Ian Hamilton: In Search of J.D. Salinger

The author Leila Hadley remembers Salinger around this time. She met him first in 1951 and then again after a two-year interval:

“I was introduced to Jerry by Sid Perelman. Jerry was a great friend of of Sid’s in those days—they used to have lunch together quite a bit. I had liked some of Jerry’s stories and I think Sid must have told him this. Anyway, Jerry called me and we went on a few dates. It was just before. It was just before The Catcher in the Rye appeared, and I remember him talking about Holden Caulfield as if he were a real person—quoting his opinions. Jerry was not easy to be with—he was always pulling me up for something I had said. He had this huge distrust of clichés. If I said I liked walking in the rain, he would tell me that was just a cliché—that nobody really liked walking in the rain. Certainly he didn’t. If I saw a painting I liked in museum or an art gallery, I would maybe say ‘I’d like to own that.’ He’d tell me I shouldn’t be so acquisitive, that posessions didn’t matter. He was very like that character of his in The Inverted Forest—Raymond Ford. He didn’t speak very much; he didn’t speak unless he had to speak.

“I was about to go on a world cruise, and he said he thought travel was pointless, that inner travel was all that mattered. I think he liked putting me down. There was something sadistic about it. But he did have this extraordinary presence—very tall, with a sort of darkness surrounding him. His face was like an El Greco. It wasn’t a sexual power, it was a mental power. You felt he had the power to imprison someone mentally. It was as if one’s mind were at risk, rather than one’s virtue. He never talked about himself and he resented any personal questions—about his family, or his background. His room on East Fifty-seventh Street was extremely bare. There was just a lamp and an artist’s drawing board. He used to do rather good sketches, and when I read ‘De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period,’ I was sure he had based the hero on himself. On the wall of his apartment there was a picture of himself in uniform.”

In Search of J.D. Salinger, pg. 126–127


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