When J.D. Salinger died earlier this year, I felt ambivalent, despite the fact that I’d nearly worshiped him in high school as one of the only writers out there who “got” what it was like to be a smart and disillusioned teen. Somewhere along the line, I either stopped being a smart, disillusioned teen or realized that everyone believed themselves to be smart and disillusioned and so rejected it in favor of some other modus operandi.
Along the way, I also found out more about J.D. Salinger – his reclusive lifestyle, refusal to publish more novels, his dabbling in everything from Dianetics, homeopathy and macrobiotics to urine therapy – and I found it a big turn-off. In 1999, I read Joyce Maynard’s memoir At Home In The World, which painted a picture of a pathetic old man with high ideals cloistered away in a compound. This was not my hero. This was a mere mortal who was as confused about life as the rest of us.