[lit-ideas] Re: Salingeriana

  • From: Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 22 Sep 2017 01:19:35 -0700

Speranza,

Thanks for this.  While I relate to this matter, that is, I’ve thought a lot about it over the years, but mostly in terms of wondering why I don’t have the ambition for fame that I have encountered in virtually every biography I’ve read about a successful poet.  Salinger of course hid from fame once he had achieved it.  Salinger was a great admirer of Hemingway, called himself Hemingway’s chief fan in something I read some place.  And Hemingway, if we can believe the account in Papa Hemingway in Cuba thought that celebrity was a great curse.

A talented writer, whether a poet or a novelist, who resolves at an early age to write and do nothing else is committed to fame. Success in his chosen field involves fame.

In my case I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer.  I was raised in a blue-collar environment in which no one had a college education.  I had no pattern.  I needed to invent myself.  There wasn’t much open to a blue-collar child in my day – no matter, I wanted to go into the Marines anyway.  Then, time spent in the base library at 29 Palms reading the classics, convinced me I didn’t want to stay in the Marines; so what did I want.  After one semester, I decided I wanted to go on studying the best literature and poetry.  I wanted to read “everything.”  I didn’t quite manage that, but I thought for a long time that if I got a Phd an entered academia I could continue doing what I enjoyed and also hone my skills as a writer.  I didn’t think exclusively of poetry back then.

As it happened (I won’t say “unfortunately”), several incidents convinced me I wouldn’t be happy teaching college; so I resolved to stay at Douglas Aircraft Company and hone my writing skills there.  I wouldn’t have the time to do anything too ambitious, but I could write poetry at my desk and still do engineering tasks.  I was very fast as it turned out, faster than my coworkers so I always had some time to write.

It was after the Skybolt program was cancelled in late 1962 that I transferred to Long Beach and worked on commercial aircraft.  One of my coworkers was Lee Griffith who had a Master’s Degree from Duke University in English.  His interest was the criticism of poetry, and since I had begun to write I welcomed his comments. Over time he though I wrote better and better until he though I was writing the occasional excellent poem.  Lee managed to get himself laid off in about 1970.  I was sorry to see him go, but by then I had a pretty good “poetic work ethic.”   And by this time I was a “successful” engineer.   That is, I had skills needed in engineering and so was never in danger of being laid off in an industry where not being laid off at one time or another was an anomaly.  In short, though I never had any desire to become an engineer, I was good at it and I almost always had time to write poetry.

But then the question is often asked, “why are you doing it?” And, “don’t you want to publish and be famous?”  To the first I answer not quite what Salinger wrote in his little poem, that I feel it is something “I ought to be doing.”  In using the words “feel” and “ought” I admit that something has gone on in my history to make this a true statement.  And while I doubt that I could explain this matter with very much accuracy, it is nevertheless something that has happened.  Now, when I am doing a lot of writing I would call “good,” I feel that I am doing what I ought to be doing.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this make me happy, but I will say that I feel guilty if I go too long without doing it.

Then as to fame, I wouldn’t be able to compromise sufficiently to get any even if I wanted some.  And if some hypothetical person were to steal my poetry and publish it using my name thus making me famous without my permission, I would use my ill-gotten gains to hide even more thoroughly than J. D. Did.

Lawrence





On 9/21/2017 8:30 PM, (Redacted sender jlsperanza for DMARC) wrote:
>
> There is something Griceian about Salinger. There is something Popperian, possibly; but that might be more difficult to falsify. In any case, it may all connect with L. Helm, and that’s the main reason why I’m sharing it with Lit-Ideas (also because it might connect with Lionpainter J).
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> There is this essay, “Grice without an audience”. It attempts to refute Grice, but it ends up re-validating him!
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> In any case, Salinger, of Park Avenue (as some called him!) loved to write poetry – even if ‘loved’ is a bit of a Griceian hyperbole. Here is a sample:
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> Hide not thy tears on this last day
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> Your sorrow has no shame;
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> To march no more midst lines of gray;
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> No longer play the game.
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> Four years have passed in joyful ways
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> Wouldst stay those old times dear?
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> Then cherish now these fleeting days,
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> The few while you are here.
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> The Griceian connection (“Grice without an audience”) seems to connect with one of Helm’s interests: an author’s addressee (where ‘author’ is standard for Griceian ‘utterer’)
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> Salinger seldom spoke to the press except when, trying to fend off the unauthorized publication of his uncollected stories, he told a reporter from The New York Times lines which seem to come straight from Grice’s journal (“Some people think that I see ‘meaning’ as people-oriented. I don’t. I may very well write an entry in my journal, and open it with “Dear Diary,” intending myself to be the intended addressee at a later stage. Or something.” Grice, The William James Lectures on Logic and Conversation, Harvard, Lecture V).
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> “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing,” Salinger told the NYT reporter.
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> "It is *peaceful*.”
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> (I realise I shouldn’t be stressing this too much when Helm makes the effort to SHARE and PUBLISH his poetry et al. with _us_)
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> “Still.” – Salinger goes on.
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> “Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy.”
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> “I like to write.”
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> “I love to write.”
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> [This is a bit of what Grice would call a ‘scalar implicature’ – Grice would focus on the illogical literal interpretation of “I do not LIKE to write; I LOVE it!” – for Grice, ‘to love’ entails ‘to like’ – but Grice would catch Salinger’s implicature – in the rye or elsewhere).
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> “But,” Salinger concludes, “I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”
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> which has something Griceian and Grecian about it!
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> Cheers,
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> Speranza



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