It seems that, in the case of the famously reclusive J.D. Salinger, everyone thinks he will be the special chosen one who will get the iconic writer to break his silence. The enduring truth of this narcissism is proven once again by the Spectator's Tom Leonard, who makes the trip from England to Cornish, in the New Hampshire's White Mountains, where Salinger has lived for the past 50 years.Not shockingly, he ends up having to settle for the somewhat lame headline, "What I Heard At J.D. Salinger's Doorstep."
What he hears is a bunch of gossip from neighbors and parishoners at the Unitarian church Salinger attends, that "he likes the spinach and mushroom wraps," that he's deaf and that he's not out and about as much — which, given that the guy is 90, isn't exactly a shock. While the writer makes the point that "there are, of course, few better ways of bolstering one's own mythology than by hiding away" it's pretty clear that the man is serious about his privacy (which made the Joyce Maynard tell-all, however valid, seem a bit problematic to many.) It's also true that the very insight into troubled, isolated minds that made his fiction so powerful to his fans is obviously familiar to him; it seems like a great irony that admirers should love this in his work but expect him to set it aside in real life for the sake of literary pilgrims whom any one of his beloved characters would obviously have scorned.
His wife, everyone says, seems nice. "As if making up for her husband, she is said to be friendly and a pillar of the community, a painter who runs a quilt-making group, set up a local online noticeboard and runs a food stand at the annual charity fun run." When the reporter marches up to their kitchen window, she tells him,
"I'm so sorry you've come so far but, as you will know, my husband is someone who values his privacy," she said, all smiles. "I must ask you to leave now." The window is closed. The man who stopped talking to the world more than 50 years ago doesn't intend to start now.
Well, yeah, why should he?
What I Heard At J.D. Salinger's Doorstep [Spectator]