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Friday, 29 January 2010

JD Salinger and the Teen Dream

Two men with an interest in younger women seemingly created the teen dream - the teenage imaginary - in the Eisenhower Era - Nabokov and Salinger. Lolita became the young one as agent and provocative force of energy, and Holden Caulfield became us all. The death of Salinger is an airless chamber; he'd been dead to us since 1965, more or less. Or, perhaps, alive forever since 1951, when his immortal Catcher In The Rye was first published. It had an immense and immediate effect on my youthful sense as writer and reader when my Aunt Bev gave it to me in the late 70s. Many of my early poems are Salingeresque - and I continue to argue for the legitimate expression of the adolescent sublime in mature creative work.

It is an irony of fate, or merely a coincidence, that the day of his death I was listening to the new and brilliant Beach House album, Teen Dream. It is Dream Pop via Mazzy Star, true, but Bowie-like, stately, weird, haunting, sexy and nearly as great as Siamese Dream, that masterwork of the teen moment.

I hope that there is a Max Brod moment and whoever has the key to the safe doesn't burn the 15 purported legendary books that Salinger wrote. However, after 65 million copies of Catcher being sold, isn't it time to relax and admit that Salinger also left us something else - a purer ideal of the author than that shown by Rowling and Brown - someone above exploiting the imaginary for film and spin-off or fame.

It is hard to say whether writers of genius benefit or suffer from their personality disorders. In Salinger's and Holden's case, it seems both.
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