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Letters to J.D. Salinger


Letters to J.D. Salinger

Could there be a sense of abandonment we all feel when a burning star decides to hide its flame from us? J. D. Salinger, a certified recluse, has asserted his want and need for privacy, and has left us all baffled. Why would one who created brilliant stories turn his back on us? We know him! He owes us! Unfortunately, the truth is we do not know him, and more specifically, he owes us nothing. Salinger gave us great gifts, and it is up to us to be satisfied with them. Or should we?

Intrigued we shall always be by the gifted eccentrics who decide to melt back into the wood. Salinger is not the first, nor will he be the last. Remember Rimbaud? Pynchon, who is he, and where is he? Howard Hughes? How about Emily Dickinson? Cat Stevens? So many more. They and others gave us their special talent, a sharing if you will, and decided to be unto themselves. To live deliberately, so said Thoreau, men and women go to live deliberately. Oh, but how dull it is to be a stick in the mud and not wish to communicate with them!

Chris Kubica has given us a fun and worthy present bound in boards. His project, LETTERS TO J. D. SALINGER, is an enjoyable read. He begins the volume by explaining how he, as a child, wrote letters to famous folk and always enjoyed the responses he received. Later, as the editor of a small press journal, he developed a data base of authors and scholars and sent them letters asking them to forward their "letters" to Salinger.

Broken into three parts, the reader is given the opportunity to graze through the ruminations of people who seek to share their thoughts with Salinger. The first section is from "Writers & Readers," second is "Students & Teachers," and lastly, "From the Web." Each section is defined within itself, following the letters from those trying to "reach" Salinger. From serious dissertations to simple hellos, the words tend to flow freely. Each letter writer tries hard to connect in their own way with Salinger. The correspondences run the gauntlet from complaining about his reclusive existence to playful word jests.

The reader of the letters will enjoy a kinship with those who have the courage to post their Salinger epistles. This writer found Will Hochman's essay at the end of the book intriguing. In his postscript, Hochman discusses the new art of literary criticism. Given new technology, the Internet, the floor for debate is rendered wide open. Scholars as well as lay people can now make use of this new stage. This new media gives us all a sounding board with which we can contribute good and worthy debate. The peril lies in sorting through the massive amounts of commentary posted. Hochman's short treatise, like a fine after dinner wine, allows the reader a moment to savor the read.

Salinger fans will enjoy LETTERS TO J. D. SALINGER. We all will appreciate the camaraderie and know that we are not alone but rather surrounded by like minded folk. Go and raise your roof beams, find your good day, and take another trip through the rye.

Reviewed by Tony Parker on January 22, 2011

Letters to J.D. Salinger
edited by Chris Kubica and Will Hochman

  • Publication Date: March 28, 2002
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • ISBN-10: 0299178005
  • ISBN-13: 9780299178000