I’m sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect.
And so you die, and the world is left just a little more wanting than it was before, or so I feel — even though you were in this world but not really of it, I suspect. Strange that I should be so saddened by the death of someone that I never met, who wrote a handful of books and short stories before I was born. But like so many youths, you spoke to me through Holden — here was someone who wasn’t phony (to use Holden’s term); here was someone who actually understood. In a world overwhelmed with bullshit, here was a sliver of truth. And unlike so many youths who go on to acquiesce to or otherwise be absorbed by the seemingly inherent phoniness of adulthood and maturity, you carried the banner until your death at 91. You retreated in the face of overwhelming odds to your “cabin in the west” much like Holden yearned to do, choosing solitude over surrender. You fought the good fight in your own way until the end; for this, I salute you.
It was a very stupid thing to do, I’ll admit, but I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it.
You never sold the movie rights to Catcher in the Rye; never let it be raped and ransacked by Hollywood. You never let it be cheapened for the quick, easy money. You never sold it out — cliché, I know, but nevertheless for this I am ever thankful (unlike myself and so many others, you learned from your mistakes). So I shudder to think what might happen to your creation now that you are gone. Who will protect Holden from the phonies now? Who will pick up your banner now that you have dropped it?
I recall your daughter writing a nasty memoir suggesting that you were an awful father; I never read it, but suspect that you probably were. That doesn’t change the esteem I have for you as an author. I wonder if your survivors are already talking to Hollywood about the film rights to your work; the thought both saddens and angers me to no end. I take solace in the fact that your works won’t be in the public domain until 2080, long after I’ll be dead myself. If you were smart — and I suspect you were — then Holden is safe for the next 70 years, at least, whatever your heirs might do.
Goddam money. It always ends up making you blue as hell.
If they do defile your work while there is still breath in my lungs, I for one will not see it; Holden will forever remain as he is pictured in my mind’s eye. And since I find myself here in Sai Gon at the moment — you’d be amused to know that I should be studying this morning, but instead I’m sitting in a cafe wasting time writing this — I will burn a joss stick in your honor this evening. Perhaps I will even make an impromptu altar to you, if I can find an illegal, xeroxed copy of Catcher In the Rye mixed in between copies of Lonely Planet Thailand and the latest Dan Brown defecations that can be found among the “book” sellers (and hookers and pimps and “masseurs” and drug dealers and motorbike taxi drivers oh my!) that haunt Pham Ngu Lau by night. These two things are the least I can do for someone that gave me such a gift as Catcher.
An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.