THE REST IS JUST NOISE: A Thank-You to J.D. Salinger

Molly Schrieber

J.D. Salinger’s death, a shocking blow to Americans and a disheartening loss for loyal readers, shouldn’t be surprising, but for some reason, it is. His name has been immortalized through his work and, in the process, he seemed to become immortal himself. 

While one could remember him with a slew of numbers like date of birth, date of death, numbers of published works and years in reclusion, it would be neither accurate nor adequate because the number of people he reached with his work is quite literally innumerable. 

Upon hearing the news of his death, I felt a true sense of loss. I was contacted by family and friends, who hoped that I hadn’t heard the news yet so they could break it to me gently. 

As I answered calls and responded to text messages, I realized that we all felt a mixture of sadness and nostalgia wash over us as we remembered our favorite stories and recalled the relationships we formed with his characters. 

Without Salinger’s invention and examination of the Glass family in stories like “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “Seymour: An Introduction,” I’m not sure who I would be today. I know it sounds hyperbolic, but it is completely true.  

These stories and many others made me realize that I didn’t want to be a lawyer or a doctor — I want to read, to write and to learn. 

Salinger taught me that literature consists of more than setting, conflict and resolution. Good literature and meaningful language captured life at a certain moment, making it a little more understandable but no less complicated.  

Through his eyes and the eyes of his characters, I was able to understand myself better. If that’s not a mark of genius, I don’t know what is. 

My appreciation stems not only from his writing style and his complex characters, but also from the impact that his work had upon other writers like John Updike and Dave Eggers.  

Salinger paved a new road for these and many other writers, carefully laying words upon the page the way a painter lays his brush to a canvas. Each word is deliberate, each character purposeful and each relationship intricate. 

His unique talent is not something to strive for; instead, it is something to learn from and to appreciate. No one can rival his dialogue or his attention to detail. He was a rare literary revolutionary, proving that words can do more than describe — they can live. 

So, Jerome David Salinger, thank you. Thank you for showing me and countless others) that language can be the most beautiful and modest art form. 

Thank you for introducing me to Seymour Glass, the character with whom I have formed a lifelong friendship and an undying reverence. 

Thank you for inspiring other writers who followed you. Your work remains without an expiration date and your impact continues to be limitless.