The myth of JD Salinger the withdrawn man doesn't match Salinger the writer, Adam Gopnik writes. On the page, Salinger was charming, expansive, and relentlessly engaged with the world. "No American writer will ever have a more alert ear, a more attentive eye, or a more ardent heart," Gopnik writes in the New Yorker. "A self-enclosed writer doesn’t listen, and Salinger was a peerless listener: page after page of pure talk flowed out of him, moving and true and, above all, funny."
From The Catcher in the Rye—which Gopnik places alongside Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby among the "three perfect books" of American literature—to the Glass family saga, Salinger "remade American writing" through his "essential gift for joy." "The message of his writing was always the same: that, amid the malice and falseness of social life, redemption rises from clear speech and childlike enchantment, from all the forms of un-self-conscious innocence that still surround us."