Salinger’s vast public, I am convinced, is based not merely on the vast number of young people who recognize their emotional problems in his fiction and their frustrated rebellions in the sophisticated language he manipulates so skillfully. It is based perhaps even more on the vast numbers who have been released by our society to think of themselves as endlessly sensitive, spiritually alone, gifted, and whose suffering lies in the narrowing of their consciousness to themselves, in the withdrawal of their curiosity from a society which they think they understand all too well, in the drying up of their hope, their trust, and their wonder at the great world itself.
–Alfred Kazin, “Everybody’s Favorite” from Salinger: A Critical and Personal Portrait
I like J.D. Salinger. I like the Glass family stories which Kazin is giving it to with both barrels here. (Even if Catcher in the Rye remains my favorite.) Still the quote above nails a particular variety of tiresome self-regard. Salinger did not invent this variety, but he remains one of its most eloquent spokesmen. I owe Kazin for being able to skewer this attitude so adeptly, but I also owe Salinger for making me share it for the duration of a story, and showing me its appeal.