Friday, January 29, 2010

Fruit of the Sea

So Salinger is dead. It's always strange when a writer I love dies. It was very disconcerting when David Foster Wallace died awhile ago, as he played a big part on my journey as a writer. And now Salinger.

And yet Salinger's death makes me think not just of his writing, his stories which I love (oh those bananafish...), but also the larger connections between books and life, the way things are tied to experiences.

I didn't read Catcher in the Rye first. Rather, when I was in highschool I had an English teacher who lent me a copy of Nine Stories. I say lent, even though he never got the copy back. Bad Ink. But the thing is that he was encouraging me because of what was probably my obvious love of reading and writing. He was a quiet teacher. Nice. Humble. He wasn't dramatic or captivating. You wouldn't remember him for his classes or lectures. But you might remember him for his human touch. A small thing. "Here's a book. Read it."

I didn't read it, not right away. I was stubborn like that. Independent. But I did read it, in the end, and found a great writer. Catcher in the Rye came next, years later, at the insistence of my future wife, and then Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters. And yet I still remember that battered copy of Nine Stories the teacher lent me. It followed me around for years (sorry for not getting it back to you, Mr. Gutteridge). But I've brought a lot of books to a lot of people, and hopefully I'll always do so. Maybe that will make up for it a bit, for that small thing that wasn't small. A recognition that perhaps I might have a talent, and here was a book that might help.

A bit of Salinger, a bit of life... all part of a dream.


Donna Hole said...

What a beautiful commemoration. I'm sure your teacher would forgive you for borrowing the book for so long. You have honored the spirit of the gift with your love of the book, and the author who wrote it.

I'm sure he'd also be pleased that you have similarly shared that passion for book with others in your life.


Mira said...


What a touching tribute. I'm sure that this is part of why Salinger wrote the book - to inspire you and others.

And any teacher who gives a book to a student - well, they don't really expect to get it back, not really. I'm sure the book is yours, and was meant to be. :)