A Sunday visit with J. D. Salinger in the 1960s turned out to be his last
By EDWARD JACKSON BENNETT
J. D. Salinger's name has been back in the news. He is again fighting
for anonymity and for the privacy in life to which he is certainly entitled.
Twenty years ago* I was a neighbor of Salinger's in Cornish, New Hampshire,
where the author still lives. I had moved to Cornish to live alone for a
year. I was going though a divorce, and after attending to the responsibilities
as publisher of the Claremont (N.H.) Daily Eagle, my remote cottage in Cornish
was a place to retire alone to read, write, take long walks on remote country
roads, and to generally lick my wounds and reassess life.
I soon learned that the mysterious and celebrated author lived not
far away, and it was not long before we silently passed on our solitary
walks about the countryside. I knew who he was and I'm sure Salinger knew
who I was, but since the Eagle had been the only newspaper in the country
to have published an interview with the reclusive author, he was not about
to cozy up to its publisher.
A Cornish girl attending Windsor, Vermont High School was able to
charm Salinger into giving this interview. Salinger no doubt thought the
interview would not go beyond the high school paper, but like others in
the area, the high school paper was in fact a high school page that appeared
periodically in the Eagle, and as an integral part of that afternoon daily
newspaper. It was not long before the interview was picked up by other newspapers
and the wire services.
For many years after its first publication, the Eagle received requests
for copies of Salinger's interview, many world-wide. Recent publicity about
the reclusive writer may have rekindled a new wave of requests to the Eagle
for that Salinger interview of more than 40 years ago.
As the harsh winter of 1968 gave way to long days of March sunshine,
I would often make up a small pitcher of martinis on Sundays and sit outside
in the sun hand-feeding chickadees and watching flocks of pine siskins and
evening grossbeaks sweep in and out of the branches of the large sugar maple
in front of the cottage.
On such a Sunday J. D. Salinger sauntered by. We waved our usual silent
exchange; then on the spur of the moment I said, "Come up and have
Salinger paused, I'm sure to consider the dangers of any such rupture
in our mute relationship. Then he made his move, striding up to me with
a hand extended. We made no introductions, nor were names exchanged. Instead
we chatted about the hard winter, the birds, and whether or not we'd be
planting peas this May in that upland country.
I did not mention Salinger's books, all of which I had tried to read,
and later set aside as incomprehensible. To excuse myself and my ignorance,
I reasoned that Salinger was a genius, whereas I, a pedestrian plodder in
the world, an unworthy beggar at the shrine of enlightenment.
Salinger thanked me for the libation, but before he left I said, "I
see by Friday's Eagle that we do have something in common besides being
Salinger was puzzled. I pointed out to him a clipping which listed
divorces granted at the January term of court. The name Salinger appeared
next to Bennett. Our divorce decrees had been granted, quite coincidentally,
at the same time. A trace of what might be called a smile creased Salinger's
"You have a point there," he said, "and perhaps we
share other similarities, too. Thanks for the drink." If there were
any other likenesses between Salinger and me I never found them out, for
so long as I lived in Cornish we resumed our previous relationship - passing
by one another, like ships in the night.
*This piece first appeared in
Yankee Editor by Edward Jackson Bennett,
published by Pasquaney Press, East Hebron, N.H. (ISBN 0-9618624-0-8), copyright
1987 by Edward J. Bennett, all rights reserved, used by permission. The
article was also reprinted in The New Hampshire West Century edition of New
Hampshire Magazine, September, 1999
New Hampshire Century.
BURLINGTON, Vt. - Edward Jackson Bennett, 86, former New England
newspaper publisher/editor and New Hampshire legislator, died Aug. 8,
2011, after a brief illness.
Between 1950 and 1961, he purchased and ran several New Hampshire weekly
newspapers, including the Canaan (N.H.) Reporter and Enfield Advocate
(1950-1955) and the Bristol (N.H.) Enterprise (1955-1961). From 1961 to
1972, he owned and edited the Claremont (N.H.) Daily Eagle. In 1977, Mr.
Bennett purchased the Vermont Standard in Woodstock, which he edited for
Mr. Bennett served two terms in the New Hampshire Senate in the late
1950s and was elected for two terms in the New Hampshire House in 1986.
He also was a past president of both the New Hampshire and Vermont Press
Mr. Bennett serve for several years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras in the
A prolific writer, Mr. Bennett was the author of Yankee Editor, two
autobiographies, 70 Years of It and Ink in My Blood for family; and
in 2010, Bill Loeb: As I Knew Him.
He is survived by four children as well as four grandchildren, one
great-grandchild and a brother.
There will be a memorial service in New Hampshire at a later date.
-- August 17, 2011
Edward Jackson Bennett obit, Plymouth Record Enterprise