I begin most days the same. I’d like to say that I read my Bible first thing, but in truth, I skim through detroitnews.com and foxnews.com – the former to see how my favorite sports teams are doing, the latter to keep current on the national and international news. This past Saturday the name J. D. Salinger caught my eye. http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2013/08/25/biographers-say-new-jd-salinger-works-will-be-released-starting-in-2015 I knew the author had passed away three years ago at the fine age of ninety-one, and I was surprised to learn that there were nearly fifty years of his “yet unpublished works.”
When I was a freshman in College, only two years older than Holden Caulfield, his teen character in Catcher in the Rye, our class studied the only one of his books I’ve ever read. It’s kind of amazing that we were actually encouraged to read the book by a University of Detroit English professor – a Catholic Jesuit institution. In those days it wasn’t unusual for a teacher who assigned the book to be fired or forced to resign. Even as late as 1979, a study of censorship noted that Catcher in the Rye “had the dubious distinction of being at once the most frequently censored book across the nation and the second-most frequently taught novel in public high schools.”
Like many young people of the time, I identified with the adolescent’s alienation from the conservative society of my parents and my church. And when our professor told the class that, in an interview Salinger had stated the Caulfield character was based on his own rebellious teen years, I identified with the author as well. It’s not that my behavior mirrored the immorality and perversion of Holden, who used religious slurs and freely discussed casual sex and prostitution – but it reflected what was going on in my mind. “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” [King Solomon, Proverbs 23:7]
Anyway, I wondered what had happened to Salinger, because, as quickly as he had burst upon the public scene, he had pretty much disappeared by the young age of forty-six. The article went on to explain that he had self-imposed retirement from public life, but that friends, neighbors and family members all reported that Salinger continued to write. And it’s these later works that his son has authorized to be published in the next ten to fifteen years.
The author himself told The New York Times in 1974 that he wrote daily, although only for himself – “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing,” he said at the time. So again, I find myself identifying with J. D. Salinger, but now the reclusive one. I have written two books myself, which I’m in the process of self-publishing through CreateSpace.com. But each has languished for a considerable period of time on my computer hard drive, as I edit, rewrite, edit and rewrite again – and again – and again.
I guess I never understood and appreciated the courage and risk an author took to his or her ego and self-esteem when they published a creative piece of themselves. It is a fearful thing to open up what’s in your mind to the public at large – to the evaluation and criticism of friend and foe, to familiar and strange voices – for everyone has an opinion and is free to express it – and does so fearlessly, especially in this age of the anonymous internet. Yet that is both the wonder and the angst of publishing your work. One of the reasons I began this blog was to test my personal resolve to deal with negative criticism that was bound to come out of such a diverse culture – of which 75% likely disagree with a significant part of my mores.
Though I truly understand Salinger’s assessment that “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing,” this week I took the step of establishing an ISBN for my book, Candlemass – a Paul Leit and Mike Trombley Mystery. All that remains is for me to download the file and complete the design of its cover. This will complete the second phase of my personal test of resolve and boldness. It’s less important that someone actually purchase the book than it is that I satisfy myself that “I can do this!” If I can, then I’ll be able to move out on the publication of the more important work, Soaring above the Storm – Practical Applications in Spiritual Warfare. A number of people who previously attended classes my wife and I taught a couple years ago using the materials which serve as its framework have already expressed interest in getting the final document.
So if you’re a Christian and you believe God is true to His promise to guide us in every step in life when we seek His direction, then I would value your prayers for wisdom and strength to complete this task.