Richard Joseph Tandoc Abad

LAST January 28, the man who introduced us to the Fat Lady, the bananafish incident and the story of Holden died living the kind of life he literally fought courts to defend. This probably isn’t real news to most, but for some people, it’s important that Jerome David Salinger’s death be noticed.

Of course, people write something like this to brag that they’ve read him and his work’s great (or grand?) and life-changing and authentic and genuine and “oh you have to read it because it’s cool and you have to because this cool author I know loves it and it’s in.” I mean, who couldn’t give justice to how his work’s read or gives meaning to one of its readers who quit school, lived in the slums, worked as a janitor and tried to seriously read as many stories, especially his, as he can? And how couldn’t one who still even hasn’t resolved his own relationship issues and can’t even get over himself, possibly genuinely talk about how much of Mr. Salinger gave sanity to his otherwise disquieted life? If there’s one thing about J.D. Salinger I can’t stand, it’s irony and it’s a good thing there’s none of that in my decision to write what I think I must.

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I’m mentioning J.D. Salinger’s death because I don’t vote and all of my friends do. It’s not something I’m proud of (not that one should necessarily be) nor do my friends think it’s right, but who wouldn’t be surprised if one considers honesty in all its disquieting features just as infallible as paper, if one has lived his entire being under the noise and ease of truth easily bent?

This is precisely where I feel the mention of Mr. Salinger’s life fits. It seemed to me all throughout, he dedicated his entire lifestyle understanding the ways of living decently without losing the kind of honesty and unbridled sense of defenseless innocence and connection nobody can seem to show (especially nowadays) but kids. And Jerome David Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” strikes me as the one clearest piece of literature that is testament to such a confusing, inconvenient and somehow lonely fact.

I couldn’t have known this when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure there’s not that many fortunate enough to have learned it before it became too late. I think this is what we adults can do something about now. We should have done this long ago when we were younger and had lesser reasons not to have known what he stood for and had a longer time to respond to larger questions we’ve been facing, not excluding those trivial and even almost forgettable news about the remorseless killing of writers and kids lying on the streets unnoticed.

Of course it’s easiest to fall prey to the challenge that maybe there’s nothing in his work that’ll change our current solid beliefs about how we should see everything and how a right life should be lived with God and family and all, but isn’t that, if not more, just as worse? Isn’t saying that there’s only a single right way of absolute truth our entire lives should be based on, sadder? The one thing about Mr. Salinger’s work that struck me real hard is that this question, along with everything else, is struggling. And that maybe we just need some waking up.

Nothing in our country seems to be more dependent on the question of authenticity and honest living and has greater consequence to the largest group of people than our national elections. And I don’t even vote (Or that’s the reason why I don’t). And what J.D. Salinger I think offers us, as most of his readers can prove, don’t necessarily come as unfamiliar to what we generally feel about the entire thing, especially the candidates. Nobody’s really forcing you to get smarter by reading his work (what Cebuano would want to read and do that?) but wouldn’t it be less dumb if you went to vote, or not vote, after knowing why the bananafish isn’t a lie and why lawyers can’t all be that bad but still can in no way be NOT liars and how our general muted mutual woes of the almost futile attempt to achieving such an elusive kind of honest election can sometimes just be answered by following where the ducks go when it’s coldest?