’s best-known literary truant since Huckleberry Finn.

With its cynical, slangy vernacular voice (Holden’s two favorite expressions are “phony” and “goddam”), its sympathetic understanding of adolescence and its fierce if alienated sense of morality and distrust of the adult world, the novel struck a nerve in cold war America and quickly attained cult status, especially among the young. Reading “Catcher” used to be an essential rite of passage, almost as important as getting your learner’s permit.

The novel’s allure persists to this day, even if some of Holden’s preoccupations now seem a bit dated, and it continues to sell more than 250,000 copies a year in paperback. Mark David Chapman, who killed John Lennon in 1980, even said the explanation for his act could be found in the pages of “The Catcher in the Rye.” In 1974 Philip Roth wrote, “The response of college students to the work of J. D. Salinger indicates that he, more than anyone else, has not turned his back on the times but, instead, has managed to put his finger on whatever struggle of significance is going on today between self and culture.”

Many critics were more admiring of “Nine Stories,” which came out in 1953 and helped shape writers like Mr. Roth, John Updike and Harold Brodkey. The stories were remarkable for their sharp social observation, their pitch-perfect dialogue (Mr. Salinger, who used italics almost as a form of musical notation, was a master not of literary speech but of speech as people actually spoke it) and the way they demolished whatever was left of the traditional architecture of the short story — the old structure of beginning, middle, end — for an architecture of emotion, in which a story could turn on a tiny alteration of mood or irony. Mr. Updike said he admired “that open-ended Zen quality they have, the way they don’t snap shut.”

Mr. Salinger also perfected the great trick of literary irony — of validating what you mean by saying less than, or even the opposite of, what you intend. Orville Prescott wrote in The New York Times in 1963, “Rarely if ever in literary history has a handful of stories aroused so much discussion, controversy, praise, denunciation, mystification and interpretation.”

As a young man Mr. Salinger yearned ardently for just this kind of attention. He bragged in college about his literary talent and ambitions, and wrote swaggering letters to Whit Burnett, the editor of Story magazine. But success, once it arrived, paled quickly for him. He told the editors of Saturday Review that he was “good and sick” of seeing his photograph on the dust jacket of “The Catcher in the Rye” and demanded that it be removed from subsequent editions. He ordered his agent to burn any fan mail. In 1953 Mr. Salinger, who had been living on East 57th Street in Manhattan, fled the literary world altogether and moved to a 90-acre compound on a wooded hillside in Cornish. He seemed to be fulfilling Holden’s desire to build himself “a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there for the rest of my life,” away from “any goddam stupid conversation with anybody.”

He seldom left, except occasionally to vacation in Florida or to visit William Shawn, the almost equally reclusive former editor of The New Yorker. Avoiding Mr. Shawn’s usual (and very public) table at the Algonquin Hotel, they would meet under the clock at the old Biltmore Hotel, the rendezvous for generations of prep-school and college students.

After Mr. Salinger moved to New Hampshire his publications slowed to a trickle and soon stopped completely. “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam,” both collections of material previously published in The New Yorker, came out in 1961 and 1963, and the last work of Mr. Salinger’s to appear in print was “Hapworth 16, 1924,” a 25,000-word story that took up most of the June 19, 1965, issue of The New Yorker.

In 1997 Mr. Salinger agreed to let Orchises Press, a small publisher in Alexandria, Va., bring out “Hapworth” in book form, but he backed out of the deal at the last minute. He never collected the rest of his stories or allowed any of them to be reprinted in textbooks or anthologies. One story, “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” was turned into “My Foolish Heart,” a movie so bad that Mr. Salinger was never tempted to sell film rights again.

Befriended, Then Betrayed

In the fall of 1953 he befriended some local teenagers and allowed one of them to interview him for what he assumed would be an article on the high school page of a local paper, The Claremont Daily Eagle. The article appeared instead as a feature on the editorial page, and Mr. Salinger felt so betrayed that he broke off with the teenagers and built a six-and-a-half-foot fence around his property.

He seldom spoke to the press again, except in 1974 when, trying to fend off the unauthorized publication of his uncollected stories, he told a reporter from The Times: “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. It’s peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”

And yet the more he sought privacy, the more famous he became, especially after his appearance on the cover of Time in 1961. For years it was a sort of journalistic sport for newspapers and magazines to send reporters to New Hampshire in hopes of a sighting. As a young man Mr. Salinger had a long, melancholy face and deep soulful eyes, but now, in the few photographs that surfaced, he looked gaunt and gray, like someone in an El Greco painting. He spent more time and energy avoiding the world, it was sometimes said, than most people do in embracing it, and his elusiveness only added to the mythology growing up around him.

Depending on one’s point of view, he was either a crackpot or the American Tolstoy, who had turned silence itself into his most eloquent work of art. Some believed he was publishing under an assumed name, and for a while in the late 1970s, William Wharton, author of “Birdy,” was rumored to be Mr. Salinger, writing under another name, until it turned out that William Wharton was instead a pen name for the writer Albert du Aime.

In 1984 the British literary critic Ian Hamilton approached Mr. Salinger with the notion of writing his biography. Not surprisingly, Mr. Salinger turned him down, saying he had “borne all the exploitation and loss of privacy I can possibly bear in a single lifetime.” Mr. Hamilton went ahead anyway, and in 1986, Mr. Salinger took him to court to prevent the use of quotations and paraphrases from unpublished letters. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and to the surprise of many, Mr. Salinger eventually won, though not without some cost to his cherished privacy. (In June 2009 he also sued Fredrik Colting, the Swedish author and publisher of a novel said to be a sequel to “The Catcher in the Rye.” In July a federal judge indefinitely enjoined publication of the book.)

Mr. Salinger’s privacy was further punctured in 1998 and again in 2000 with the publication of memoirs by, first, Joyce Maynard — with whom he had a 10-month affair in 1973, when Ms. Maynard was a college freshman — and then his daughter, Margaret. Some critics complained that both women were trying to exploit and profit from their history with Mr. Salinger, and Mr. Salinger’s son, Matthew, wrote in a letter to The New York Observer that his sister had “a troubled mind,” and that he didn’t recognize the man portrayed in her account. Both books nevertheless added a creepy, Howard Hughesish element to the Salinger legend.

Mr. Salinger was controlling and sexually manipulative, Ms. Maynard wrote, and a health nut obsessed with homeopathic medicine and with his diet (frozen peas for breakfast, undercooked lamb burger for dinner). Ms. Salinger said that her father was pathologically self-centered and abusive toward her mother, and to the homeopathy and food fads she added a long list of other enthusiasms: Zen Buddhism, Vedanta Hinduism, Christian Science, Scientology and acupuncture. Mr. Salinger drank his own urine, she wrote, and sat for hours in an orgone box.

But was he writing? The question obsessed Salingerologists, and in the absence of real evidence, theories multiplied. He hadn’t written a word for years. Or, like the character in the Stanley Kubrick film “The Shining,” he wrote the same sentence over and over again. Or like Gogol at the end of his life, he wrote prolifically but then burned it all. Ms. Maynard said she believed there were at least two novels locked away in a safe, though she had never seen them.

Early Life

Jerome David Salinger was born in Manhattan on New Year’s Day, 1919, the second of two children. His sister, Doris, who died in 2001, was for many years a buyer in the dress department at Bloomingdale’s. Like the Glasses, the Salinger children were the product of a mixed marriage. Their father, Sol, was a Jew, the son of a rabbi, but sufficiently assimilated that he made his living importing both cheese and ham. Their mother, Marie Jillisch, was of Irish descent, born in Scotland, but changed her first name to Miriam to appease her in-laws. The family was living in Harlem when Mr. Salinger was born, but then, as Sol Salinger’s business prospered, moved to West 82nd Street and then to Park Avenue.

Never much of a student, Mr. Salinger, then known as Sonny, attended the progressive McBurney School on the Upper West Side. (He told the admissions office his interests were dramatics and tropical fish.) But he flunked out after two years and in 1934 was packed off to Valley Forge Military Academy, in Wayne, Pa., which became the model for Holden’s Pencey Prep. Like Holden, Mr. Salinger was the manager of the school fencing team, and he also became the literary editor of the school yearbook, Crossed Swords, and wrote a school song that was either a heartfelt pastiche of 19th-century sentiment or else a masterpiece of irony:

Hide not thy tears on this last day

Your sorrow has no shame;

To march no more midst lines of gray;

No longer play the game.

Four years have passed in joyful ways — Wouldst stay those old times dear?

Then cherish now these fleeting days,

The few while you are here.

In 1937, after a couple of unenthusiastic weeks at New York University, Mr. Salinger traveled with his father to Austria and Poland, where the father’s plan was for him to learn the ham business. Deciding that wasn’t for him, he returned to America and drifted through a term or so at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. Fellow students remember him striding around campus in a black chesterfield with velvet collar and announcing that he was going to write the Great American Novel.

Mr. Salinger’s most sustained exposure to higher education was an evening class he took at Columbia in 1939, taught by Whit Burnett, and under Mr. Burnett’s tutelage he managed to sell a story, “The Young Folks,” to Story magazine. He subsequently sold stories to Esquire, Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post — formulaic work that gave little hint of real originality.

In 1941, after several rejections, Mr. Salinger finally cracked The New Yorker, the ultimate goal of any aspiring writer back then, with a story, “Slight Rebellion Off Madison,” that was an early sketch of what became a scene in “The Catcher in the Rye.” But the magazine then had second thoughts, apparently worried about seeming to encourage young people to run away from school, and held the story for five years — an eternity even for The New Yorker — before finally publishing it in 1946, buried in the back of an issue.

Meanwhile Mr. Salinger had been drafted. He served with the Counter-Intelligence Corps of the Fourth Infantry Division, whose job was to interview Nazi deserters and sympathizers, and was stationed for a while in Tiverton, Devon, the setting of “For Esmé — with Love and Squalor,” probably the most deeply felt of the “Nine Stories.” On June 6, 1944, he landed at Utah Beach, and he later saw action during the Battle of the Bulge.

In 1945 he was hospitalized for “battle fatigue” — often a euphemism for a breakdown — and after recovering he stayed on in Europe past the end of the war, chasing Nazi functionaries. He married a German woman, very briefly — a doctor about whom biographers have been able to discover very little. Her name was Sylvia, Margaret Salinger said, but Mr. Salinger always called her Saliva.

A Different Kind of Writer

Back in New York, Mr. Salinger moved into his parents’ apartment and, having never stopped writing, even during the war, resumed his career. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” austere, mysterious and Mr. Salinger’s most famous and still most discussed story, appeared in The New Yorker in 1948 and suggested, not wrongly, that he had become a very different kind of writer. And like so many writers he eventually found in The New Yorker not just an outlet but a kind of home and developed a close relationship with the magazine’s editor, William Shawn, himself famously shy and agoraphobic — a kindred spirit. In 1961 Mr. Salinger dedicated “Franny and Zooey” to Shawn, writing, “I urge my editor, mentor and (heaven help him) closest friend, William Shawn, genius domus of The New Yorker, lover of the long shot, protector of the unprolific, defender of the hopelessly flamboyant, most unreasonably modest of born great artist-editors, to accept this pretty skimpy-looking book.”

As a young writer Mr. Salinger was something of a ladies’ man and dated, among others, Oona O’Neill, the daughter of Eugene O’Neill and the future wife of Charlie Chaplin. In 1953 he met Claire Douglas, the daughter of the British art critic Robert Langdon Douglas, who was then a 19-year-old Radcliffe sophomore who in many ways resembled Franny Glass (or vice versa); they were married two years later. (Ms. Douglas had married and divorced in the meantime.) Margaret was born in 1955, and Matthew, now an actor and film producer, was born in 1960. But the marriage soon turned distant and isolating, and in 1966, Ms. Douglas sued for divorce, claiming that “a continuation of the marriage would seriously injure her health and endanger her reason.”

The affair with Ms. Maynard, then a Yale freshman, began in 1972, after Mr. Salinger read an article she had written for The New York Times Magazine titled “An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life.” They moved in together but broke up abruptly after 10 months when Mr. Salinger said he had no desire for more children. For a while in the ’80s Mr. Salinger was involved with the actress Elaine Joyce, and late in that decade he married Colleen O’Neill, a nurse, who is considerably younger than he is. Not much is known about the marriage because Ms. O’Neill embraced her husband’s code of seclusion.

Besides his son, Matthew, Mr. Salinger is survived by Ms. O’Neill and his daughter, Margaret, as well as three grandsons. His literary agents said in a statement that “in keeping with his lifelong, uncompromising desire to protect and defend his privacy, there will be no service, and the family asks that people’s respect for him, his work and his privacy be extended to them, individually and collectively, during this time.”

“Salinger had remarked that he was in this world but not of it,” the statement said. “His body is gone but the family hopes that he is still with those he loves, whether they are religious or historical figures, personal friends or fictional characters.”

As for the fictional family the Glasses, Mr. Salinger had apparently been writing about them nonstop. Ms. Maynard said she saw shelves of notebooks devoted to the family. In Mr. Salinger’s fiction the Glasses first turn up in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” in which Seymour, the oldest son and family favorite, kills himself during his honeymoon. Characters who turn out in retrospect to have been Glasses appear glancingly in “Nine Stories,” but the family saga really begins to be elaborated upon in “Franny and Zooey,” “Raise High the Roof Beam” and “Hapworth,” the long short story, which is ostensibly a letter written by Seymour from camp when he is just 7 years old but already reading several languages and lusting after Mrs. Happy, wife of the camp owner.

Readers also began to learn about the parents, Les and Bessie, long-suffering ex-vaudevillians, and Seymour’s siblings Franny, Zooey, Buddy, Walt, Waker and Boo Boo; about the Glasses’ Upper West Side apartment; about the radio quiz show on which all the children appeared. Seldom has a fictional family been so lovingly or richly imagined.

Too lovingly, some critics complained. With the publication of “Franny and Zooey” even staunch Salinger admirers began to break ranks. John Updike wrote in The Times Book Review: “Salinger loves the Glasses more than God loves them. He loves them too exclusively. Their invention has become a hermitage for him. He loves them to the detriment of artistic moderation.” Other readers hated the growing streak of Eastern mysticism in the saga, as Seymour evolved, in successive retellings, from a suicidal young man into a genius, a sage, even a saint of sorts.

But writing in The New York Review of Books in 2001, Janet Malcolm argued that the critics had all along been wrong about Mr. Salinger, just as short-sighted contemporaries were wrong about Manet and about Tolstoy. The very things people complain about, Ms. Malcolm contended, were the qualities that made Mr. Salinger great. That the Glasses (and, by implication, their creator) were not at home in the world was the whole point, Ms. Malcolm wrote, and it said as much about the world as about the kind of people who failed to get along there.
Charles Mcgrath – New York Times Books

An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly that Miriam was the name of the wife of Seymour Glass, one of Mr. Salinger’s characters. And it erroneously gave June 4, 1944, as the date that Mr. Salinger landed at Utah Beach.

New York Times Related Articles

An Appraisal | J. D. Salinger: Of Teen Angst and an Author’s Alienation (January 29, 2010)
Room for Debate: Holden Caufield’s Afterlife (January 29, 2010)
ArtsBeat: Share Your Thoughts (January 28, 2010)
ArtsBeat: Readers Respond to J.D. Salinger’s Death
Get a Life, Holden Caulfield (June 21, 2009)
ArtsBeat: How The Times Reviewed J. D. Salinger
An Author’s Prose (January 29, 2010)
City Room: Taking a Walk Through J. D. Salinger’s New York
Times Topics: J. D. Salinger
More Posts on J. D. Salinger

Read Full Post »

January 18, 2010

from Barnes and Noble Review

Daybook

“It was a dark and stormy night…”

January 18: On this day in 1873 the novelist-historian Edward George Bulwer-Lytton died. Although widely read in Victorian England, Bulwer-Lytton is now mostly known for his influence upon other writers. Most famously, he told his friend Charles Dickens that his proposed ending to Great Expectations was too bleak, whereupon Dickens rewrote to bring Pip and Estella back together. Most infamously, he inspired the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest by penning this rambling wreck of a sentence, which opens his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” (from the 1830 novel Paul Clifford)

After twenty-eight years, the B-L Contest has a half-dozen compilations of contest entries published as books themselves — It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, Son of It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, Bride of Dark and Stormy, etc. — and now nine contest categories. Behold the Grand Prize Winner and Runner Up for 2009:

“Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin’ off Nantucket Sound from the nor’ east and the dogs are howlin’ for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the “Ellie May,” a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin’ and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests.” (submitted by David McKenzie, Federal Way, WA)

“The wind dry-shaved the cracked earth like a dull razor — the double edge kind from the plastic bag that you shouldn’t use more than twice, but you do; but Trevor Earp had to face it as he started the second morning of his hopeless search for Drover, the Irish Wolfhound he had found as a pup near death from a fight with a prairie dog and nursed back to health, stolen by a traveling circus so that the monkey would have something to ride.” (submitted by Warren Blair, Ashburn, VA)

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest website can be found at: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »