Monday, 8 February 2010

Donald Fagen on Salinger

Posted Friday, January 29, 2010 11:55 AM By John Swansburg

I asked Donald Fagen, co-founder of Steely Dan and occasional Slate contributor, for his thoughts on J.D. Salinger. He writes:

Like a lot of teenagers of my generation, I fell in love with Franny Glass. I figured she wouldn't have been nearly as high-maintenance a girlfriend if she were with me, a sensitive and understanding fellow-seeker, rather than that douchenozzle Lane Coutell.

Some readers seem to think that Salinger's work (what we have of it up till now) never addressed the concerns of the real "adult" world. We shouldn't forget that, in the years when Salinger's stories were appearing, American society—i.e., the men who came back from the war and their families—was suffering from an ugly, prolonged case of post-traumatic stress disorder. The fear-based, conservative, conformist adult world wasn't a club we wanted to join. When we got to observe the overeducated, hyper-sensitive Glass children struggle to find some other way to live, we felt a little less lonely.

OK, it wasn't art pour l'art. On some level, Salinger obviously dug being a mentor, a Socrates, always with the message. And yet, as with all the best writers, his gentle revelations were all in the telling, in a style that was never less than artful and clean. I've missed his cool and intimate voice since the day he decided to skip town. And what ever happened to my girlfriend Franny? Maybe, now, we'll find out.

—Donald Fagen

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