Apr 14, 2009, 10:51AM

Tom Leonard goes out of his way to be ignored by J.D. Salinger

Something tells me Salinger's dealt with this before.

When Salinger finally kicks the bucket he's going to be a regular Tupac.

J.D. Salinger is in the kitchen when I turn the corner of his farmhouse, his reported deafness probably explaining why he doesn’t hear me until I am a few feet from him and ringing the doorbell. His wife correctly guesses the identity of the caller and, apprised of the information out of my hearing, the author shouts something that sounds like ‘Oh, no!’

It may be succinct but it is the most he has said to the media for years. A tall but stooped figure in a blue tanktop, Salinger won’t even look at me as he sidles crab-like out of his small kitchen with his back to the window. His wife soon appears at the same window and opens it to talk, but the great man — who was 90 in January — has gone. Time may soften many things, but Salinger’s complete disengagement from public life sadly isn’t one of them.

The recluse’s recluse, Salinger has lived in seclusion in the small rural community of Cornish, in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, for more than 50 years. After writing The Catcher in the Rye in 1951 — his generation-shaping masterpiece about teenage angst and rebellion — he published only a few collections of short stories. A short piece of fiction for the New Yorker in 1965 was his last published work. He hasn’t spoken to the media since the early 1950s, breaking his Trappist silence only once in 1974 for a brief phone conversation with a New York Times journalist in which he said there was ‘a marvellous peace in not publishing... I write just for myself and my own pleasure.’ He added: ‘I’m known as a strange, aloof kind of man. But all I’m doing is trying to protect myself and my work.’


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