Letter to JD Salinger

05/24/02 12:00AM
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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange has been rereading some books from his high school days, and writes a fan letter to one of the authors, who just happens to live locally.

Dear JD,

If there's one thing that really kills me, it's coincidences. I mean like, you're thinking about something a long time ago, or somebody you haven't seen for ages, and then something happens that's just what you're thinking about. That kind of crap drives me crazy, if you want to know the truth.

About a month ago I was thinking about you. I was. One of my kids sent me a book she thought I'd like. It kills me when one my kids sends me a book. Anyway Jerry, in this book, Shoeless Joe, this guy comes to your house in New Hampshire. He kidnaps you to go to a Red Sox game. So that got me thinking. I wondered if you did live in New Hampshire, or if the book was just a story. What my English professor used to call a "literary conceit." That kind of crap really depresses me, if you want to know the truth.

I mean, whose business is it if you want to go off to the woods and not talk to anybody any more? You'd probably have thousands of people in your yard, telling you The Catcher meant so much to them, like where Holden is talking to the nuns in the sandwich bar, and he told them how he liked Mercutio better than Romeo and old Juliet. That part killed me.

And then the very next day I heard that a couple photographers from New York City came up here and hung around the town where you live till they caught you at the supermarket and blocked your Jeep with their car so they could take your picture. That made me mad. It was just the kind of crap that I moved up here a long time ago to get away from.

But I figured no editor would actually buy the pictures, so all their trouble would be for nothing. But the good old New York Post printed the pictures. And then this last week's crumby Time had a picture, too. It was you, all right. But you didn't look very happy.

One of the photographers said when they went in the diner in your town and asked where you live, everybody looked at them like they were a couple of aliens. What did he think they were? A couple of natives? And he said he felt real bad about selling the pictures because it upset you so much. He felt bad. That killed me. It really did. I bet he cried all the way to the bank.

I have a neighbor used to take in Fresh Air kids in the summers. One of the kids caught a frog, and he was playing with it, blowing it up with a hollow straw so it couldn't go under water. My neighbor says, "Leave the frog alone." "Hey, it's my frog," the kid says. "In New England," the old guy says, "he's his own dahn frog!" God, that kills me. It really does.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire.

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people_places books j.d._salinger arts
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