Martin Eden: A Writer’s Story More Bitter Than Sweet-Jack Engelhard

Jack London wrote this novel, “Martin Eden,” when he was only in his 30s and it’s really the story of his life…about making it as a writer and about achieving that goal and about the futility of it all. His wanted fame and wealth and he got all that after years of rejection. He wanted the girl of his dreams, Ruth Morse, and when she finally came to him, he’d had enough.

Can you relate?

By the time the world caught up to him, Martin Eden was emptied out.  The people whose approval he sought turned out to be phonies.

This brings to mind J.D. Salinger who (so brilliantly and so timelessly) used Holden Caulfield to express the same loathing, disgust and despair.

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Reflections On JD Salinger

By Jack Engelhard

[I wrote and posted this reflection on Salinger back in August on my blog at Amazon. Except for the news that was current at that time, the rest of this piece holds true for me, as, I’m sure, it holds true for so many other readers and writers who loved Salinger, and are today so saddened by word of his passing. A writer like this comes around only once in a lifetime, Thank you — JE]

Salinger can’t hear? That’s hard to take.

Do we really need to know that JD Salinger “is now totally deaf?” That’s a quote being attributed to someone who knows him.

As a novelist who names Salinger as one of his literary heroes, I can say what strangeness it is to blurt out such news. I don’t doubt the truth of this revelation, but I do wonder why it got out from his gatekeepers. They must have known it would make headlines – and not in a good way. Already there are parodies of his aging (he’s 90) and headlines that term him “frail and deaf.” (Shades of Howard Hughes?) I hope we’re not gloating.

This is a man, Salinger, who’s kept himself fiercely reclusive for an entire generation – and there is no counting the number of writers who owe him allegiance. Along with Whitman, Twain and Hemingway, Salinger liberated American literature. I don’t think I could have written “The Girls of Cincinnati” without getting Salinger’s permission.

Salinger did not influence me, but he did inspire me.

(Novelists tend to be influenced by their forefathers at the start but eventually they have to let go and go it alone.)

We know almost nothing about Salinger except for the writing. That’s been the deal. Salinger is all about the sanctity of the novel, which is why (through his lawyers) he went to court to stop publication and distribution of an alleged rip-off of “The Catcher in The Rye.” Salinger’s argument has always been that his writings do the talking. That is all we need to know about him.

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Inventing J. D. Salinger

By Jack Engelhard

 

The upstairs literary crowd, Eustace Tilley types, are already sharpening their pencils for Dan Brown’s next book, “The Lost Symbol,” even though it won’t be birthed until September. I’m not here to defend Dan Brown except to say that he delivered as promised. His big book, “The Da Vinci Code” was exactly about that, the Da Vinci code.

 

Dan Brown is not adored by the literati and the sniping has already begun as meanwhile Haruki Murakami, one of their favorites, keeps getting embraced.

 

Murakami’s latest gem is titled “Kafka on the Shore” and I happen to be a huge fan of Kafka and nearly went ahead to buy the book until, doing the usual online searches, I found that this book about Kafka is not about Kafka. It’s about a character Murakami has named Kafka with no connection to the great writer Franz Kafka.

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