Sunday, January 31, 2010

Were most of your stars out?


Last week, J.D. Salinger died.

A writer who was as famous for being a "recluse" as he was for writing Catcher in the Rye, Salinger leaves behind an ambiguous legacy, at least in my mind. Contrary to popular opinion, he may not have been a complete hermit -- he was downright neighborly, according to some -- but the image many of us hold in our minds of Salinger, as a brilliant man who spent his life hiding from the consequences of his own brilliance (and thereby undoubtedly undermining his ability to write something as brave and resonant as his first novel ever again), is one I think would make old Holden Caulfield feel sorry as hell.

It makes me feel sorry as hell, too. But then, I tend to gravitate toward writers who are as wildly preoccupied with living as they are with writing about life, like Salinger's contemporary Jack Kerouac ("The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars").

Or Anaïs Nin, who had as the thesis of her classic Delta of Venus the idea that truly titillating erotica "must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine."

Or Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame, who told an aspiring writer at a reading I recently attended that she "has to get out in life and roll around in it" to find inspiration.

Or Dave Eggers, most recently of "Where the Wild Things Are" fame, who once wrote an incredibly inspiring essay about why he thinks it's crucial to be "doing something, trying something, even when it's corny or stupid," even when it threatens to topple you from whatever pedestal you have been placed on by your adoring fans. Because "when you die, and it really could be this afternoon ... you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no's you've said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you but you worry about what your friends will say."

By contrast, many accounts portray Salinger as someone who purposefully turned his back on life, a writer whose life choices were wildly at odds with the openness and compassion Holden Caulfield displayed even in the face of fear and alienation, confusion and ennui. This is the Salinger I've always had in my head, and he still strikes a tragic figure.

However. Last week, my friend Jenna unearthed a passage of Salinger's that seems to suggest that my own personal Salinger might be a straw man, a literary boogeyman that serves to scare me into engaging with life even when it means facing criticism, unpredictability and "phonies." This passage -- from Seymour--An Introduction, a short story Salinger published in the New Yorker in 1959 -- suggests that Salinger might have more in common with me and my favorite writers than I thought. That in fact, he would have wanted to be remembered as we would like to be remembered when we die: as someone who did his best to live up to his potential as a writer -- and as a human being. (As Jenna puts it, "it's like he wrote his own epitaph.")
You wrote down that you were a writer by profession. It sounded to me like the loveliest euphemism I had ever heard. When was writing ever your profession? It’s never been anything but your religion. Never. I’m a little over-excited now. Since it is your religion, do you know what you will be asked when you die? But let me tell you first what you won’t be asked. You won’t be asked if you were working on a wonderful, moving piece of writing when you died. You won’t be asked if it was long or short, sad or funny, published or unpublished. You won’t be asked if you were in good or bad form while you were working on it. You won’t even be asked if it was the one piece of writing you would have been working on if you had know your time would be up when it was finished... I’m so sure you’ll get asked only two questions. Were most of your stars out? Were you busy writing your heart out? If only you knew how easy it would be for you to say yes to to both questions.”

9 Comments:

Blogger Media Mentions said...

It's interesting how all of a sudden, everybody is talking about this great book (ex. http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=DHCEI6EJG9W7&preview=article&linkid=eeaafb41-0ba1-4e4c-9df0-886f5b3e28e8&pdaffid=ZVFwBG5jk4Kvl9OaBJc5%2bg%3d%3d)

Maybe it's a hint that I should read it :)

MediaMentions

8:44 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Very interesting thoughts. I've kind of felt drawn in turn to both types of writer personalities--the recluses and the leapers.

This is totally supposition, I get the feeling that with a lot of the recluses (Salinger, Emily Dickinson, Proust), it isn't that they don't want to engage with life; it's that they're so intensely in love with life, but so emotionally fragile, that they can't take it. It's tragic, really. Even Kerouac toward the end, for all his roadgoing and out-and-abouting when he was younger, ended up shutting himself away from the world.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Ryan Rose said...

Well, you know I can relate to wanting to hide from the world as well, even though I also want to explore it. It does get exhausting when you are someone who pays attention and cares and engages SO MUCH that you almost wear yourself out. I think we all have a bit of the wanderer and a bit of the recluse inside of us -- so how we respond to other wanderers and recluses can tell us something about ourselves and the balance each one of us has chosen or is striving toward.

7:36 AM  
Blogger 神風 said...

自助洗衣 洗衣店 投幣式洗衣機 洗衣設備 加盟創業 廠房 工廠 農地 土地買賣 農地買賣 廠房出租 廠房出售 工業用地 廠辦 租廠房 五金百貨大賣場 五金工具 電動工具 吸塵器 diy 營造公司 豪宅設計 別墅設計 建築設計 舊屋翻新 農舍 住宅設計 綠建築 蓋房子 自地自建 品牌行銷 CIS 設計公司 廣告設計 平面設計 桃園當鋪15 北區當鋪 新娘秘書 月子餐 滷味 月子餐外送 月子餐食譜 結婚金飾 鑽石婚戒 塑膠袋 塑膠袋批發 塑膠袋工廠 塑膠袋 塑膠袋批發 飛梭雷射 幼兒美語 兒童美語 桃園托兒所 桃園安親班 桃園幼稚園

1:37 AM  
Blogger 神風 said...

眼科 眼睛雷射 無刀雷射 雷射近視 台北辦公室 安泰登峰 商用不動產 廠辦 外遇 徵信 徵信社 桃園房屋仲介 桃園房屋買賣 104人力銀行 104求職人力銀行 1111求職人力銀行 找工作 求職 中古車 led招牌 招牌 招牌製作 法拍屋 油漆工 油漆工程 油漆粉刷 桃園土地 桃園房屋 桃園房屋仲介 桃園房屋買賣 桃園房屋網 桃園房屋 桃園房屋仲介 ISO9001認證 射出成形 無塵室射出 塑膠製成品 1塑膠模具設計 精密射出 模具開發 膠框 導光板 縫衣機塑件 外遇 徵信 展場設計 展覽設計 會場設計 104法拍網 大台北法拍屋 台北法拍屋 房屋仲介 房屋買賣 板橋法拍屋 法拍 法拍屋 法拍屋查詢系統 信義房屋 婦產科診所 印刷 上海旅遊

1:37 AM  
Blogger 神風 said...

辦公室 辦公室出租 律師 seo 關鍵字 關鍵字行銷 關鍵字 關鍵字行銷 汽車美容 food processing mixers frying machine patty machine vegetable machine 工廠風水 命理風水 居家風水 風水 風水地理 風水擺設 勘輿 陽宅 陽宅風水 辦公室風水 印刷服務 近視 眼科 泰國 近視雷射 眼科 印度 西班牙 京都 東京 法國 美國 英國 埃及 義大利 2歐洲 casino gaming machine gaming machine manufacturer slot game machine slot machine cabinet slot machine manufacturer 婚紗照 婚紗攝影 婚禮 結婚 禮服 seo

1:38 AM  
Blogger 神風 said...

104求職人力銀行 104人力銀行 104求職人力銀行 1111人力銀行 31111人力銀行求職 統一發票9 10月 中古車 中古車買賣 台北人力銀行 特色餐廳 景觀餐廳 親子餐廳 黃金價格查詢 金價查詢 黃金 黃金買賣 黃金價格查詢 今日金價 金價查詢 金價 黃金價格 google關鍵字廣告 網路行銷 關鍵字 關鍵字行銷 關鍵字廣告 壁癌 十分瀑布 台北民宿 台北旅遊網 平溪 花園餐廳 景觀餐廳 渡假村 螢火蟲 薰衣草花園 鐵道之旅 房屋貸款 信用貸款 貸款 外遇 徵信 徵信社 搬家公司 台北搬家公司 seo seo seo 網路行銷 網路行銷 線上客服 環保袋 sum中古車 中古車 中古車買賣 金價 二手車

1:38 AM  
Blogger 神風 said...

桃園房屋買賣 桃園房屋買賣 桃園房屋仲介 3D飛梭雷射 光纖美白除毛 4肉毒桿菌除皺 淨膚雷射 微晶瓷 網站設計 班服 團體服創意 T恤 T恤 團體服 POLO衫 圍裙 熱水器 三久 三久太陽能 太陽能 太陽能熱水器 三久 三久 三久太陽能 三久太陽能 太陽能 太陽能 太陽能熱水器 太陽能熱水器 省電熱水器 節能減碳 電熱水器 熱水器 衛浴設備 櫻花牌熱水器 包子 四神湯 宅配美食 肉粽 宜蘭民宿 埋線 針灸減肥 黃體不足 內分泌失調 團體服 團體服 肉毒桿菌 肉毒桿菌 禿頭 玻尿酸 美白 減肥 痘疤 雷射溶脂 雷射溶脂 電波拉皮 電波拉皮 皺紋

1:38 AM  
Blogger 神風 said...

健身中心 健身房 健身 Spa會館 美容spa 電波拉皮 飛梭雷射 淨膚雷射 植髮 微晶瓷 5雷射溶脂 雷射溶脂 醫學美容診所 外遇 徵信 徵信社 Biodegradable plastic Disposable plastic cups Disposable plastic cups Disposable products ECO products PLA Plastic Drinking Cups polylactic acid 包通 馬桶不通 清水溝 通水管 通馬桶 水管不通 包通 抽水肥 洗水塔 馬桶 馬桶不通 清水溝 通水管 通馬桶 抽化糞池 木工裝潢 居家裝潢 房屋裝潢室內裝潢 > 室內裝潢設計 裝潢 裝潢工程 裝潢施工 裝潢設計 舊屋翻新 室內設計 室內設計公司 室內裝潢設計 裝潢設計 水餃

1:39 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home