But it is about a writer, and writers like stories about writers, right? Particularly when the writers is J.D. Salinger. (Even if you’re not a fan of his, surely you’re curious about him…? No…?)
*The following originally posted at my old blogsite in June of ‘09. After reading the many articles today about Salinger’s death, I was reminded of this account of a meeting (but not really a meeting) between my uncle and Mr. Salinger.
My uncle, who I’ll call Harry, lives about twenty minutes from Cornish, NH. Says a lot of famous people – oddly – come through the small town he lives in. I suppose it’s not a surprise that J.D. Salinger would, too, considering how close he live[d].In the late 80s, Harry was working for the motor vehicle department, and a man he worked with showed him an appointment sheet, and said,“Hey. Look who’s coming in.”
(Harry, you should know, loves books and literature and used to want to be a writer.)
Harry went home and grabbed his copy of Catcher in the Rye and brought it back to work with him.
When Salinger finally arrived, Harry said, he was with a woman much younger than him.
“The woman he was with was…I’m pretty sure it wasn’t his wife, because she was under thirty. She was clearly there running interference for him.”
Salinger went straight to Harry’s desk, and Harry directed him to the appropriate station.
“He was as tall as a tree with huge eyes,” Harry said. “Imposing in a way. He appeared to be healthy. I was really taken by his eyes. They were like big fucking marbles, or something. They were weird.” (Asked did he remember the color, Harry said no. “I think they were dark, though. I know they weren’t blue. They seemed dark.”)
He went on: “And he had a deep voice. But, you know, he was so tall. Or he appeared tall to me, anyway. If you go into his bio he’s probably 5 foot 3, but it felt like he was 6 foot 4.”
I remembered what Harry had said about going home to get his copy of Catcher in the Rye and said, “Did he sign your book?”
“No,” he said. “Nah. While he was over with the other guy, I told the girl with him that I had his book, I loved his book, you know, and did she think I could ask him to sign it. ‘I wish you wouldn’t,’ she said.”
He did exchange a few words with Salinger, though. I wanted to know, was he friendly?
“No. No, he was kind of cold, actually.”
We talked a little bit about the mystery that is Salinger, and about what might have made him more famous – his writing, or his decision to hide.
I then attached in an email to Harry this link to a 2007 article I found on NPR about another man who’d met Salinger.
“Interesting article,” he wrote back. “Makes me feel I had a rare experience!”