Predictably, Dave Eggers wrote a remembrance of J.D. Salinger for The New Yorker. And here I could riff on this, but I'd rather just copy-paste this comment from their website...
(A) Epitomizes everything hate-able about certain people in The New Yorker's readership,
(B) Is somewhat on-point at times as a critique, and
(C) Represents a new low in crowdsourcing as it saves me from actually having to write anything else about The Dave Eggers J.D. Salinger Remembrance after the oncoming colon:
I'm sure this is an inappropriate venue to air these grievances, but after wading through a few 'vexing' remembrances, it looks like I'm going to set my thoughts down in writing, and the foot of this graveyard seems as safe as place as any to plant a sword - no one to kill: everyone's dead. I may get long-winded, so I'll offer up the point from the get go: the moral of this probably-never-to-be-posted internet comment is do not let middling twits near the obituaries of great men. It is fashionable to dislike Salinger and acceptable to regard him as a demigod. Those who dislike him seem to take offense at his Sincerity (properly capitalized, framed by generous margins), or claim acumen that sees through his characters' adolescent whining and precious fragility. Those people, I find (and I mean this strictly as an insult), generally have not read Proust and do not like Shakespeare. And then there are his hopeless devotees, not of the assassinating sort, but of the I Am Holden Caulfield, lead eastward by the promise of his brilliant figure type (you can provide the hyphens yourself). These people, I find, generally have not read anything - maybe Lolita, which they mispronounce [Loll- as in lollipop, see: Strong Opinions] and never finished. All of this is to say that like select canons before his, Salinger's work frequently attracts readers ill-equipped to understand it, which, as both Proust and common sense tell us, is symptomatic of genius. Not of talent, mind you, not even of tremendous talent, but of that most rare and dazzling gift afforded only a handful since creation – the ability to render black and white in color, to settle the darkness without reference to history or constellation, to provide not only essential information about the nature of existence but also a reason to exist. Salinger was a genius. That's not something to be said lightly or proudly, because it is a terrible and humbling thing to behold: genius is the perpetual state of the terrifying sublime, to behold the mountain and feel small, to register the universe and feel unreal, to witness the passing of the mountain and universe, (I told you I'd get long-winded, but I didn't say I'd get kooky, clerical oversight, apologies) to, in short, understand that you will die, to know that the conditions of this world are hilariously insignificant and to, therefore, reorient yourself to what is nameless and highest and most frighteningly joyous. Man is not the mountain. I don't care why he retreated into seclusion; I know there's no convincing the self-righteously blind that the stars are real and furious and gorgeous. No one should hold out for insight: all I expect is some courtesy. You like his dialogue? I like your shoes. What of the soul?
On one hand, What of the soul? indeed. On the other, if there's anybody who can make Dave Eggers more palatable, it's someone who comments on The New Yorker's website. Yes, one could absolutely write about everything that's right and wrong about this for the next two hours, and what it represents, but: no. If you actually have any interest in reading a really good remembrance of J.D. Salinger, sorry, but I can't manage anything better than what Sadie Stein wrote at Jezebel, and I have yet to read one as good. But here we are, so whatever, here's my thing:
It goes without saying that I wouldn't be here without his books, and neither would a lot of writers of any stripe. J.D. Salinger affected so many people, so many of whom would be different for the worst without having experienced his writing. It's not really that J.D. Salinger invented adolescence or revolutionized use of the word "fuck" by teenagers or was the first guy to write young, angry people seeking out authenticity, so much as he taught people of all ages—and yes, especially young people—that sadness is the most authentic thing there is, that it's both universal and beautiful, that we all share it, and that the only real way we can make this world even remotely tolerable is by trying to keep exercising our compassion for truths like these. - Foster