October 19, 2010

J.D. Salinger. The poll.


Jason Boog over at GalleyCat has posted a report about two upcoming J.D. Salinger biographies, including an 800-page biography by David Shields. The post also includes a creepy YouTube video of an elderly Salinger out for a stroll, set to the Pink Panther music.

The seemingly endless appetite for all things Salinger-related has always perplexed me. While his short-stories lacked much fire for me, the restless, dissatisfied energy of Catcher in the Rye certainly had an impact when I was young–but I have read many books since that capture that youthful agitation with equal or greater fervor. I’m tempted to argue that our Salinger fixation has ceased to be based on literary merit and has more to do with our love of reclusive “geniuses.” But I’m hesitant on this one, so I’d like to turn it over to the MobyLives readers in the following poll (multiple answers allowed):

Is J.D. Salinger…
A genius. One of America’s great writers.
A good writer and intriguing literary figure.
A writer of who would have been forgotten except for his enigmatic nature.
A writer of one good book about adolescence whose reputation has been blown out of proportion.
A so-so writer who captured the public imagination.
A fabrication of media speculation.
The rare individual who manages to hold himself to higher, noncommercial ideals in both his art and life.
An overrated hack.
None of the above. I’ll explain further in the comments.