“You know what I’d like to be?” I said. “I mean if I had my goddam choice?…I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all…And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff–I mean they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d be the catcher in the rye…”
Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
Who wouldn’t like to have written that? You can hardly put into words everything he’s caught in those lines–every bit of longing and need, every bit of hope, every bit of love. We want to know Holden, and we think we do.
I don’t think JD Salinger even wanted the fame and fortune that book brought him. What he wanted was to write it.
“Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes–gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.”
Chapter One, Bleak House,Charles Dickens.
Written for profit? For an audience? For fame? Maybe. But I think you can see and feel his love for and enjoyment of writing in every word. You can open his book anywhere and find sentences like this one.
I know, we can’t all write like a Dickens (I can’t), but isn’t this the underlying goal? To try to?
And it’s a murder mystery, not a lofty book on social justice. One reviewer said of the main character, “Bucket can claim to be the first detective proper in English fiction…with his fat forefinger, his false bonhommie, his omniscience and his indifference to everything other than solving the crime.”
Dickens was one of eight children, raised in poverty, with little formal education.
“Two coyotes looking for afterbirths trotted through a pasture to the east, moving through fluid grass, the sun backlighting their fur in such a way that they appeared to have silver linings.”–from Pulitzer Prize winning author Annie Proulx, in That Old Ace in the Hole.
When people argue about writing for pleasure or writing for profit or writing for the audience, I think about sentences like that. People writing to capture truth, to lay it out to see if it moves you the way it moved them. To see if it leaves you vulnerable.