When someone told me J.D. Salinger had died, I jokingly asked, "How do they know?"
It was dark humor and a tad disrespectful. But I was trying to be complimentary. Salinger, who was even more passionate about his privacy than his writing, had managed, at age 91, to die a legend in both areas.
That's right, kids: This man actually tried NOT to be famous.
Salinger wrote one book that people talk about, one book above the handful of others he penned. It was called "The Catcher in the Rye." Chances are you read it sometime during your adolescence.
If you're in your 70s now, you might have read it on your own, as a rite of passage, a book that spoke to you of the angst and restlessness of youth.
If you're in your 30s, 40s or 50s, you likely read in high school, as an assignment.
If you're in your 20s or younger, you might have studied it in English class, or maybe downloaded it to see what all the fuss was about.
"Catcher in the Rye" spoke to a Cold War America about values, life and youthful identity. Its protagonist,
Which is exactly what J.D. Salinger did.
Keeping out of public view
Now, it's hard for the young to imagine a writer selling 60 million copies of a book and NOT wanting to do "The Catcher in the Rye, Part II" or "Catcher! The Video Game." But Salinger, who had been ambitious as a young man, quickly lost his taste for it. After a while, he ordered his photo removed from copies of his book. He told his agent to burn all his fan mail. He eventually moved to the woods of
Ironically, that only made him more legendary. Reporters tried and inevitably failed to get an interview. Publishers tried and inevitably failed to entice him to put out more books.
And hearing that he died this past week without ever giving in makes me admire him all the more. Salinger never swallowed this capitalize-on-your-fame command that
He was 56.
Writing but not publishing
Because of this, some people saw him as nuts, a kook, a whack job. I didn't. He never told anyone not to read his books. On the contrary. That's ALL he wanted them to do.
On the other hand, many of us now think if you sing a song nicely, there needs to be a reality show about your life. You tell me. Who's the crazy party?
Salinger once told a reporter he loved to write and continued to do it, but publishing was an invasion to him. "I write just for myself and my own pleasure," he said.
If so, he is a truer artist than most.
There's a line that
Salinger wanted people to clap for the right things, his stories, not his private life, his interviews or the movie version of his work. I admired him for that. And every time I see a
Now, with his 'The Tonight Show' tenure complete, Conan O'Brien could very well be heading back to the latenight Fox slot he left behind two decades ago -- but this time as host. It's far from a slam-dunk solution for O'Brien, however.
Decade of Rapid Change
The media world spins so fast, it's easy to forget how dramatically the landscape has changed during the 00's decade. So before putting the '00s behind us, let's review some key statistics and recap the dramatic changes in television and entertainment.
America Through the Reality Lens
Culturally, this has been the decade of the reality show. And what do we have to show for it? Not much more than the contestants themselves.
TV's Best for 2009: Can't Pick Just 10
In television putting together an aggregated 10-best roster amounts to more of a time-killing exercise. That said, boiling down the scripted series on display in 2009 to just 10 feels inordinately daunting.
- Behind the Scenes at the Food Network
- Late-Night's New Faces
- Early Leno Returns Are Mixed For NBC
- The Jay Leno Show: Leno Saving the Best for Last
- NBC Puts a Royal Spin on Latenight
- The Movie Star Deluxe - Elizabeth Taylor
- Oscarcast Challenged By More Nominations
- 2009 National Dog Show Will Spotlight Work of Therapy Dogs
- Fox - White House Media War is Killing News
- TV News Sensationalism: Everything Is Suspect
(c) 2010 Mitch Albom