A Salinger Memory

Here’s a J.D. Salinger memory to share. It was my father’s memory, but he gave it to me years ago, and now I’ll share it.  

During my childhood, my father used to smoke a pipe. I loved the smell of his tobacco, and I loved the look of the tin that it came from.  It was Granger pipe tobacco, always in a beautiful cobalt container.  When I was a little older, my father gave up his pipe, and I told him that I missed that Granger fragrance, which had none of the rough edge of cigarette smoke in it.  

He told me that he smoked Granger pipe tobacco because when he was on jury duty in New York City in 1950, he’d been on a panel with J.D. Salinger. When Salinger was called to the panel, the jury clerk pronounced his name with a hard g, as if it rhymed with malinger: "Jerome D. Saling-ger…," my father drew it out long and high like a train conductor announcing the station coming up.  

While waiting on the panel, Salinger and my father got into conversation and lit their pipes together, with Salinger offering my father some of his Granger. My father stuck to Granger thereafter.

I was one of those stubborn children who refused to read what I was expected to read. So as a child, I never read Catcher in the Rye. It was not until adulthood that I pulled out my parents’ old paperback of the book, with a cover I’d loved to look at for years, and read it, delicately turning the dried and brittle pages.  

I’m glad I have that copy.  I don’t know what happened to my father’s pipes, but maybe I’ll buy some Granger’s and breath in its aroma, and try to hear that jury clerk, summoning the dark-haired man with the tobacco pouch, a writer whose name the clerk couldn’t pronounce, a man who had not yet won wide fame, nor left New York City behind. 

Margaret Heilbrun About Margaret Heilbrun

Margaret Heilbrun is a former Senior Editor, Library Journal Book Review.


  1. David Keymer says:

    What lovely memories! I’m old enough (73) to have gone through college when reading at least Catcher was de rigeur. I didn’t read it until after college. I wasn’t going to be TOLD what I should read! Instead, as a freshman, I read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. It recalibrated my sensibilities and made me realize how WHITE my cosseted world had been until then. By the time I read Salinger, it was style -his sly way of cozying into his characters– that affected me and not Holden’s idealism.

  2. Juanita Brunk says:

    A beautiful glimpse of old New York. I loved this.

  3. Karl Helicher says:

    Hi Margaret,

    A very nice remembrance of your father and Salinger. Almost to the day that Salinger died, Howard Zinn died at age 87. Although very different in personalities, both men were proudly subversive. Salinger spoke to the insecurities of adolesence and the often controversial and activist Zinn introduced thousands of adolescents and adults to a side of history that was not dusty and not the province of old white men. The impact of both men is immeasurable: they will be missed but their influence lives on.

  4. Mary Bisbee-Beek says:

    I love the memory, Margaret and I could actually smell that tobacco fragrance as I read your note on Salinger!

  5. John says:

    A very nice tribute, Margaret.

  6. Joan Ferrante says:

    A lovely memory, evoking both men, the tobacco fragrance, and the old relaxed jury room. Thank you.