TLS - Typed Letter SignedSalinger, J.D. American author of The Catcher in the Rye. Typed Letter signed “Jerry”. 1 page. April 5, . To Eileen Paddison, then a high school student living at boarding school, she would become a close friend and confidante of Salinger over the next several years. A striking letter in which the reclusive author admits he understands what she is going through, having escaped family problems through boarding school himself as a teenager, and lending his support her issues with family, “I think I understand about being glad, sort of, to get back to your little cell at school.” It was Salinger’s boarding school experience coupled with a fraught family life that formed the basis for his most acclaimed novel, The Catcher in the Rye,which also made him a lightning rod for a generation of young people who identified with his profound isolation. While Salinger received hundreds, if not thousands, of letters from teenagers who believed he alone would understand their problems, responsive letters from the enigmatic author are exceptionally rare, especially with such personal content.
Salinger’s description of Holden Caulfield, a thoughtful young man stuck in a confusing and materialistic world captured the minds of generation after generation. His fans and the press universally hounded him to reveal the true relationship between Holden Caulfield, and the author himself as a child. In reaction, Salinger became ever more reclusive, declaring publicly that no author should discuss the source of his inspiration, particularly not as they pertain to his personal life. Because of that, instances where the author describes any similarity between himself and Holden are extremely rare. Here, Salinger describes an unwillingness to go home from boarding school for vacation, which is exactly what caused Holden to roam the streets of New York City for several days alone, “I think I understand about being glad, sort of, to get back to your little cell at school. So many complicated thoughts go into that feeling, though. Not just divorce or stepparents or blah vacations, but so many things in combination, and with X thrown in.” In another interesting parallel, Salinger imagines that the greatest relief about having to go home would be the opportunity to converse with a sibling late at night, as Holden did with his sister Phoebe, in the middle of the night. He writes in this letter, “At least, you had a pretty good ride with your brother Dave. Pitch black highway talk at three in the morning. A good time for it.”
Salinger offers his unique take on this young boarding school student’s strained relationship with the adults in her home, something that he also dealt with personally in his life and through his character Holden. Particularly “your stepmother’s indifference or coolness” and her father “having a lousy time” in “uncertain marital waters.” Always conscious of the complexity of human relationships, Salinger writes, “I don’t see how what you write of your father and stepmother can help being “contradictory”. Relationships shift so, from black to gray, gray to black, gray to almost-white, etc. And again and again.” And cautions her, “Better reserve any judgement of your Daddy.”
Something that Salinger apparently does not reserve his judgment on is the tendency of an adult to resort to judgment and name-calling at a child. His fictional narrators, in most instances, were young people, whom Salinger believed thought and behaved far more authentically than adults. Interestingly in this letter, Salinger’s comments exclude himself from the definition of “adult”: “It’s stupid of any so-called adult to put the whammy on a kid for not being a Concerned American. Whatever the hell that is. A Concerned American is so often a politics- or civic-minded bore, happy or diverted only in shallow current events.” This particular attack apparently touched such a chord with Salinger that he is led into describing some very personal childhood memories, and perhaps even the origin of Holden’s perpetual war against adult “phonies.” As Salinger recalls in crystalline prose here in this letter, “An Apathetic Bum is often not apathetic, at all, nor a bum, but something by a dozen other words or shadings none of which really express what he is. My father once called me a bum when I was a kid. I can’t remember whether it bothered me or not. Surely not in the way he would have wanted it to bother me. I thought him a fake, a crybaby, a tyrant, and possibly the biggest bore I’ve ever run into.” On the author’s usual goldenrod paper, ending this full page letter with the signature generally reserved only for friends, “Jerry” in black ink. Original mailing envelope in type bearing his PO Box address in Windsor, Vermont, the usual mailing address he preferred while writing from his home in Cornish, New Hampshire. An extremely rare Salinger letter for the content it reveals about his childhood and about boarding school; the topic of his most famous novel, The Catcher in the Rye. In very good condition.