Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

January 31, 2010

My Visit to Salinger's House

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 4:21 pm

I’ve had some requests to reprint this account of my journey and my belief that his silence was a principled position. A reproof to the publicity industial complex (a phrase first used there in).

Rest in the peace you sought so long and hard.

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13 Comments »

  1. In the wake of JD’s departure, there is already much astonishment afoot. First are the unbelievable tributes from the younger generation, more touched and less jaded about Salinger’s achievement than previous. The Fitzgerald revival around 1960 is nothing in comparison. Secondly (and this is not to take away from Ron’s classic piece), I think JD tricked us all, if you believe the pieces just posted at “newyorker.com” by Lillian Ross and John Seabrook (and the, and there is no other way to put this, bizarre Michael Jackson pix that Ms. Ross has posted their from her private stash). While all of us were out searching for him, Salinger was blithely running around New York with the New Yorker crowd (who, to assure continued access, never uttered a peep) getting his picture taken, going to the Plaza, hitting the Central Park Zoo, you name it. John Seabrook’s casual reference to being Matt Salinger’s roommate and, you know, coincidentally, getting a job writing for the clannish New Yorker, makes one wonder whether or JD was actively recruiting for the Silly Tilleys. I betcha was! Probably tonguing Renata Adler outside Katharine White’s personal lavatory. So the whole disappearing act was just a ruse to give JD the freedom to roam the city unobserved, hiding in plain sight, like th Aspern Papers. I mean, in her new reflection, Lillian Ross blabs on about how much JD detested Kenneth Tynan’s criticism. Did we previously ever suspect that the high school honey chasing vedantic recluse gave a fig about Kenneth Tynan? Nope Salinger was in fact a Fred Astaire style sophisticated who created the whole hick recluse in the woods schtick to throw gullibubbles like Ron and so many others off the scent of the cologne he spritzed on himself at the Copa! And with the royalties rolling in to pay for his playboy lifestyle, why bother to write when JD was having so much fun on the sly. It was the perfect literary crime!!

    Comment by charlie finch — January 31, 2010 @ 5:40 pm | Reply

  2. So, Ron, what do you think of the theory that Salinger also published titles under the name Thomas Pynchon? I guess now we get to know for sure. If another Pynchon book comes out then that theory was false.

    Comment by MonkeyShines — January 31, 2010 @ 6:37 pm | Reply

  3. Pynchon theory disproved, CC

    Comment by charlie finch — January 31, 2010 @ 6:47 pm | Reply

  4. we interrupt this thread for breaking news: CIA drones kill Pakistani Taliban leader who wiped out 7 at CIA base; US steps up arms shipments to Taiwan, defying China; Obama and Petraeus bolster Persian Gulf missile defenses, try to restrain Israel in urgent meetings with Netanyahu; Amedinajad predicts he will attack on February 11

    Comment by charlie finch — January 31, 2010 @ 7:58 pm | Reply

  5. Very glad I had a chance to read this terrific, entertaining piece (that only I truly understand). Seems like Salinger was caught in a Convergence of the Twain situation. The publicity industrial complex was growing just as he with his fame allergy was coming on the scene. The only essay I know that records the appearance of the new publicity culture is Seymour Krim’s 1959 “Making It!” He saw that it was going to make everyone want to “put that last shred of shame behind them” and “make this crazy scene pay off.” As my teenager says, “Welcome to my world.”

    Comment by Mark Cohen — February 1, 2010 @ 12:25 pm | Reply

  6. First Roger Simon, now Ron Rosenbaum. Are there any other graying literary groupies at PJM who want to share quaint memories of annoying Salinger? Poor guy should have bought a shotgun.

    These confessions of youthful tackiness bring to mind Brent Staples, the creepy NYT editor who for a time secretly followed Saul Bellow around the University of Chicago campus. Not content with criminally intruding on Bellow’s privacy as an angry and confused dropout with a brother on death row, celebrity-stalker-Staples heaped insult on injury years later by falsely accusing Bellow of racism in the pages of the NYT.

    Comment by David Levavi — February 1, 2010 @ 7:13 pm | Reply

  7. I’ve read some Staples. There is a notable, if derivative, style there. Don’t know about his personal issues/whatever/bs. He is not someone I would dismiss as a creep, though. Maybe Bellow would have enjoyed himself had he stopped and said hello. And his brother?! come one now…

    Comment by Tim Rinaldi — February 2, 2010 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  8. Well, Ron go his wish and Obama has killed off U.S. man space travel. Astronaut and NASA czar Charles Bolden broke down in tears during today’s press conference, while affirming that we will assist the Chinese and the Russians in their man spaced programs and in keeping the spce station going. Obama can be great and he can also, as in this case, be shortsighted, petty and just plain stupid. To paraphrase what they used to sat about von Braun, Obama shot for the stars and hit Pakistan

    Comment by charlie finch — February 2, 2010 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

  9. “I’ve had some requests to reprint this account of my journey…”

    Somehow I doubt the truth of that line…

    Only seven posts in the comments thread over five days not including my own (that is if you don’t suppress it like you usually do…) Two of the seven are critical of Salinger, probably no interest therefrom in your “journey”, your “belief”, his “prncipled silence”(sic) or your very clever wordsmithing attempt “there in”(sic)… (So YOU are the genius who gifted us with “publicity industrial complex” — amazing!) Of the remaining five posts, four are by the flighty Mr. Finch. I suppose we are to adduce that more than once Mr. Finch entreated to hear again the melody of “My Visit to Salinger’s House”, thereby yielding the required “some requests”? LOL.

    Comment by Morton Doodslag — February 3, 2010 @ 9:21 pm | Reply

  10. Check out this link on YouTube – In Memoriam J. D. Salinger: Composer Mark N. Grant’s “Before the Fall: Lament for The Children”

    Comment by Icarus Triumphant — February 4, 2010 @ 10:01 am | Reply

  11. Jeepers. Are you Golem from Lord of the Rings? I know a guy with the same problem. This law student. Clever enough when you talk to him, but he has that analytical poof ball style when he writes, like a goblin. The sloppy Martian grammar, too. My God. I struggle to keep the rest of my bile down. I need to get out of here.

    Comment by Tim Rinaldi — February 4, 2010 @ 1:52 pm | Reply

  12. I went back and read that Esquire piece — well, tried to read it. Too long! ADS has sacked the culture, no question about it, but it has done some good things. One has been to deal death to long, preening articles in which the author achieves equivalence to the subject at hand.

    Comment by Banjo — February 4, 2010 @ 3:55 pm | Reply

  13. Well, Ron, this comment is about your new Slate article, not the Esquire one, and concerns Go See Eddie.

    In 2008, Salinger set up a J.D. Salinger Literary Trust to manage the copyrights of his work after his death. The document filed with the Copyright Office establishing this trust was, from what I can gather, introduced as an exhibit when he took “John David California” to court last year over the Catcher sequel. A link to it, which I found via Sarah Weinman’s fine site, is below.

    If you compare this with the list of Salinger’s works at his Wikipedia page you’ll notice that his first two published stories from 1940, “The Young Folks” and “Go See Eddie,” and a story he published in Story magazine in ’44, “Once A Week Won’t Kill You,” are not included in the document sent to the Copyright Office. Gutenberg.org’s very comprehensive online lists of copyright renewals show that the copyrights for these stories were never renewed.

    Why? In the case of the 1940 stories, I would guess two reasons. First, Salinger sold them before Dorothy Olding started to represent him at Harold Ober. So the agency would have had no record of them in the files, and therefore would not have notified Salinger in 1968 that they needed to have their copyrights renewed. It would have been up to Salinger to remember that, and in 1968, just after his divorce, renewing them might have slipped his mind.

    Second, he may not have realized that “Go See Eddie” had been published. In 1962, Donald Fiene, for his master’s thesis at the University of Louisville, compiled the first really comprehensive Salinger bibliography. Fiene, probably now better known for his books about Robert Crumb and Dostoyevsky, wrote to Salinger about it, and the writer replied, saying – and sorry, I can’t remember where I read this – that although he saw no point in anyone’s compiling a bibliography, he was sending a list of his stories anyway. And the list did not have “Go See Eddie.”

    The case of “Once A Week” is more puzzling. Dorothy Olding would have handled the story, presumably, and in 1972 Salinger should have been notified that its copyright needed renewal. But that didn’t happen. Joyce Maynard was living with him at the time, so it may be that, again, he was distracted.

    So what this means is that those three stories are public domain, and you could put their texts on this blog or anywhere else with as much right as you’d have to post Robinson Crusoe or Pride and Prejudice. I say that with some misgivings. They’re three pretty brief stories, and it would be hard to make even a slim paperback out of them.

    But then again when the Benjamin Button movie came out, several publishers put Fitzgerald’s public-domain story out on its own, and the three Salinger stories together are only a little shorter than BB. So I probably wouldn’t have written this when Salinger was living; if a writer loses the rights to his work because things in his personal life took his attention away, he shouldn’t have to be reminded of that while he’s here, but now that he’s gone, that wouldn’t matter. (Yes, I should’ve alternated his/her, but this is Salinger we’re talking about, the writer whose ever-smoking characters would all be in jail for life now for violating Bloomberg’s foul laws, so not much need for PC.)

    As for why Eddie was reprinted in 1968 – well, that would have been just before it went public-domain, but back in the heyday of magazine fiction, the standard contracts generally gave the publication one reprint right, which included the right to grant, once, publication in an anthology. This is how Salinger’s uncollected stories ended up in places like Best American Stories. This is why Cosmopolitan magazine was able, over Salinger’s protests, to reprint “The Inverted Forest” in its 50th-anniversary issue or whatever it was in 1961. And it’s why the New Yorker was able to put “Slight Rebellion Off Madison” in a book a few years ago. (I take it that Salinger was able to get the reprint stipulation removed in his later contracts with the New Yorker.) So New Letters (as the magazine that published “Go See Eddie” was called by the 1960s) would have had the right to permit its republication, that one time, if the publication had retained that right back in 1940.

    http://www.fgks.com/docs/Salinger/Preliminary%20Injunction/Westberg%20Ex%20E.pdf

    Comment by Lawrence Tate — February 9, 2010 @ 9:20 am | Reply


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