Thinking it over, I guess I could only use it in dialogue from a retro character, a period piece (which I barely do), poetry (where I'd stand by it because of Percy Bysshe Shelley), or a work where the tone was just generally weird in that direction and I got significant oomph out of the phrasing.
I guess it would have to be one of those nonsensical uses where the gravity of the tone gets wrecked, where one of the only uses I could really defend in contemporary fiction would be as a gag, like, "Your mother might come. If needs must, we'll use actual plates. If needs must, we'll break out the tiles and play Scrabble. Otherwise, if things aren't as dire, we should be in for a good night with Kimmy Schimdt..."
From Conversations with Samuel R. Delany, edited by Carl Freedman, p. 164
[Quote was posted in a Delany discussion list]
Lie on a bed or on a mat or on the grass in a position in which you are comfortable. Don’t use a pillow. Begin to take hold of your breath. Imagine all that is left of your body is a white skeleton lying on the face of the earth. Maintain the half smile and continue to follow your breath. Imagine that all your flesh has decomposed and is gone, that your skeleton is now lying in the earth 80 years after burial. See clearly the bones of your head, back, your ribs, your hip bones, leg and arm bones finger bones. Maintain the half smile, breathe very lightly, your heart and mind serene. See that your skeleton is not you. Your bodily form is not you. Be at one with life. Live eternally in the trees and grass, in other people, in the birds and other beasts, in the sky, in the ocean waves. Your skeleton is only one part of you. You are present everywhere and in every moment. You are not only a bodily form, or even feelings, thoughts, actions, and knowledge. Continue for 20-30 minutes."
Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Miracle of Mindfulness
Other than a few bits and pieces, it wasn’t revelatory, at least not for me. Almost all of the information in the film, even for someone like me who—out of respect for Salinger, I guess—hasn’t read his daughter's memoir or investigated much about him other than the basics, I still knew 85% of the film’s information going in. Really, the only tidbits are the specific examples of what’s to come, which sounds quite tantalizing, profound, and brilliant.
And then the old photographs make the movie. The rare visual evidence of him is certainly a powerful experience. The chronology tells the story well considering the subject is a reclusive man who did nothing truly public for forty years, and they have just enough photos to bring that together, though a more literary film that focused on the actual fiction Salinger wrote would’ve been more fun and have more depth than watching this movie about Salinger’s reclusiveness and what he looked like. This was a film about who Salinger was, not what Salinger wrote.
So, mostly and in general, I wish there were more documentaries about writers. I also think it would be a valuable film to show a romantic partner when a relationship with a writer starts to get serious: Here are some of the challenges you might face if you continue on this path.
I enjoyed it immensely, blown away and inspired to go write, and there’s certainly something to be said for understanding how great literature occurs—but there's not any take-home point or deep meaning as much, at least for me, as an imperative to go write stories and go read books.
And, holy goodness like time capsules, it's weird to know that, from 2015 to 2020, new books are said to be coming out expanding the Glass and Caufield family stories, and other works.
I related to Salinger more than I expected and want to reread what I've read of his fiction and then finish the ones I haven’t read. I've always been reluctant to run out of Salinger, but I’m convinced that there’s more work coming, so I’m willing to plow through what’s already been published in preparation for a crazy second act.
All told, it’s a powerful film despite not actually having a clear look at its subject, at least for someone like me who spends most of their time reading and writing and who was one of the millions who was changed by the experience of reading Catcher in the Rye in 9th grade.
[Still stuck mostly cutting and pasting because of an arm injury, but this seemed relevant to my circumstances, especially if I overextend the metaphor and think of self-entrapment as a two-way street.]
First, you develop a sense of accuracy in relating with your thoughts and your mind—with the neuroses of all kinds of things that develop in one’s mind.
Secondly, you put all that into a certain perspective, as workable.
You make a relationship with your thoughts; you work with the thoughts. This process can be represented by the analogy of trapping a crazy monkey. We have this big project of setting a trap and trapping this monkey. The monkey-mind is caught in the trap because of the constant practice of meditation, which provides a camouflage. Being completely still, it is complete entrapment.
The Teacup & the Skullcup: Chögyam Trungpa on Zen & Tantra, pages 84-85.