At 10.30 this morning my kitchen resembled a war zone. The contents of five bulging Tesco bags had exploded over all available work surfaces, my sink was stacked with teetering piles of dirty dishes while rolling clouds of steam from the kettle filled the air. In the background the washing machine rat-tat-tatted like a machine gun as it started the spin cycle. And yet above all this chaos came the very clear tones of a Radio 4 announcer telling me that the programme ‘Hey Mr Salinger’ was about to start. My subconscious snapped to attention and I turned up the sound.
It took less than two minutes for the programme to captivate me. I walked away from the turmoil of the kitchen into the peaceful haven of my sitting room with a cup of tea in one hand, a maple and pecan Danish in the other and quickly nestled into the couch to hear Joanna Smith Rakoff talk about JD Salinger.
It’s well known that JD Salinger wanted nothing to do with his fans and refused to read, answer or acknowledge any letters sent to him. In 1996 Joanna Smith Rakoff was working for his agent and part of her job was to read all the letters people wrote to him and then send out a standard (and rather blunt) letter of reply. Gradually she was drawn in by the letters, into the lives of these people who were writing to him; she kept one letter and recently tracked down the man who wrote it – their meeting was both funny and inspirational. I won’t spoil it, you have to listen to it.
The approach that JD Salinger took with his fans seemed rather harsh to me and yet I can empathise with his need to keep the world at bay and to live in it on his terms. If he was just starting out as a writer today I wonder if it would be possible for him to do this so effectively. Would the pressure be too great for him now? Would he succumb to Facebook, blogging and tweeting in order to get his career off the ground? Personally, I’d like to think that he would ignore it all.
Since meeting Brigid, Jane and Stuart I’ve been introduced to the world of social networking – it’s been a steep and somewhat startling learning curve for me, especially as my natural inclination as a writer is to remain quiet and anonymous. I’m beginning to understand the vastness of social networking and how it can help provide a platform for an individual to have a voice. Use of social networking facilities can really give new writers opportunities unheard of before; no longer are they reliant upon an agent or publisher to promote their work, all they need is confidence, a bit of marketing savvy and their writing can reach millions of people.
The dynamics within the world of publishing at the moment is breathtaking; it isn’t evolving slowly, it’s going at breakneck speed and I wonder if there will still be room for those of us who are natural loners? The programme on JD Salinger really made me think about what it is I need from writing, what the world could need from me and whether the two things are compatible. I haven’t come to a conclusion as yet.
PS: and yes, that is a picture of John Lennon and I’m sure you know why it’s there!