“…IT’S FEUDAL JAPAN, EARLY-ZEN JAPAN…
THAT I CARED AND CARE ABOUT
NOT THE JAPAN OF THE MONO-RAIL OR THE FAST-FOODS JAPAN.”
J. D. SALINGER. Typewritten Letter Signed, JDS, one page, large quarto, [Windsor, Vermont], January 4, 1979. To Amy Kassak in Japan. With the original envelope, and with a postscript in J D Salinger’s hand.
“Must write back to you directly-to tell you that I think your resistance to joining that new religious movement/cult strikes me as being entirely sound, right, correct-o. Same thing goes for your reasoning about the tears of the two zealots who wanted to make a convert of you. Thanks for the nice invitation to visit. Not likely, though. Have never made it to India, either. It always seemed to me that if this and that were properly understood, the need to make geographical pilgrimages were not in order, really; the contrary, even, maybe. Besides, it’s feudal Japan, early-Zen Japan, Bushido Japan that I cared and care about, not the Japan of the mono-rail or the fast-foods Japan. Too, I’m a reluctant traveller, at best. I go to London every couple of years or so, but merely to vacate, to walk certain streets, pick up some out-of-print books, see one or two very old friends. Used to toot around the world a lot with my children when they were small, because they loved the very mechanics of travelling – hotels, airports, taxis, lobbies, etc.-that I dislike so.
“Don’t, if possible, react or give your mind unnecessarily to the responses of your family to nama-rupa, name & ‘fame,’ and don’t waste any energy in mortification. Families are hopelessly silly about all that crap. We’re all raised, educated to be secondhanders, told what to value, what to glorify, respect, venerate. Just be glad that for you the witch is dead, that you’re out of all that. Doesn’t strike me, at all, that you’re ‘green’ for your age. Green types worry green worries. Much different from yours. The man who calls his son at 4 sharp every day is probably likable, but maybe it’s not a bad idea to be a little on-guard against oversize waves of sentiment. Rally emotionally if you must or like, but prefer strongly, if you can, not to have your buttons pushed.”
In a postscript, J D Salinger has added, “Written in haste. Children visiting in the house. Sorry.”
Scholarly studies of J D Salinger and his works demonstrate the extent he was deeply influenced by Zen Buddhism. Salinger was known to have been friendly with Zen master Daisetz Suzuki and through him to have been familiar with the work of Eugen Herrigel, the German philosopher who wrote on Zen and his experience with Japanese archery. (Salinger was proficient in German which he used during World War II to help interrogate prisoners.) Herrigel’s mentor was the famous Zen master archer Kenzo Awa.
It is believed that J D Salinger became familiar with Awa’s teachings, through Herrigel, several years before he wrote Catcher in the Rye and that Herrigel’s account of what he calls the great doctrine of Japanese archery offers substantial insight into the novel. Catcher can be interpreted as being intimately concerned with both Zen and hunting, two themes that converge in the Japanese art of the bow (which includes the principle of not aiming). The mystical shooting technique of the master Japanese archer illuminates a mysterious yet recurring phenomenon in Catcher, a sense of oneness between the catcher and the caught (Holden Caulfield is at once the catcher in the rye and the child he protects).
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- Literature – American