The Letter I Never Sent to J.D. Salinger

01/29/2010

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” – J.D. Salinger

Raise high the roof beam, carpenters. Like Ares comes the bridegroom, taller far than a tall man.

A good writer has managed to edit himself. A good writer also knows when he is done writing. Here is a letter I planned on sending before his death. I revised and rewrote it several times over the past two years.

“My fear is that Salinger will never know my voice and never read it, but mostly that I will not finish my statements adequately before his death.

Dear J.D.

I’ve been reading your stories for almost 10 years now. Which, for a ‘young person’ such as myself is a great deal of time. And for my collective memory, it culminates to approximately half of my lifespan. This is not meant to be a panegyric, although on that alone, I could go on, and have go on for several years.

I anticipate a time in which you are not with us anymore and your writing will reach my eyes again. I’m anticipating the likelihood that I will outlive you with open arms for more of your writing, which I’ve been carrying with me for a long time. Carrying long enough to almost make that drive to see you, but it seems to me you would be the type of author to avoid visitors, even if they were the ones who want to chop wood with you.

A friend of mine recently argued with me over a quote about poets from your story ‘Seymour: An Introduction’

“But where does by far the bulk, the whole ambulance load, of pain really come from? Where must it come from? Isn’t the true poet or painter a seer? Isn’t he, actually, the only seer we have on earth? Most apparently not the scientist, most emphatically not the psychiatrist..”
My friend’s argument was based on his experience reading Hemingway. I love Hemingway’s poetry, and I recently discovered you had some correspondence with him. I wondered if your dialogue with Hemingway ever touched on the subject of poetry. I expect fully no response.

I don’t know what character of a writer or a seeker I am. I have felt this with the majority of my life experience. And for some reason an odd and peculiar tie with souls older than my own, a certain spiritual sensibility that can only really be manifested by my thoughts and belief. I’ve tried desperately to write about them but to no avail. I’ve also tried desperately to convey the actions of life one cannot control. There’s a part of me constantly playing the disruptive chords in what is an everyday existence. I guess that’s what I’ve always really liked about your writing and the reason I am writing. You’re always disrupting the norm.

Yours in discord,

Samantha Schlegel

What follows is my favorite Salinger poem:

The Staying Up All Night.
The warm fire.
The comfortable chairs.
The merry companions.
The stroke of twelve.
The wild suggestion.
The good sports.
The man who hasn’t slept for weeks.
The people who have done it before.
The long anecdotes.
The best looking girl yawns.
The forced raillery.
The stroke of one.
The best looking girl goes to bed.
The stroke of two.
The empty pantry.
The lack of firewood.
The second best looking girl goes to bed.
The weather-beaten ones who don’t.
The stroke of four.
The dozing off.
The amateur “life of the party.”
The burglar scare.
The scornful cat.
The trying to impress the milkman.
The scorn of the milkman.
The lunatic feeling.
The chilly sun.
The stroke of six.
The walk in the garden.
The sneezing.
The early risers.
The volley of wit at you.
The feeble come back.
The tasteless breakfast.
The miserable day.
8 P. M.–Between the sheets.

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