Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge



From Letters of Note (via Darragh) this is a letter written, almost half a century ago now, by J.D. Salinger to an angst-ridden young fan:

Oct. 21, 1962

Dear Mr. Stevens,

I must tell you first, offputtingly or no, that I am at best a one-shot letter writer, these days. Along with that, I really never have anything to say when I’m done writing fiction at the end of a day. One thought, and one only, hits me about your letter. Entirely “materialistic,” I’m afraid. You need a new typewriter ribbon. Get one or don’t get one, but unless you make an effort to deal with things as unabstractly as that, you’re stewing quite unnecessarily. You’ve decided that Things are what matter to people. Of course. Not only with “people” but with you, too. Everything in your letter is a thing, concrete or abstract. Avidya and vidya are things. For me, before anything else, you’re a young man who needs a new typewriter ribbon. See that fact, and don’t attach more significance to it than it deserves, and then get on with the rest of the day. Good wishes to you.

(Signed, ‘JDS’)

December 15th, 2009.


  1. El Kid Says:

    He’s like the weird, reclusive, common sense older brother I never had…

  2. Eoin Says:

    Me too. Although the guy sold it in 2005 for $5,000 so doesn’t sound like that good advice did him a hell of a lot of good.

  3. Darragh Says:

    “Along with that, I really never have anything to say when I’m done writing fiction at the end of a day”

    -most fascinating part of it for me.

  4. Eoin Says:

    He’s saying, if I had any insights here they’d go in the fucking book – not in a letter to some pimply undergraduate no one will ever read.

    Or at least that’s my take.

  5. Peter81 Says:

    I’ve just checked Salingers Facebook page, his status is “horny”

  6. Eoin Says:

    Didn’t he have a relationship with an 18 year old girl when he was like 60 or something?

  7. Colin Says:

    My favourite part is “I am at best a one-shot letter writer”, perhaps a knock at himself and his sparse writings but also a great way of saying this is the only reply you are getting.

    When Salinger dies I expect huge mounds of unpublished books, stories and poetry to be found. I’m still undecided on whether he will request it destroyed in his will.

  8. Eoin Says:

    He actually had a book scheduled for publication in the mid-1990s (called something 1925 something, I dunno…) but it was pulled at the last moment.

  9. Salinger Dead | Tripping Along The Ledge Says:

    […] remotely qualified to eulogize the guy, but for the record (from this blog) here’s a funny letter he wrote to a fan, Maeve Binchy, Shay Healy and myself talking about him on the radio and the time he got into a row […]

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