When I am asked what attracted me to Buddhism, one of my stock answers is a story about a community college course I was in and an instructor who told us that the first Noble Truth of Buddhism is that life is suffering. And my response, as an angry, confused, seventeen-year-old ne’er-do-well was, “Hell yeah.”
It was that sense of existential uncertainty, of pent-up frustration, that attracted me, like a lot of other young men and women for more than half a century, to J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. And then, over the next decade or two, everything else he published that was still available in print or, in one case, at my university library in microfiche form.
J.D. Salinger passed away yesterday at the young age of 91, forty-five years after his last published short story and spending most of his life in “a little cabin somewhere” in New Hampshire, away from “any goddam stupid conversation with anybody.”