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It's A Quiet Day In The Neighborhood...

Yesterday, a neighbor of mine passed on. He was a quiet fellow, hadn't said much or drawn attention to himself. I don't think I ever actually met him, and certainly didn't know him, but I knew of him.

J. D. Salinger passed away about 15 miles from where I type this, two towns south. And I've visited several of the local landmarks cited in that story. Hell, I work (at The Day Job) about two minutes' walk from one of them.

Like nearly any American under a certain age, I read "The Catcher In The Rye" in high school. And like a lot of Americans, it had a major effect on me.

I remember thinking "this Holden Caulfield is a major jerk, an utterly unlikeable guy, who does nothing worth remembering. Why do people keep talking about how this book is great literature?"

Truth to tell, Holden Caulfield seemed very real to me because I knew a few guys who were very much like him. And I didn't like them at all.

My single Salinger-related memory was a hysterical one-liner from an episode of "Mad About You." Helen Hunt is helping her hapless sister prepare a resume' while job-hunting, and comes across a single line that leaps out at her.

"'Personal assistant to J. D. Salinger?' You can't put that on your resume!"

"Let 'em try and check it!"

Salinger's passing gives me a bit of an excuse to brag about my neighborhood. The Greater Lebanon Area (a term I might have just invented) is home to a remarkable collection of people and institutions. P. J. O'Rourke is about 30 miles down the highway. Mark Steyn is two towns north. Dan Collins, of occasional fame at Protein Wisdom, is one or two towns into Vermont.

We're also home to the twin powerhouses of Dartmouth College and the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, New England's largest (by far) hospital north of Boston. And a friend of mine attends the Center for Cartoon Studies, one of only two schools dedicated to cartooning in the country.

All of this in the middle of nowhere, essentially. And largely because, I suspect, we're located at the crossroads of two interstates, on a state border, and about halfway between two of northern New England's two largest cities (Manchester, NH and Burlington, VT).

It's to this neck of the woods that a lot of people come to just live and let live, to be ourselves without having to explain much or deal with nosy, interfering ninnies and nanny-staters, to have our space and our rights respected.

That's what Salinger wanted above all else, and this is where he found it when he moved up here in 1953.

Rest in peace, neighbor. It's what you wanted.


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Comments (6)

Wow! JT, what an absolutely... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Wow! JT, what an absolutely brilliant and touching post. You are talented my man, very talented. ww

Cornish, NH (where Salinger... (Below threshold)
Kim:

Cornish, NH (where Salinger lived) is a lovely area. If I were to go into seclusion, Cornish would be a top pick!

To be kind, let's just say ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

To be kind, let's just say that Salinger had "issues", and leave it at that.

Not saying I am a huge Sali... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Not saying I am a huge Salinger fan as much as admiring JT's prose. Enough. I don't want him to get a big head. ww

JT, could not agree with yo... (Below threshold)
Weegie:

JT, could not agree with you more on "Catcher".

Except that I found it so awful, and Caulfield such a worthless POS that I refused to finish reading it.

"The Catcher In The Rye" is... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

"The Catcher In The Rye" is not meant to be a Horatio Alger story, Mr Tea. There is a difference between the words "hero" and "protagonist." Holden is no hero.

I first read "Catcher" in 7th grade. At first, I just found it hilarious. Creepily hilarious in the Mr Antolini episode, pathetically hilarious in the prostitute/elevator guy story, just plain hilarious when describing Ackley -- "That guy was about as sensitive as a goddam toilet seat."

On subsequent re-readings at a greater age, you kinda realize this guy has PROBLEMS, but again, you're not necessarily supposed to like him. But if you can honestly say you couldn't identify with ANY of his observations, you may have never been a teenager!




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