Saturday, July 31, 2010

Soup and Salad: Salinger's Face, What Ron Currie Jr. learned, Bookplates of the dead

On today's menu:

1.  J. D. Salinger has been unmasked!  Newsweek has a photo of the photo-reluctant author, taken in in 1968 when The Catcher in the Rye scribe was 49 years old.  And he looks....strikingly similar to the single image of the face most of us have been seeing for years--except with more lines and bags.  Salinger is sitting on the edge of a bed lacing up his left shoe, "ever so faintly" smiling, as Newsweek puts it.  The recluse is unguarded in that moment and appears to share a deep connection with whoever clicked the shutter.  What's even more interesting than The Face is the place which the candid snapshot reveals, Newsweek notes:
The intimacy of his setting--the milky tangle of used blankets and sheets--is offset by the spare thrift of his Cornish, N.H., bedroom, with its humble furnishings: small wastebasket, austere dresser. Bare, blank walls. Pack of smokes. But the most telling detail is on the door, at the left edge: a flash-enhanced glint on the room’s steely lock. It’s a reminder of its tenant’s unflinching mantra: keep out.
With Salinger's death, the high walls of privacy have started to crumble and soon we'll be watching a documentary (Salinger) and reading an 800-page biography (The Private War of J. D. Salinger) written by Shane Salerno and David Shields.  What would J. D. think of all this?  Perhaps we need to go back to those famous opening lines of Holden Caulfield:
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They're quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They're nice and all--I'm not saying that--but they're also touchy as hell. Besides, I'm not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything.

2.  At The Huffington Post, Ron Currie Jr. tells us what he learned while writing Everything Matters!  Among other things:
I learned pretty early when I was writing the book that my father was dying. For a while after that I stopped working, more or less. Instead of writing I drove around a lot, smoking and listening to music and feeling bad for myself. I spent a lot of time fishing on the Sebasticook River, where my father took me and my brothers when we were kids, to the spot just below the dam where the big boulder juts up out of the water and there are plenty of pools the bass like to hide in. You know the spot, or a spot like it? Yeah. And then one day a few months before my father died, I snagged an eager smallmouth in the eye with a treble hook. There's no gentle way to remove a barbed hook from an eye, but I tried. And I realized that if this fish could scream it would, but instead all it did was gape, and I released it into back into the river, hurting and silent and probably bound to die. And after that I lost the stomach for fishing, and have hardly done it since.
 Everything Matters! remains on my increasingly-long list of books I want to read before the end of the year.

3. Dark Roasted Blend, which is dedicated to "Weird and Wonderful Things," has a nice gallery of bookplates from celebrities and authors.  Bookplates are, of course, one of the prettier ways to deface and devalue books.  They're those "ex-libris" stickers you see in the first pages of a book, personal labels that shout: "Hey, this book is mine and if you're reading it and I didn't cheerfully loan it to you, then you better bring it back right goddamn now....unless, of course, you are someone in the future who picked up the book at a flea market long after I'm dead, in which case, of course you're welcome to keep the book--just don't forget it was once my personal property, pal."  (That's the very liberal translation of "ex-libris," otherwise known as "from the library of").  Dark Roasted Blend has bookplates from the libraries of Charles de Gaulle, George Washington, Charles Dickens, Jack London, Jack Dempsey, Greta Garbo and many others.  Purty stuff.

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