Tag Archives: J.D. Salinger

The scallop: studies of a shell and its influence on humankind


More than a bit prissy, this piece, but it was genuinely touching to be given a book in a bookshop, even if as I suspect was the case the bookseller in question ran her shop as a pretext for social interaction rather than because she needed to make a living.

It’s been years since I read or re-read any of the many authors on these two pages, save for C.S. Lewis, inspired by Philip Pullman’s ideological objections.  I forget quite why I did it, but I made up the novel Edward’s crumby day and its author Grantley Trillo, and got an earful from one or two people for doing so.  I’ve occasionally felt that by way of restoring the natural order, I should write a novel of that title and with the characters I sketchily outlined, but given that no-one uses the word ‘crumby’ any more, I would have to pretend that it had been discovered in a distant relative’s attic where it had lain undisturbed since it was written in the seventies.

I still maintain affection for Richard Brautigan’s books.  I used to wonder whether the Coen Brothers would ever adapt one of his stories, as it seems to me that two or three of them have taken some essence from Brautigan – The big Lebowski, O brother, where art thou?, perhaps The Hudsucker proxy.

Of Bukowski’s Factotum my chief memory is of Henry Chinaski being the sole person in his class of would-be taxi drivers to know that the only time it’s legal to take your eyes off the road is when you involuntarily do so by sneezing.

Without at all wishing to be dismissive of how potently affecting his stories are, J.D. Salinger, like Kerouac, increasingly seems to me to be an author of truths for people in their teens and twenties.  And I wonder if Salinger’s silence and Kerouac’s burgeoning misanthropy in later life relates to each man’s realisation of this, and that they lacked the energy or the wherewithal to re-establish themselves as authors of truths for what comes after that explosion of cynicism and idealism.  They may in fact be extreme examples of the connected generality that people read less fiction and more non-fiction as they age.

The book end people are from a book I used to spend hours perusing at my grandmother’s house, The Film Show annual.  The film stars are ‘Bachelor girl in Hollywood’, Suzan Ball, and ‘avid reader’ William Holden, who is shown in another photo with his life partner: ‘Bill relaxes in the garden with his wife Brenda Marshall who gave up a promising film career to look after her husband and children.’ppp11_495w8q