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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Chicken and JD Salinger

When I go out to visit my chicken, Sorche, she looks me in the eye.  This requires her to twist her neck since at five foot ten, I tower above all but the tallest of Barred Roc hens, and Sorche is still a youngster.  Think how odd it is that a chicken would want to make eye contact.  I do not look like a chicken, and she has no reason to be concerned about my opinion of her.  She does not look at other, more chicken-relevant portions of my anatomy, my hand, which might hold food for her, or my feet, which might step on her; no, it's always the eye.
Aparently the need to make eye contact is very deep in our brains.  Even octopi, I have heard, make eye contact with skin divers.  Butterflies and other animals ward off potential predators with huge fake eyes.  In our weirdest imaginings of alien beings - the repulsive "prawns" on District Nine for example - we never neglect to give them eyes.  They can have mandables for mouths, bifurcated skulls, and handlebars where the ears would go - but to leave them without eyes is inconceivable.  The very term for a certain kind of sci-fi critter - Bug Eyed Monster - implies that eyes are a sine qua non.
"So what does all this have to do with JD Salinger?" you ask.
Salinger, who died last week, reportedly had reams of unpublished stories in his home chronicling the Glass family, the center of such works as "Frannie and Zooey" and "A Good Day for Banana Fish."  He wrote these, again this is only rumor, over the last thirty-five years, with no intention of publishing them or even allowing another person to read them.
If this is so, it is not merely eccentric, it is unaccountable.  I cannot write, and I cannot imagine anyone who could write, without any expectation of being read by someone somewhere.  Frankly, I hope to be read by complete strangers, but at any rate I hope to be read.
Like Sorche the Chicken, the Bug-Eyed Space Monster, and even the humble octopus, it's not enough for me to look at the world.  I need to know if someone's looking back.

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