Cleaning Up J.D. Salinger

The subtitle of this post, if there were one, would be “Why I’ll Never Write that Novel, # 132.”

A few weeks ago, Hollywood screenwriter Shane Salerno, who is working on a documentary about J.D. Salinger, released a low resolution image of what he called a “never seen before” photograph of the famously reclusive late writer. The fact that the released version was low resolution (the one making the rounds on the web was roughly 580 x 590 pixels) was perfectly understandable. After all, if it’s such a rare image, you don’t necessarily want to release it to the digital wolves. What bugged me is that Salerno released a scan of the crappy, unrestored image.

Naturally, my impulse was to fix it. So I did. I spent a bit of time (not nearly as much as you’d think, given the low resolution) restoring the image. OK, let’s be up-front; I spent about 20 minutes on this restoration. If I had a high-resolution version I would have probably spent a day or two on it, and wouldn’t have done nearly as good a job as a master like Ctein would have done. But that’s not the point. The point is that if you find an old “never seen” photograph of a famously reclusive famous person, the least you could do is clean it up before you show it off. Showing the dirty version is like coming down to dinner in yesterday’s underwear.

So I cleaned it up. I’ll present to you an even lower resolution version below, as proof. I will say here and now that I have no intention of doing anything with this cleaned up picture except maybe looking at it now and then and feeling smug. If you happen to be Shane Salerno, or Shane Salerno’s lawyer, then bugger off, there’s nothing to see here. This tiny image constitutes fair usage, and I have no intention of usurping your right to show us the shitty version, nor of making any money off of my improved one.

Left: shitty. Right: Blorky.

That was last week’s procrastination. Today I made BBQ chicken & ribs with two different sauces, and reduced half a bushel of Roma tomatoes down to a medium-sized pot of pomodoro sauce for tomorrow’s dinner. When I retire, have my stomach removed, and divorce myself from the Internet, then maybe I’ll write that novel.

14 thoughts on “Cleaning Up J.D. Salinger

  1. But that room, on the fifth floor with no elevator, was just very shabby, with spots from a old leak on the walls. And you just removed the marble wall, the only nice thing about this room…

  2. Dave, no, I photoshopped some dirt to bring it back to being history. As in, now it looks like it did 50 years ago.

    Mare, shaddap! It wasn’t like that at all! The splotches were very clearly caused by dirt on the print, not from something on the wall. (You can tell by the grain structre, etc.)

  3. Great post, great procrastination projects! And please don’t ever get your stomach removed, that would be a real tragedy for all of us because *you’d stop cooking.*

  4. Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody. -Holden Caulfield

  5. Tell me . . . why does a recluse wear a tie?

  6. Nick, I think he was much less of a recluse when this picture was taken. That said, there’s something sort of creepy about this photo. We know that Salinger was a bit of a skirt-chaser and had a thing for his underlings. This photo looks post-coital, and simultaneously smug and shameful, as if he’s getting dressed after a bit of “overtime” with his typist. Paste Don Draper’s face over that mug and you’ve got a scene from Mad Men.

  7. On the other hand, there are plenty of reno projects to be done around the house.

    Sigh… If only you could Photoshop us a new bathroom.

  8. I think there’s something to be said for scans you don’t clean up. They’re real. You did an admirable photoshop job blork, but if you’d scanned that photo 50 years ago (if they’d had scanners ;) I can pretty much guarantee that it would look different from your cleaned up version.

    No matter how you photoshop something, what you end up afterwards is “more fake” not “more real”

    I think (and this is just my opinion, I know most digital photo nerds would disagree with me) the only way to make that scan more authentic would be to physically restore the photo, carefully scraping away the dirt etc. and then scan it again.

    Just being a troublemaker, don’t mind me :)

  9. Tux, you are an anachronistic time-bubble monster! If it can be fixed in Photoshop it SHOULD BE FIXED! It should be altered to reflect the new reality, and all unnecessary artefacts from the original photograph should be repaired!

    Peeling paint? Blemishes on walls? JD SALINGER NEVER WENT PLACES LIKE THAT.

    He is

    and not Leonardo di Caprio! EVERYTHING AROUND HIM DESERVES TO BE CLEANED UP, INCLUDING THE WHORE WHO TOOK THE PICTURE whom you can’t see but COULD BE cleaned up with hot water and PHOTOSHOP!

    Just my two train-flattened cents’ worth.

  10. @Martine, I’m with you! I like your thinking :)

  11. Yep, there’s something decidedly creepy about recluses. Reminds me of Catholic priests or monks in general.

    Uh . . . what is it you exactly have to hide?

    I’m a recluse in general but only because I’m lazy. I love to socialize but hey, I burned myself out in the 70s and 80s and now just want to rest with my wine cooler and a book or cook something.

    But now that you mention it, this photo really does have a creepy quality . . . you know, serial killers can be quite charming. Just ask Ted Bundy. Child molesters too . . . just ask the Pope.

  12. PS, Blork, about that novel . . . I’m in a semi-Alzheimer’s state most of the time, but recently I came across this item that I must have written in a comatose state, but it seems to have promise — as usual, it’s about Nazis. It starts thusly:

    Reinhard, despite his initial distaste, took to this job of gravedigging with eventual enthusiasm. What’s good for the muscles is good for the mind, he muttered to himself as his spade dug into the the dark, rich Bavarian earth. Roots are your future, he told the corpse silently, and worms your new best friends.

    Finally, much later, he staggered backwards and looked at his handiwork. Six feet is so much more than just six feet! he marveled with not a little pride.

    Then he rolled the corpse of Lieutenant Messner into the grave. “Bye, Fritzie,” Reinhard muttered, “We’re going to miss you.” Messner fell face up and his sightless eye, the one that had not been shot, stared into the deepening twilight of the wooded grove, not at Reinhard.

    Reinhard found it hard to look at and immediately emptied a shovelful of moist, root entangled soil onto Messner’s reproachful face.


    Hey, JD, howdja like THAT one?

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