Tom Leonard of the U.K.’s Spectator is the latest journalist to have journeyed up to Cornish, New Hampshire, in hopes of getting that pot-o’-gold scoop: an interview with J.D. Salinger. As Leonard recounts, he had no more luck than previous doorsteppers, though he did catch a glimpse through a window of the 90-year-old author “in a blue tanktop.”
I’ll admit to being fascinated by famous recluses–most of whom, I believe, are sincere in their desire to withdraw from public life rather than pranksterishly self-conscious about cultivating a mystique. In 2002, the writer Tim Willis doorstepped Syd Barrett in Cambridge, England. He found the former Pink Floyd leader standing before him in nothing but “a small, tight pair of bright blue Y-fronts” (scant blue undergarments being, evidently, a recluse hallmark) and unwilling to talk, yet settled into a simple life of painting and gardening. It’s my suspicion that the mentally fragile Barrett wouldn’t have made it to 60 (he died three years ago) had he remained an active rock musician; reclusiveness extended his life.
Still, for all my pursuit of interviews with reclusive figures, I could never bring myself to doorstep one; it just seems too violative. (This is one of the reasons I don’t consider myself a real journalist but merely a “writer.”) The one time I’ve actually landed an interview with a serious recluse–he being Sly Stone–it took an agonizing ten-year process to get face-to-face with the man. And, it must be said, my zeal derived more from my adoration of Stone’s music than from the scoopy thrill of bagging big game. (I’ve never had any desire to interview Salinger because his work doesn’t interest me.)
Though, hey, I’ll cop to getting a kick out of the fact that this photo exists.