Mr. Salinger. J.D. How would you like to be addressed, I wonder? Of course, it’s impossible to really ask, now, so I think I’ll just go with “Jerome.” It seems real and logical. And you seem real and logical. Do you want to know what’s illogical?
I was discussing with someone this letter that I meant to write to you, and the things I wanted to say. I was explaining how it’s a letter that has been a long time coming, but that I’m nervous about writing it – maybe even a little bit afraid. How will you react? I mean, you might think this is silly, absurd, or a waste of time (for both of us), right? But, you’re dead. I mean, you’re dead and you will have absolutely no opinion about or reaction to this letter whatsoever. So, why do I still worry about it? That’s illogical.
I think, too, you would find it funny that the inspiration for this idea comes from the story elements of another book, one in which the main characters write letters to their favorite romance authors. Can you imagine yourself a romance author? It’s too funny. You’re probably the least romantic writer imaginable – except that there is a certain something about your style and your messages that are a bit amorous. They’re romantic in some way that is almost, I don’t know, an Americanized new-Gothic, maybe? You tell it like it is, ya know? You look life right in the face and take its measure, and that’s romantic (even when your response to life is to spit in its eye).
So, why am I writing to you, anyway? I guess there’s been a lot on my mind lately – a lot that you have to do with. Some juvenile side of me always hoped to meet you one day, even though I knew you were a recluse, a famous recluse, and I was a Nobody from nowhere, with absolutely no resources. How our meeting was to happen, I can’t figure, but I did hope for it – if only for a five minute chat about absolutely nothing, over some really bad coffee somewhere. We wouldn’t even have to talk about your books or your “secret” writings or anything like that. What I would really love to talk about with you is just, life. I want to know the man that created these stories – I’ve read them, I don’t need to analyze them with you, and I know you’d hate that.
You should know, though, that in all your books – all these sad stories about seclusion, isolation, and the misunderstood genius- I get that the point was that nobody could really be connected to anyone else. We go through life looking for these connections: true love, soul mates, relatives, partners, friendships, mentors. The truth is, though, that you’re born cold, wet, and alone and, aside from maybe the wet part, you die the same way. Your Seymour and Teddy and Holden, they seemed to understand this, and they seemed to be different aspects of yourself – you who surely must have realized this truth about life and reality, to be able to write about it so bare-knuckled, so sadly.
You know what, though? We are capable of connections, Jerome. Maybe they’re not the kind we’re raised to crave or expect. Maybe I’ll never truly be spiritually interwoven with another human soul, because that’s physically impossible. But, so what if we can’t make these tangible connections? We have the ethereal ones. Your writing, Jerome, it connected me to myself – and that’s the most important connection of all. I grew up a boy, very different from anyone else I knew. I was not like my family, or my friends. I was not like the people in the movies or on those teeny-bopper TV shows that everyone loved. I was just me, and for the longest time I was fooled into believing there was something wrong with that: we were all supposed to be alike.
Your stories showed me something else. All these things about myself that I never understood, this overwhelming sadness and melancholy, this complete infatuation with the potential beauty of life and the world, and the despair over all its (and our) failings – feeling this on a psychologically amplified level, and being frustrated that none of the cell phone-wielding, fast-car-driving, Starbucks-drinking teenage friends of mine seemed to have a clue. You and I, we were from very different generations, but despite yourself, I think, we connected. You might find that funny or ironic – I guess I do too, in a way. But, I wanted to let you know that it’s possible, after all. Meaningful connections.
Tell Seymour for me, if you see him around.
With Love & Kindness,