all curmudgeons go to heaven.


i read catcher in the rye when i was a freshman in high school. like every other depressed and angsty teen, i savored every word. mostly, i couldn't believe there was a book that had the word "fuck" in it so many times, and i couldn't believe we got to read it. how was this art? how was this part of the academic curriculum? it was all the dark, brooding shit that had been running through my head. it was all the isolation i felt, all the ways in which i wanted to see this world burn.

and then i heard about the author. who was this brilliant man, this guy who wrote about sex and nervous breakdowns and phonies? i read about him being a recluse, and i thought that was awesome. he wanted to get away from everybody. he only had to write one really good novel, make a shitload of money from it, have everyone love him, and then he didn't have to love them back. what a fucking rockstar. i loved him, and i had to read everything by him.

so i read nine stories, franny & zooey, and raise high the roofbeam, carpenters. it didn't matter that i didn't understand what was going on half the time. what mattered was that, generally speaking, his characters were a little bit off, just as i had always felt, especially those days at an all-boys high school. i pictured the characters back in the day, the 40's, 50's, 60's, and they had the same bleak outlook on life as i did, but they dressed better, and spoke more eloquently. i wanted to be in that world, that time. i wanted to be a piece of a fiction.

i even read love & squalor, collected essays by modern authors who were all influenced by salinger. i resented all of them for being so untalented, and for writing about a man who could write one paragraph more profound and heartbreaking than the dozens of novels any one of them could pen. they all said more or less the same shit. the girl who wrote namedropper and thin skin said that salinger fucked her, fucked all of us, and then didn't even remember our name. another dude said that when salinger died, a novel called the glass family would be published, and it would be beautiful and it would make him cry. that's all i really remember from love & squalor.

i remember reading franny & zooey, and i was in the backseat of my parents' car. i remember the ending of franny - that fucking ending - where she has a full blown nervous breakdown in the bathroom, and she's just chanting some prayer over and over again, and my god, that ending scared me. i can't even explain it. it's what i wanted. i just wanted to say, fuck it, to hell with everything, and i wanted to just find some obscure prayer and just chant it. i don't know what was wrong with me then, or even now, but at the time, that was what i wanted. that was what was gonna happen to me, i just knew it.

and then i read raise high the roofbeam, carpenters, and i really don't even remember what it was about. i think there was a part where buddy was describing seymour's face, or at least he was trying to, and that description, somehow, even though i can't remember it completely, had changed my whole life. i thought of things differently after reading that passage. i thought that life was short, that things were possible, that words can alter us in ways i didn't know, that i wanted to be a better, happier human being. i saw a tweet today; a guy had said that roofbeam had changed his whole perspective on life. i don't know how it's possible, but i agree with him one-hundred percent.

i read that novel, that passage about seymour's physical traits, and i didn't want to be alone in this world anymore. i pursued a girl, and for christmas that same year, i gave her that book. i told her how important it was to me, but she never read it. but it didn't matter. i had grown up, and i convinced myself i didn't need those characters anymore. i had to be part of the real world, where not everyone smoked cigarettes, was well educated, middle to upper class, and lived in new york. i didn't need the nervous breakdowns, the eccentricity, the alienation, or whatever else it was that he had to offer.

and now he's dead. my friend broke the news over gchat. i went to sleep after work, and when i awoke, i was hungry. as i was putting on my shoes, i thought about feeling hungry and how i was alive, and how salinger was dead. i was still sleepy, and my neighbor said she liked my shoes. i thanked her, and then i got a georgia gold from roy's bbq. i asked the clerk if they had changed their hours, but she said they'd been the same for a while now. i went back to my apartment and i ate my sandwich while watching the last few minutes of an episode of two and a half men.

life is just fucking weird like that.

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