Friday, February 4, 2011

An Open Letter to Richard Lacayo.

Besides some awkward emoticons and some equally uncomfortable Obama/Reagan time-line comparisons, this week's Time magazine contained an article by a Mr. Richard Lacayo about Kenneth Slawenski's new J.D. Salinger biography. 450 pages released approximately a year after the author's death? I am both terrified and turned-on by this Samson-esque figure. Let me be your Delilah, Salwenski. But we can talk about that later, because Lacayo and I have to have a little chat. And by chat I mean he isn't calling me back, so I have to write him a letter.

Dear Ricky,

Opening up Time this week, I was especially delighted to see yet another large picture of Jerome David Salinger, who is in my opinion, one of the most underrated American writers of the 20th century. But unfortunately, I had this burning desire to actually read what you wrote. Whoops. This probably had to do with the adorable picture of an 80+ Salinger, which ended up being the best part of the issue, besides that whole Taco Bell meatless taco thing.
The cutest crotchety old man. Ever.
Though we at Hey You Ugly Girl (And by we I mean me, Devon. Hey.) are Salinger-fanatics and though we let out a loud and barbaric yawp of joyous, ecstatic something when I received the news of J.D. Salinger's death—there's something deliberately and disturbingly excited about the tenor of your article that ends up being, well, irreverent.

I can accept that not everyone, not even writers at Time, likes Salinger. I can also accept that Salinger, may in fact not be God. However, I do expect people writing about any sort of criticism about Salinger have read something Salinger wrote besides The Catcher in the Rye in 11th grade English class.

It starts out okay, Ricky, it really does, unless anyone was planning on reading Salwenski's book. After a complete detailing of all the information contained within 450 pages in two...we get my favorite of your unsolicited and uneducated literary criticism, and I quote: “...Salinger became nothing less than a religious writer, struggling to convey the message of compassion and detachment that he had discovered in Hindu and Buddhist texts.”

I don't even know where to start. I feel like Mark Twain when he listed 18 things wrong with one of James Fenimore Cooper's sentences. But no, it's mostly the “nothing less than a religious writer” part and everything those words deny and contain. You and Harold Bloom should have a chat, by which I mean, read something. Please, anything. J.D. Salinger wrote about people. A particular kind of person, sure, a conglomeration of people, maybe, but he wrote about people struggling with the simple act of existing in a world where both everything and nothing was beautiful to the point to which it hurt. He wrote about people so choked on their own intellect and understanding they didn't know what their physical body was supposed to do. He wrote about people that were him and me and a lot of others I've met walking around, their nose in a book and their mouth quickly repeating prayers for quantity rather than equality in the hope of finding peace, rather than God. He taught that spirituality doesn't equate to religion. And people don't always equate to people.

I'm cool with you taking down Salwenski for not delving into the part of Salinger's life where he, um, didn't often leave the house. Because, the biographer should be expected to ply a grieving widow with libations until she spills her skewed and shaky memory droppings all over the table in a cacophony of word vomit (and probably actual vomit), or, if all else fails, rig up a time machine and hide out in his closet for a couple of years. Check out the Ian Hamilton biography you mention by reputation rather than actual knowledge, he might teach you something about objectivity and what an outsider can reasonably know as truth.

And maybe, just maybe, pick up Franny and Zooey. Maybe Salinger could teach you something too. Or you could just look at that statue of him in Poland, which is essentially the equivalent of your review. You're right about one thing: he wouldn't of approved.


P.S. I'm still buying Salwenski's book. Thanks for the tip.

Photo courtesy of the Boston Herald. Thanks guys. It's precious.

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