I read this article about J.D. Salinger today regarding his malicious relationships with women not even half his age. The article was written by Joyce Maynard, one of the women who claims to have been with Salinger at the tender age of 18. Here’s the site just in case you too might want to read it.
In summary, the article delves deeper into the much private life of the renown author praised for the purity of his works and devil may care attitude towards the literary standards of his day. Maynard exposes his attempts to woo women, still very young and susceptible to suggestion through his genius. She was one of those women, one as easily disposed of as she was welcomed into his home. She concludes with the suggestion that we live in a society where the genius of a man justifies the cruelty and abusive nature of his actions.
DOES THE GENIUS OF A MAN TRULY EXCUSE HIM FROM HIS WRETCHED WAYS?
Rather than blogging solely about Salinger and his relationships, I would much prefer to blog about the idea of ‘saving qualities’– those we often hear as kids when our parents describe some problem child who went off the rails. Do we really live in a world where the good we’ve done justifies the bad we continuously do? If we do, then do we wanna keep living that way?
Looking at pop culture and the stars they cultivate, we can see a lot of wrongs like people dropping clothes here and there, an actress confidently and explicitly seducing a married man on set, doing illegal drugs and convincing their fans to do the same, calling people ugly and stupid or even randomly distributing sex videos. These doesn’t even cover half of it and yet people continuously fall to their feet and would even go to the extent of defending their obvious and gross mistakes, excusing them because they somehow contribute to our entertainment. It’s almost insulting.
I personally don’t think that reprehending a man’s actions makes his ability to write, sing, act or perform well any less great but it makes a society which forgets or ignores all his misgivings because of his amazing talents one that cares very little for true value, one that’s willing to compromise morals for the superficial. That’s not a community I wanna be a part of, neither should you or anyone for that matter.
Look at it this way, we’re treating people like balance sheets. If he’s a great asset we disregard all other assets that might be depreciating because of him. We’re too focused on what he’s giving that we turn blind to what he’s destroying. Life and the values that we learn from it are not plus and minus operations. You can’t erase one with the other so don’t go about life thinking that you’re excused just because you contributed a great deal of pluses to the world especially if those pluses have nothing to do with the hell you’re putting other people through.
This is not exactly a condemnation of Salinger and especially not his works. I will forever be a fan of Catcher and the Rye and will continue to look up to the man for his amazing contribution to literature but if he indeed did what the article chronicles then I am one disappointed lass.
I don’t believe it to be fair for his genius of a mind and his talent for the written word to excuse him from establishing basic moral distinctions and this goes for every other brilliant soul still confused by what they can and cannot do, should and shouldn’t do.