TLS - Typed Letter SignedSalinger, J.D. American author of Catcher in the Rye. Typed letter signed “Jerry”. Two pages. June 17, 1978. To Eileen Paddison, a close friend and aspiring writer who maintained a correspondence with Salinger for over 15 years. The intensely private author shares here with uncharacteristic openness about his most closely guarded secret: writing. Salinger was deeply critical and found the discussion of writing abhorrent. In this private letter, Salinger finally speaks to what he thinks it takes to become a writer.
“Studying medicine. Having babies. Writing. There’s a lot to sort out in your head, I’d say. Some of it will doubtless get sorted out for you by destiny, circumstances, but that will still leave you with plenty to decide on your own.” Salinger begins. “Whether or not you're cut out to write professionally or “seriously” nobody can tell-- not I, not anybody else, despite all the stuff that gets mouthed up on the subject in writing “workshops” and on campuses in general.” It is up to Eileen herself, the young writer, to decide whether she can do it, despite “destiny, circumstances” and yes, even writing workshops. Salinger goes on to say that the most important part of her writing comes from the heart: “I do know you say damned good, sensitive things in letters, especially about people or things you care about-- you’re never more readable, for instance, when you’re pouring out trustingly about Danny and your love and life together, before and after marriage; and about Patsy, too, you pour beautifully, and your grandparents, and your mother and, really, just about anybody important in your life.” This “pouring” Salinger describes as the most vital and beautiful action of writing is probably why it was so intensely difficult for Salinger, a deeply private person, to continue to produce work. It should come as no surprise the honesty and bracing vulnerability are the backbone of good writing for Salinger-- that in order to write well, one must be “pouring out trustingly” onto the page. Per Salinger, writing requires a kind of absolute, unflinching intimacy with your own process; After having children, it became seemingly impossible for Salinger to “pour” in the way he describes as the most important quality of Eileen’s writing, perhaps because he had already given so much of himself to the public. Finally, Salinger describes exactly what he thinks makes someone a writer: “Sensitivity (sappy word-- always feel it should be enclosed in quotes), brains, bowels, a lovely way of saying things straight and true, and the kind of backlog of personal aloneness”. These, he assures Eileen, “you surely have” though whether or not she will actually become a writer “I don’t think anybody in the world can say for sure, one way or the other.” Finally, Salinger advises the young writer to let her heart guide her:
“I wonder if you’re not a little over-anxious to present yourself with a nice, workable decision in the matter. I think it might be an ordeal, and perhaps not even a very practical one in the end, to press for an Answer. I think maybe the best thing to do would be to turn over all the available data in your mind as many times as you can without going stale, and then drop it out of mind entirely and just wait for a ripe moment when the right or best or seemliest course of action occurs to you rather easily and ‘naturally’ [...] Don’t get lost, though, in the sea of possible self-incriminating ignoble motivations. A few doubtful motivations for doing anything are always a possibility for any and all of us.. Try, again, if you can, just to turn over all the data in your mind without being too pressing for an answer, a solution. Just observe, think hard and through, and then let go-- and then re-enter all the ordinary patterns of your life and see what happens, what turns up.”
An incredible letter from one of the greatest of American writers on what he thinks it means to become an author. Original folds. Comes with original mailing envelope. In near fine condition. A priceless, honest appraisal of what it means to become a writer, from one of the most closely guarded writers of the 20th century.