Saturday, February 6, 2010

Book-selling louts and big mouths

The New Yorker published several remembrances of J.D. Salinger this past week. The most affecting and personal was by Lillian Ross. (Full disclosure, I've read Salinger but I'm not unhinged about him--sort of like last week I confessed to not being much of a Beatles fan and by the bug-eyed stares at the table you'd think I'd admitted eating babies. But I digress.)

Ross describes Salinger's work ethic ("long and crazy hours") and his disdain for pretty much all other writers ("book-selling louts and big mouths"), most vituperatively, Truman Capote. While I get this, I struggle with it. Can true genius simply not abide the other 99% of the human race? Salinger of course had a deep and complex understanding of humanity which he was able to translate into superior fiction, so I guess this earns him a pass.

And there's this: “When I sit down to work. . . . just taking off my own disguises takes an hour or more." Considering his mad skills, I wonder if I've ever even gotten the mask off once.

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