First Passage: "I don't write autobiography."
from: p.81f (Ballantine)
"I wrote a sonnet to you once," I say, staring across
at his large ear; his profile that emphasizes a fleshy nose.
"So you're a writer," he replies accusingly.
How can I be so adept at saying the wrong thing? I wonder.
"No. No. It was in a college English course I attended, oh, ten years ago.
I had forgotten it completely until right now. Everyone had to write a
sonnet. It was horrrible, really, sentimental and melodramatic, but it
was a plea to you to hurry and publish more stories. The sonnet was a cheap
imitation of Keats's 'On First Looking into Chapman's Homer.' Your work
has been described as touching the soul of the reader. That's the way I
felt. Feel. Honestly. You've touched my soul. I'm sorry if I sound like
a middle-aged librarian at a book-autographing session. Your writing has
drawn me nearly fifteen hundred miles, allowed me to make a fool
of myself, actually made me a criminal. That's what I call having influence."
"But I didn't ask you to do it," says Salinger. "1 didn't
ask for you to feel the way you do. You're influenced by an illusion. Writers
are magicians. They write down words, and, if they're good, you believe
that what they write is real, just as you believe a good magician has pulled
the coins out of your ear, or made his assistant disappear. But the words
on the page have no connection to the person who wrote them. Writers live
other peoples' lives for them. I don't write autobiography. I'm a quiet
man who wrote stories that people believe. Because they believe, they want
to touch me, but I can't stand to be touched. They would have been chipping
little pieces off me before I knew it, as if 1 were a statue, and pretty
soon there wouldn't have been anything left of me. That's why I chose to
Second Passage: "I am not Holden Caulfield!"
from: p.86f (Ballantine)
We stare at the feather-green field in silence. But after
coming so far, I am not prepared to abandon what I am doing. I decide to
keep on probing. I dig into my bag of tricks, my mind as rumpled and disorganized
as a duffel bag after a two-week road trip.
"Why have you never written about baseball?" I ask.
Salinger turns his head slowly and his sad eyes
on me, a forlorn question mark bobbing corklike in their dark centers.
He does not answer, so I chatter on.
"I can't remember Holden Caulfield ever talking about
baseball - though the story takes place in December, doesn't it? He wouldn't
have any reason to . . . The World Series had been over for a couple of
months. You even had him end up in California, but at the time you wrote
it the Dodgers and Giants were still in New York. Oh, sorry, I didn't mean
to bring up painful memories."
Salinger continues to stare as though memorizing me, perhaps
so that I'll appear exactly as I am in one of his stories.
"Buddy never mentions that he's a fan. Never says that
Les took the family to the Polo Grounds on Sunday afternoons. Sorry, I
don' t mean to keep bringing that up. Seymour, as a little boy, made that
statement in 'Hapworth 16, 1924.' But that's all . . . I mean, I shouldn't
be asking, it's your business, but if you love baseball so much, how can
you keep from writing more about it?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," says Salinger
"Oh, but you did, you did." I am bouncing up and down
on my seat. " Allie had a left-fielder' s mitt with poems written all over
it in green ink. How could I forget that? Holden wrote an essay about it
for Stradlater. I had a glove with green writing on
it when I was a kid. I was a lousy baseball player, if you want to know
the truth. Sorry. But there has to be something significant about it being
glove. Don't you see that? And, oh, Holden talking about a cabin in
the woods and hiding his children, and the way you live - and I have a
cabin, except it's a big cookie box of a house, with an iron fence in a
square shape at the very top and a lightning rod in the middle like a spike
on a soldier's helmet, and I have my own baseball stadium, but I've
told you that story."
"Do you always babble like this?"
"I don' t know how else to convince you."
"Of what? That I'm really Holden? I've told you about
that. I am a very ordinary man. I want to be treated like a very ordinary
man. I just want to stay home and be left alone."
"But don' t you owe your public something? I remember
reading a sociological study when I was in college, all about ex-cons who
do stupid things so they'll be sent back to prison because they can't make
it on the outside. No matter how much they protest, they really want to
be on the inside. It's the only place that they can be big shots."
"Are you saying I can't make it on the outside? That's
a lousy parallel. I stay to myself because I make it too big on the outside."
"Too big. Too little. It looks like a logical comparison
to me. Think about it." Why am I baiting him, posing these questions he
"You don't understand," Salinger says, his voice rising.
"Like everyone else, you take everything at face value. It baffles me how
supposedly intelligent people can be so dumb. Once and for all, I
am not Holden Caulfield! I am an illusionist who created Holden
Caulfield from my imagination."
Third Passage: About Banning Catcher
from: p.109f (Ballantine)
"Writing is different," Salinger insists. "Other people get into
occupations by accident or design; but writers are born. We have to write.
I have to write. I could work at selling motels, or slopping hogs, for
fifty years, but if someone asked my occupation, I'd say writer, even if
I'd never sold a word. Writers write. Other people talk."
"How do you feel about your books being banned? At least
"Are they still doing that?"
"You mean you don't care?"
"I stopped caring years ago. Someone once said, 'Any publicity
is good publicity,' and I guess I believe it."
"They do still ban Catcher, here in the United
States and in Canada too. There were a couple of cases recently that made
the papers. One in Michigan and one just across the border in Ontario."
"I think it's quite charming," Salinger says, his eyes
twinkling. "In these days when anything goes in literature, movies, and
even TV, to think there are some places so isolated, so backward, so ill-informed
as to what's going on in the world they can still get all hot and bothered
about something as innocent as Catcher. I mean, if there was ever
a crusader against sin, it was Holden Caulfield."
"It doesn't make you angry then?"
"Oh, I wasn't pleased years ago, but now it's like browsing
in a cool antique store full of Mason jars, big iron stoves, and wooden
churns. Maybe banning or burning my books could become an annual event
in these little uptight communities, like re-creating the first flight
at Kitty Hawk."