Alibi V.24 No.4 • Jan 22-28, 2015 

A Drinkable Feast

Bunch of Phonies Edition

ADF celebrates J.D. Salinger (Jan. 1, 1919-Jan. 27, 2010)

By User:StefanoRR, CC BY-SA 4.0 or Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Before WWII, J.D. Salinger was an ambitious, up-and-coming New York lit scene star, publishing in respected literary journals. During WWII he stormed Utah Beach in Normandy, likely carrying chapters of what would later become The Catcher In The Rye. After the war Catcher made him the wildly successful writer he'd set out to become. By 1965 he'd grown weary of publishing and literary celebrity, so he moved to New Hampshire and lived the rest of his life removed from the public eye. If 2013's documentary, Salinger, is to be believed, this year could see the release of the first of at least five unpublished novels Salinger wrote during the last half-century. ADF happily sits down to a beer, a bite and a book in recognition of the wonder and possibilities.

Beer: The Bosque Brewing/Turtle Mountain collaboration Rio Grande Tortoise

A dark and mysterious beer with a sturdy cream head, the Rio Grande Tortoise is a sharp bite of beer with subtle hops that is malty and even chewy. The bitterness is balanced by some caramel, and like a Salinger story, it stays with you—finishing like silky, velvet syrup.

This beer is proof that great things happen when people pull together. A dark and mysterious beer with a sturdy cream head, the Rio Grande Tortoise is a sharp bite of beer with subtle hops that is malty and even chewy. The bitterness is balanced by some caramel, and like a Salinger story, it stays with you—finishing like silky, velvet syrup. The flavors are ambitious, yet expertly rendered—so three cheers for a really successful collaboration by two local breweries. Salinger was not at all interested in collaboration, especially the Hollywood kind. But the people in Cornish, N.H., conspired with Salinger for decades, keeping his home and life largely under wraps. If his stories won’t sell you on human decency, then perhaps his hometown will.

Food: Street Food Institute’s chipotle Cubano

Also in that collaborative spirit: Albuquerque’s Street Food Institute. CNM students, if so inclined, can learn from the Institute—which puts students through their paces, before an internship actually puts them on board SFI’s food truck, churning out fresh and sumptuous grub like the chipotle Cubano. This Cubano comes on a hard-crusted hoagie bun, jam-packed with chipotle-slathered pork, pickles and Gruyere. How’s that like J.D. Salinger, you ask? Simple: We can never have too much great food, or too many great ideas, or too many Salinger books.

Book: Three Early Stories

Originally published between 1940 and 1944, these short stories showcase how exacting and precise Salinger is. They’re standard Salinger fare: wealthy characters of some status wrestling with the wants and worries the outside world inspires. In "The Young Folks" lonely, self-involved, detached party goers are always on the lookout for someone better. "Go See Eddie" features a haggard older brother berating his sister for her sordid liaisons, threatening her with the juicy gossip that usually follows. In "Once a Week Won't Kill You," a young soldier prepares to leave his wife and aunt for the haunting and terrible worries World War II has in store. Salinger’s stories are simple in their construction: men, women and their shared moments. But simplicity, combined with precision, makes for gorgeously executed and very subtle yarns—just don't expect fireworks. The fireworks here are pauses, gestures or dialogue that betray a simple lie. It's hard to believe these are early stories. And it's equally difficult not to view them through the lens of Salinger’s life and later work. These bellwether stories remind us just how interested Salinger was in the falsehoods of high society and that blank, unholy wilderness of the world. If this is where he began, it's no wonder World War II pushed him over the edge: forcing him into his writing “bunker.”

Five years after his death, what we know about J.D. Salinger's life remains intriguing, infuriating and, in many ways, inconclusive. The 50 years that have passed since his last published novel make rumors of new work tantalizing. The fact that one new book is rumored to be about his experiences interrogating prisoners of war—while America ruminates on GITMO and highly "advanced torture techniques"—is prescient and uncanny. And that a dead writer, silent for half a century, may well have his finger on this country’s moral pulse as it continues to grapple with freedom and humanity is nothing short of astounding. And A Drinkable Feast is all too happy to be along for the ride.