Salinger gave me the confidence and guidance to start writing when I was 13. My first encounters with Salinger were in Russian because I read him in translation, but the English original is so much better. I can safely say Franny and Zoey changed my life. Down at the Dinghy and Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes [from 9 Stories] will stay with me forever. At first I was a bit offended by how harsh Weiss was with him. But then I realize it was because I, like him, refuse to separate from a sort-of childishness. Being here and in this job reinforce the world’s pressure that perhaps it’s about time that I do. But how do you know you’ve grow up?
My step father, who has become a sort of wisdom guide in my life, always regarded my political involvement as my latching-onto childishness. I think he always thought one day I’ll grow up finally and realize there’s nothing I can do to change the world and will start living more for myself, appreciating art and raising a family. This, I think, is the only point on which we disagree, but then again he survived the Holocaust, the St. Petersburg siege, and Stalin, so what the fuck do I know. I think he came to that conclusion because of what happened to Akhmatova and because Brodsky was exiled.
Anyways, he always had the analysis that Salinger withdrew because like the painters Serov or Manet he put everything into his art. All that had to be in there, not more and not less, and then he turned the canvas over to the reader, so there was no point sticking around. I guess we don’t know enough of the details of his life, but I’ve always shied away from the details of the lives of my favourite artists. Maybe I was/am afraid of what I would find.
I hope Salinger did end up writing more books when he was in seclusion, I hope someone will publish them.