Magazine article The Spectator

Pen Pals

Magazine article The Spectator

Pen Pals

Article excerpt

'I t was a dark and stormy night, but we were young and thought we could do anything. There was no looking back.

None of that David Copperfield kind of nonsense. We were already men. We had our finger on what was going on between self and culture. We did away with the traditional architecture of the short story. It was bull****, so we dumped it. There was no beginning and no middle, just a lot of emotion, irony and mood. MMMooodd. It was Zen, man, and it never snapped shut. We said less, and it counted for more, and the suckers went wild. Holden grabbed them by the coogies and never let them go. Shawnie loved that stuff, but Susan Hayward really blew it in 'Uncle Wiggly'. She of My Foolish Heart.

'They said I liked young women and manipulated them. Of course I did. Wouldn't you? That bitch Joyce Maynard took me for some ride. I love you more for yourself than Catcher, she used to say, while I stuffed her.

And like a fool I believed her. We used to lie down after chow and she'd tell me about the millions - millions - of boys who went to bed at night thinking they were Holden.

And when I'd tell her those millions went to bed jerking off thinking of Marilyn Monroe, she'd squeal like a stuffed pig, and make me come.

'They say I am a recluse. Of course I am.

Look what they did to Papa. Philip Roth, John Updike, Harold Brodkey - they say I shaped them all, and perhaps I did. Pitchperfect dialogue and sharp social observation is what it's all about. Sure, Holden was my Gatsby, I got his fierce alienation just right. Adolescence and alienation, morality and distrust; you don't need to be a genius. When the Catcher first caught fire, I thought only of getting laid. Holden's inner voice was talking about a need which comes before love: honesty - or so they told me.

I was dying to tell them that the only need which comes before love is getting laid.

Thank God, I didn't.

'When I was writing The Catcher I was horny as hell. Marilyn, Jayne, Ava, Lana, they all drove me nuts. So I punished the bitches by showing them that love does not mean sex. I gave Holden an instinct of celibacy. And although my old man was a Jew, I never cared for all that bull****. I made the only two good people Holden meets Catholic nuns.

'After that it was all downhill. I wanted to save the world but the world did not want to be saved. So I said f*** it. I invented the Glass family, a group ritually washing away the world's guilt. …

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