John Mark Reynolds has a very interesting reflection today on the summer that he spent learning to appreciate J. D. Salinger. He confesses that he never really learned to enjoy Salinger as a young man (I’ve had a similar experience), but that things were different this time around.
Why? Partly it was because my childhood was too happy for me to enjoy the books. It is an unfortunate truth of my life that I loved my parents, my country, my school, most of my teachers, and enjoyed almost every minute of childhood. Seeing the troubles of the world and shouldering some well-earned shame, brought on by my own grievous fault, has cured me of that inability.
So, basically he’s learned to appreciate Salinger because he’s now seen enough of the world to understand the sorrow and longing that lie at the heart of Salinger’s writing.
There is a longing at the heart of all Salinger. The young men and women at the center of the book want to be good. They wish to save children from danger, the meaning of the “catcher in the rye” image, by snatching them from a decayed culture. But Salinger never, so far as I can see, tells us to what they will be saved.
Thus, Salinger exemplified a writer frustrated with life, desiring hope and meaning but unable to find it.
The whole post is well worth reading.