A few days after my friend Amanda and I introduced J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories to a friend of ours, he called us up and said, “I read the book you gave me and now I’ve been lying on the floor just staring at my ceiling fan for the past few hours.”
Very slowly, we told him to, “Put the book doooown and come over to our place. Now.”
It’s one of those books that really should come with a warning label.
Most people remember Salinger as the author of The Catcher in the Rye, but I was much more moved by his short stories. I find myself going back to Nine Stories, rereading certain stories whenever I need a reminder of what I should be searching for in the slush pile or a lesson on how to craft dialogue. It serves as my touchstone for great fiction. His stories are genuine and true and deceptively simple.
I first heard the news of his death on the 5:00 pm news, which just happened to be on while I was sitting in the living room. Sade Baderinwa announced it as the fifth or sixth story of the day and it was simply “J.D. Salinger died today at the age of 91.” There was no register of any deeper thought in her eyes and no solemnity in her voice–it was just another news item to slog through.
My husband and I looked at each other, totally stunned that it wasn’t the opening news story that night. But after the initial surprise, I suppose that Salinger would have preferred it that way.
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