Saturday, October 26, 2013

The worst sentences in Salinger

These sentences, from the introduction and last page, seem to me finally the worst, not for the quality of the writing but for the sloppiness of the thought. From David Shields and Shane Salerno’s Salinger, pages xv and xvii:

This is an investigation into the process by which a broken soldier and wounded soul transformed himself, through his art, into an icon of the twentieth century and then, through his religion, destroyed that art.

Religion provided the comfort he needed as a man but killed his art.

[H]e gave himself over wholly to Vedanta, turning the last half of his life into a dance with ghosts. He had nothing anymore to say to anyone else.
Got that? And now turn to page 575:
Salinger’s chronicles of two extraordinary families, the Glasses and the Caulfields — written from 1941 to 2008, when he conveyed his body of work to the J. D. Salinger Literary Trust — will be the masterworks for which he is forever known.

These works will begin to be published in irregular installments starting between 2015 and 2020.
So religion destroyed Salinger’s art, and yet Salinger was working, as late as 2008, on masterworks that will bring undying fame? That’s the kind of blatant self-contradiction one might see in a hastily assembled freshman-comp essay. The problem involves not a few sentences but the biographers’ basic sense of their subject. Did anyone at Simon & Schuster notice? Did anyone care?

Sara Nelson, Amazon’s “Editorial Director of Books and Kindle,” from the company page for Salinger: “This book says more than most about the world of writing, celebrity and American culture in the twentieth century.” Yes, but make that the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This book — in other words, the fact of the book as published — says more than most books about the cynicism of trade publication in our time. Dolla dolla bill.

Other posts about this biography
The worst sentence in Salinger so far
The worst sentences in Salinger so far
The worst sentences in Salinger so far

[This is my final post about Salinger. Borrow the book from a library if you must.]

comments: 1

Barnaby Capel-Dunn said...

I haven't read the book, Michael, and have no particular wish to do so after what you have written!
Well done in catching the authors out in such a blatant contradiction.