Before I launch into my praise of Salinger, I need to confess something. When it comes to books, I’m useless. Also films and music. I love books and films and music, but ask me what my favourites are and you will be met with a blank stare. Obviously I know what I like at the time, but afterwards I can never remember the names of anything, or who wrote, starred in, or sang, what. Seriously, don’t ask me to join your quiz team if there are likely to be any questions about books, films or music because I assure you, I will be of no help. As I have mentioned on here, I have started writing a book, and one of my biggest fears around that is that at some point people will be asking me what my favourite books and authors are, and I won’t have anything intelligent to say. I could talk a bit about Silas Marner I suppose because we did that for our English literature O’Level and I liked it enough to have read it twice more since, so I remember the story and who wrote it which is a lot for me. I could also talk a bit about Pride and Prejudice (which I have also read three times I believe), but then so can everyone. But what if they start naming particular authors and asking me what I think of them? What will I say? (I’m not sure who these people are who will be asking me these questions, but that’s irrelevant right now, I’ve listened to Radio 4 so I know it happens).
I’m getting that bit out of the way first in case there is anyone like me reading this, who may be worried that I will be talking intelligently about books; I won’t be.
Now that I’ve explained all that, you’re probably wondering why I’m choosing to write about Salinger right? Well it goes like this…a few months back, I was speaking to my partner about some short stories I had written and wondering whether they were too dialogue-heavy. I expressed that I felt it wasn’t proper for stories to be driven so much by dialogue. “Not at all” he said. “Dialogue-heavy stories can be excellent. Have you read any Salinger?”. Well of course I had no idea whether I had or not, so he went ahead and bought me some Salinger. “Read them and you will see” he said. So I read them and I saw. I can now confirm that I had reached the grand old age of 41 without ever having read The Catcher in the Rye, or A Perfect Day for Bananafish or, I’m fairly confident, any of his work at all. Shocking isn’t it. I can also now say that I LOVE the way Salinger writes, nobody can turn a phrase like he can (nobody that I can remember anyway). He writes very cleverly, but it feels like it was effortless to write, and it is a joy to read. His writing is a bit quirky and I like quirky. He can be funny and tragic at the same time. He hints at things so terrible that you dare not allow your mind to go in that direction but you are nevertheless compelled to keep reading. At times he leaves you confused and unsure about what has just happened, but you don’t feel cheated by that. It is very readable, very readable indeed (which is always a useful quality in a book). You get the sense that he had no idea quite how brilliant he was.
Jump forward to a couple of days ago and I read this blog about writing dialogue by Neeks at Limebird Writers, which gave me the idea to write something about Salinger. And so here I am, writing about Salinger. I haven’t actually said a whole lot about him have I, but at least I can now add him to my very short list of authors that I might be able to mention if I am called upon to do so.
So in summary, yeah, Salinger is a pretty cool dude, and in the unlikely event that you too have not read any of his work, then you really should (and there I was worrying that I wouldn’t have anything intelligent to say).
Oh, and as this is my blog, I can divert if I like – my book research survey remains open until 14 Feb, so if any parents out there haven’t yet filled it in, it would be lovely if you could. It’s very short and it’s here: http://surveyofparents.questionpro.com/