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I was initially saddened by the news of J.D. Salinger's passing, but this sadness was quickly replaced by uncertainty. His books meant the world to me a few years ago, as I'm sure they did to countless high school kids, and popularity with teenagers is inherently somewhat suspect. Rereading Franny and Zooey this weekend left me dismayed by the message and tone of his work. This ambivalence has been beautifully described elsewhere, so I won't linger on my distaste for Franny, or the smarminess of the conclusion. The unseemly urge to critique the dead reminded me of a couple of great essays written and regarding recently deceased writers. It is a bit disrespectful to memorialize Salinger with a harsh review, but I find the clash of literary heavyweights endearing and impressive. Discussion and criticism are crucial to literature. John Updike's third to last paragraph captures exactly what I hate about Salinger, and inclines me to forgive some of what I hate about Updike himself. This pairing doesn't give Salinger a chance to defend himself, but I think David Foster Wallace's hilariously accurate appraisal deflates Updike and evens the score. His essay also gives us reaons to be grateful that Salinger didn't produce much, especially at the end of his life.

Anxious Days for the Glass Family, by John Updike

John Updike, Champion Literary Phallocrat, Drops One; Is This Finally the End for Magnificent Narcissists?, by David Foster Wallace



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