Whether a cover-up for writer’s block or the ultimate expression of the alienation that defined his most famous protagonist, Holden Caulfield, Salinger’s stubborn silence only enlarged the cult. He remained an enigma to his death.” Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times
The spectacle of obituary scribes’ collective head-scratching over the meaning of J.D. Salinger’s silence forced Grady Miller to realize it was high time to get out from under his rock and grant a rare personal interview to clear up likely misunderstandings about his recent “bad” behavior.
“For my silence to have any impact, it must be explained,” the reclusive Miller said via a press release in invisible ink. “It’s very similar to when I was in self-imposed exile from my home town, during six long years. It caused my family great heartache, and most people presumed that it was because I was unable to scrape together bus fare.” The author and humorist declares that Salinger’s death brought an epiphany: “My dismissal of e-mail and cellphones may be interpreted as just being rude or flaky, instead of a vital part of my artistic creation.”
Since there’s a restraining order for any journalist who comes within 30 feet of Miller, he conducted this rare phone interview with himself, using his unlisted phone number known only to himself, which now needs to be changed.
We haven’t heard from you in so long, Mr. Miller. Why don’t you ever return our phone calls, text messages, invitations to become Facebook friends, Christmas cards, E-vites or Nigerian internet scams?
My principled silence is a defiant NO to the invasion of my privacy, and mind-scrambling demands for my attention posed by the electronic media. Downloaded baby pictures and adopted children are another matter: your children are really ugly, if you must know the truth. Some of the E-vites are so goddam clever, where do you find the lousy time for this? Could you do my laundry? Shirts lightly starched please.
Are you still writing?
As we speak, my hummingbird-swift fingers dance over the keyboard. I’m still penning my long-awaited sequel to Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying.” Now that Erica is 35 years older, it’s called “Fear of Falling.” Did you know that 12,000 elderly Americans die in falls each year.
Why don’t you publish?
It has been a terrific invasion of my privacy to appear in print. Call me the Garbo of scribblers, I have my reasons. I do consider that relaxation greatly stimulates creativity. My favorite place to write is in bed, but I always nod off and roll off the mattress when it’s 2 in the morning. Naturally this cuts way down on my output.
Why don’t you have a photo of yourself on Facebook?
It’s not that I’m so technologically inept as to be unable to download a photograph, not that people have provided sloppy examples of the portrait photographer’s art from digital and disposable cameras. No indeed. Nor is it because, as some rumor mongers contend, that I shun the camera after being horribly disfigured in a unicycling accident. That lonesome, generic silhouette on Facebook is the objective correlative of my alienation—my stubborn refusal to show my face to a greedy celebrity-grappling world.
Is it a conscious choice not to publish or do you fear rejection?
Christ, these are really hard-hitting questions. Who do you think you are—Katie Couric?
Stick to the question, or we’ll rendition you to a PEN conference in The Hague faster than you can say David Foster Wallace.
O.K., O.K. Lemme come clean. I haven’t written a word since 1986, not a word nor hyphen. You know, the easiest way of not publishing is not writing—it’s a load off, and you don’t have to worry about spelling or grammar or any of that shit. Sure, I’ll write the occasional grocery list, but nothing epic.
Wow! All the anguish and writer’s block was phony? You’re a phony?
You gotta admit, it’s a great cover for heavy drinking and being an all-around jerk.
Tell me, how would you like to be remembered?
In the wills of many charitable people, and commemorated in these words, “He was an enema to the end.”
Grady Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org