A Trip to the Morgan Library to See letters from J.D. Salinger…Oh and I also saw the Magna Carta
Went on down to the Morgan library last week. I found out the place offered free admission every Friday. By now I have made it pretty well known on this blog at least that if there’s one thing I love, it’s free entrance. But as far as the Morgan Library was concerned, I had not reason to be there. Then I found an article in Time Out magazine that said the late author JD Salinger’s letters would be on display at the Morgan until May 9th.
After I learned that Salinger’s personal writings would be able to be viewed and read by an undeclared Marymount student such as myself, I not only wanted to go; I had to. The man was after all known for his reclusive behavior after writing one of the most famed and circulated American novels of the last century, The Catcher in The Rye. I wanted an inside look at what his personal writing style was like, what was on his mind for the past forty something years, and who he kept in contact with.
I got a chance to read the answer to most of those questions at the Morgan Library. A security guard named Malcolm said that “Mr. Salinger’s letters were being held in a room called McKinney’s West”, which was a bookshelf covered room to the back of the Morgan’s main entrance.
Upon first coming into contact with McKinney’s west, you question if Salinger’s letters are the real objects of importance. The room is covered with books; glass protected stacks of religious and old hardbound folklore texts decorate the room with high mosaic painted ceilings and a huge granite fireplace in the center of the room’s back wall which has granite angels and flowers carved into it. Another Patron Susan Yang, 55, said while looking at the marble fixtures on the wall, “All this will probably be in another museum one day.” Also, I forgot to mention the Magna Carta sat in a glass case that blocked the face of the library fireplace.
Yes, the Magna Carta is also on display at the Morgan Library, and yes it is one of the most important documents in the history of democracy. But what it seemed like to me was another solemn and highly important work in an already exaggeratingly prestigious environment (I forget to mention the room had stained glass windows.)
Instead I focused my experience at the Morgan on Salinger’s letters. Albeit being harsh and even a little dark with some of his words, the recently deceased writer’s letters to his select friends seemed pretty comforting and a lot of fun to read. Even though the culture he knew of when writing to his friend Mike Mitchell was long over, I got to see Salinger’s writing cover pop references with the wit and crass of a close bar friend. When writing a letter to Mitchell in 1980 for instance, he called Eddie Murphy “A real funny motehrfucker” after reflecting on watching the comedian’s standup routine.
All the letters were presented in front of the entrance to McKinney’s West. You will see the two glass cases (one to the right, another to the left) of Salinger’s writings most likely upon entering the room. The displays give information on who Salinger was writing to and other historical notes on the letters themselves.
Whatever you do try and stay away from the lobby around closing time. A huge curator was standing around there when I left a little early. As I turned to the coat check to get my backpack, the man slammed a hammer against a surprisingly loud metal bell that sat on the other side of the hallway I was in. I should have taken notice when the coat check lady was covering her ears and her friend was clenching her cheeks tight, but I thought they were just a couple of weird people who worked at a museum. It was probably the loudest and most painful sounding ring I have ever heard.