One-on-One with J. D. Salinger

By George, Stephen C. | The Saturday Evening Post, July-August 2010 | Go to article overview

One-on-One with J. D. Salinger


George, Stephen C., The Saturday Evening Post


Before I began my career as a writer and editor, I worked part-time at a bank. It was not a good fit-I'm hopelessly math-impaired-but jobs were hard to come by where I lived in New Hampshire. And my meager skills weren't too overtaxed: We had so little business that I was often able to sit at my desk and read to my heart's content.

One gray, wet Thursday, my manager directed an older gentleman to me. She asked me to help him conduct a small transaction, something that ordinarily could have been handled by a bank teller. But the tone in my manager's voice suggested he was a VIP who shouldn't have to wait in line. I decided he was probably a retired bank executive or some local worthy I should have recognized but didn't, callow 20-something that I was.

The man and I exchanged maybe a dozen words between us in the few minutes we shared. Then, after the quickest of handshakes, he was out the door, and I was left to update his account on the computer. As I did this, my manager hustled over and said, "I thought you'd get a big kick out of that. I see you reading his books all the time. Don't you know who that was?"

"Sure," I lied, reading off the screen. "That was Mr. Salinger. Mr. Jerome D.--"

The rest of my answer is unprintable, but I can tell you it was heartfelt, considering rd just met J. D. Salinger-arguably America's most celebrated literary recluse-and hadn't realized it until he was gone.

Only a few weeks before, I'd sat at that very desk, rereading The Catcherin the Rye, the 1951 book whose narrator, Holden Caulfield, influenced generations of young adults. …

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