SALINGER, Jerome D. (1919-2010). A collection of 21 typed and autograph letters signed (most as “Jerry,” 1 [in type] “Hanso Kupperman,” 1 “JDS”) with 1 autograph postcard (unsigned), all to Toody Maher, 1979-1996. Together 32 pages, quarto and octavo (yellow stock paper), comprising 20 TLS, 1 ALS, 1 APC [unsigned], 1 TN [unsigned], all with original envelopes.
“[A] fiction machine is what I am, what I was cut out to be, not less, but not more, either.” (9 April 1979)
A fine archive of unpublished correspondence sustained over a 17-year period, full of biographical detail, advice, encouragement, and empathy, giving a glimpse into the life and mind of the famously reclusive writer. The aging Salinger begins writing to his young fan, 18-year old Toody Maher – a volleyball player who met him outside his local New Hampshire post office during her college spring break – in 1979, and his letters cover a range of topics – love, religion, war, pop-culture, writing, children, and more.
An early letter ruminates at length on the nature of love: “Have I ever been in love, etc., you ask me, do you. Mostly, I think, I’ve been etc. In fact, I think my side of the family tends to run almost exclusively to etc. Not much Love. Assorted fevers, crushes, hots, colds, marriages, habit-forming connections, but not a hell of a lot of love, Miss,” and makes mysterious reference to “the girl, woman, [...] who affected me most deeply and invariably during my lifetime...” (15 May 1979).
Salinger weighs in on what he terms the “religio-philosophical world,” commenting that “It’s my considered guess that there is some sort of unbreakable connection between our types – your eighteen-year-old type, my sixty-year-old type – impervious to distance, rust, acids, time, space, mayonnaise, etc. I’m in awe of all strong, real connections on this planet” (9 April 1979). In one of his last letters he reflects on Buddhism and the modern condition: "This is, though, the very same world, with the very slight, meaningless addition of computers and an unlimited supply of styrofoam peanuts, that Buddha [...] strove to get himself and everybody else with any sense quit of..." (4 March 1994). War is another topic: “Neither stupid nor simplistic to dread, fear, revile war unreservedly. Go right on doing it. If anything’s worthy of being feared and hated unreservedly, it’s war.” (2 May 1980).
There is occasional commentary on Salinger's writing. In his reply of 5 May 1979, he writes, "I happen to know firsthand and intimately – the business, that is, of giving form to the formless, and preferred form, at that.” He observes that correspondence and writing are at odds for him; he describes reaching “some sort of saturation point” in regard to mail, noting, “I’m doing my best to withdraw from the mails as much as I can. I’m at the desk from early morning on, and I just reached a point when I felt it was too taxing to go on writing after the day’s work stint was done.” (2 May 1980).
Pop-culture references touch on Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, actresses like Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda, and Hollywood's glamorization of war. On literature he writes, “Good that you loved Anna K. How can one not” (January 23, 1981); and on world politics, Salinger characterizes his outlook on Europe as “dim,” conceding, “Not that anything in America is particularly fine or wholesome or heartening...” (17 July 1982). On other topics: he discusses his children and his health, sends a sample of homeopathic remedy Hypericum, and ruminates on alcoholics and astrology.