Withdrawal Symptoms

Inspired by the late J.D. Salinger, Grady Miller comes out of hiding to explain his absence from the literary world.

“In a long and unusually revealing letter… Salinger apologizes for being such an elusive friend and correspondent. His whole life, he explains, is devoted to ‘exploring things, looking into things with my writing, my fiction’ and there was no room left for social amenities.”
The Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2010

With the release of one of J.D. Salinger’s letters, obituary scribes began to collectively scratch their heads over its meaning. Such reactions prompted Grady Miller to realize it was high time get out from under his rock and grant a rare personal interview to clear up misunderstandings about his recent “elusive” behavior.

“For my silence to have any impact, it must be explained,” the reclusive Miller said via a press release in invisible ink. “It’s very similar to when I was in self-imposed exile from my hometown for six long years. It caused my family great heartache, and most people presumed that it was because I hated my parents or couldn’t scrape together bus fare.”

Grady, an author and humorist, declares that Salinger’s death brought about an epiphany: “My dismissal of email and cellphones may be interpreted as just being rude or flaky, instead of a vital part of my artistic creation.”

Since there’s a restraining order for any journalist who comes within 30 feet of Miller, he conducted this rare phone interview with himself, using his unlisted phone number known only to himself, which now needs to be changed.

We haven’t heard from you in so long, Mr. Miller. Why don’t you ever return our phone calls, text messages, invitations to become Facebook friends, Christmas cards, Evites, or Nigerian internet scams? And when you do reply — once in a blue moon — it’s always so short. Why?

My principled silence is a defiant “no” to the invasion of my privacy and the mind-scrambling demands for my attention imposed by the electronic media. Downloaded baby pictures and adopted children are another matter: your children are really ugly, if you must know the truth. Some of the Evites are so goddam clever; where do you find the lousy time for this? Could you do my laundry? Shirts lightly starched please.

As for short emails: at this point in time, due to my arduous writing schedule, emailing is like throwing a bouquet from a bullet train. Listen, pal, consider yourself lucky to get a few straggly petals.

So are you still writing?

As we speak, my hummingbird-swift fingers dance over the keyboard. I’m still penning my long-awaited sequel to Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. Now that Erica is 35 years older, it’s called Fear of Falling. Did you know that 12,000 elderly Americans die in falls each year?  

Why don’t you publish?

It has been a terrific invasion of my privacy to appear in print. Call me the Garbo of scribblers; I have my reasons. I do believe that relaxation greatly stimulates creativity. My favorite place to write is in bed, but I always nod off and roll off the mattress when it’s two in the morning. Naturally this cuts way down on my output.

Why don’t you have a photo of yourself on Facebook?

It’s not that I’m so technologically inept as to be unable to upload a photograph, or that people have provided sloppy examples of the portrait photographer’s art from digital and disposable cameras. No indeed. Nor is it because, as some rumor mongers contend, that I shun the camera after being horribly disfigured in a unicycling accident. That lonesome, generic silhouette on Facebook is the objective correlative of my alienation — my stubborn refusal to show my face to a greedy celebrity-grappling world.

Is it a conscious choice not to publish or do you fear rejection?

Christ, these are really hard-hitting questions. Who do you think you are — Katie Couric?

Stick to the question, or we’ll rendition you to a PEN conference in The Hague faster than you can say David Foster Wallace.

Okay, okay. Lemme come clean. I haven’t written a word since 1986, not a word nor hyphen. You know, the easiest way to not publish anything is not to write anything — it’s a load off, and you don’t have to worry about spelling or grammar or any of that shit. Sure, I’ll write the occasional grocery list, but nothing epic.

  • eggs
  • celery
  • milk
  • bananas
  • Nobel Prize

Wow! All the anguish and writer’s block was phony? You’re a phony?

You gotta admit, it’s a great cover for heavy drinking and being an all-around jerk.

Grady Miller's humor pieces have appeared in numerous publications on and offline, including the Los Angeles Times, The Morning News, the LA Daily News, and The Cynic.