Was J.D. Salinger a Sex Monster . . . ?

. . . who abused women with his sex desires!?  This is the case Mikki Halpin lays out in a Salon.com essay that is light on particular evidence and heavy on the hate.  As she has it,

. . . I think there is another, more insidious reason that the literary establishment is so invested in the fictional, reclusive Salinger. It is a convenient cudgel with which to silence any discussion of Salinger’s personal life, particularly any revelation of unsavory truths about one of America’s most revered authors. Both Joyce Maynard and Salinger’s daughter Margaret were vilified for violating the great man’s privacy when they wrote about their own experiences with him and exposed his predatory, controlling relationships with women. Instead of exploring the insights these revelations might bring to readings of Salinger’s work (not to mention the women’s right to tell their own stories), critics dismissed their books as exploitative, attention-seeking stunts.

Well, Maynard was a publicity hound / groupie and a bad writer.  And if you’re going to assert that putative events from the man’s personal life can enrich our experience of his work, then you had better offer at least a brief example of such literary analysis.

Read the piece in full if you want, but be warned: it’s mostly boilerplate about Cruel Male Artists (Salinger is somehow guilty by association with, uh, Picasso) and vague aspersions about what Salinger was “really” like.   You will run into cant phrases like “troubled past” and  “unsavory truths.”  And the title is even ungrammatical (it should be history WITH women, not OF women–jeez).    Ultimately it seems like the big old man had a pretty normal romantic life, full of fuck-ups and stupidity and loss, just like anyone else’s.  For Halpin, though, this is all evidence of a deeper depravity–that of the Male Egotist.  Blurg.  Maybe try critiquing his actual books next time, and cool it with the hazy biographical attacks.  Ad hominem is boring.  Halpin is usually a solid, funny cultural observer, but this piece falls flat, stylistically and substantively.

-TGR

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