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We are all going to Hell: J.D. Salinger’s ‘uncleaned’ toilet up for sale.

August 19, 2010

The seat of great writing?

Today I planned to survey fresh debate over the future of bookstores, or perhaps the censorship scandal at the Teen Lit Festival in Texas, where popular YA novelist Ellen Hopkins was disinvited after a librarian (!) noticed her books feature addicts and prostitutes. Then I saw Salinger’s toilet.

“J.D. Salinger’s Personally Owned and Used Toilet Commode–Purchased From Salinger’s New Hampshire Home!” If you think I’m joking, check out the ebay listing.  You can make a bid, or you can buy the thing outright for a cool million bucks.

This is the tipping point for Western Civilization, just as a remarkably similar event 2,000 years ago was for the Romans.

It’s not widely known, but Gibbon, in an obscure footnote in Vol. IV of his classic history, dates the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire to 19 A.D., when Ovid’s towel, still soiled from his last visit to the public baths, was auctioned in the central market of Tomis, a city in Scythia Minor.

The parallels between Ovid and Salinger are as striking as those linking the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy. Both writers were popular and critically acclaimed. Both wrote works accused of being vulgar and obscene. Both lived out their lives in exile — indeed, Scythia Minor was the New Hampshire of the Roman Empire.

Coincidence?!? I think not.

Gibbon dates the public sale of Ovid’s towel (listed for 100 denarii, it actually went for three sesterii, a bag of walnuts and a small goat) as the point at which the frivolous pleasure culture of the Imperial elite infected the merchant classes, thereby initiating a downward swirl of decadence that eventually flushed Roman civilization into the polluted stream of history.

Likewise, the sale of Salinger’s toilet marks the moment at which celebrity worship utterly dominates Western Civilization.

It’s only a matter of time before Snooki becomes the first woman elected president of the United States.

How much will Salinger’s personal toilet go for? It’s hard to say. Cormac McCarthy’s Olivetti typewriter fetched $254,500 last December. Of course, McCarthy wrote many of his most famous novels on the machine.

Not to be outdone, the toilet’s purveyors exult:

“This is the toilet that was personally owned AND used by J.D. Salinger for many years! It sat in his home in Cornish, New Hampshire, and was installed in the ‘new wing’ of his house. When he died, his wife inherited all of his manuscripts with plans to eventually release some of them! Who knows how many of these stories were thought up and written while Salinger sat on this throne!”

May I just say: Ewww.

But it gets better, and by “better” I mean worse. The commode comes with a letter of authenticity from Joan Littlefield, who, along with her husband, bought and remodeled Salinger’s house, removing the toilet in the process. What’s more:

“This vintage toilet is from 1962 and is dated under the lid. It will come to you uncleaned and in it’s original condition when it was removed from Salinger’s old home.”

Some things defy further commentary.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Candice Simmons permalink
    August 19, 2010 1:02 pm

    It should have been donated toward an auction we’re having soon to raise money for 8 local charities. When it comes to fundraising, you sometimes HAVE to get down and dirty.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      August 19, 2010 1:23 pm

      I can see it now: “Salinger crapped here.”

  2. August 19, 2010 1:43 pm

    Everyday brings some bubble-brained ideas like this. Ovid’s towel, Salinger’s poop chute. What can you do but shake your head in disdain, sadness, wonder. California is “a failed state,” as is Illinois, the Senate is no-no-no-ing itself into irrelevance and political death. Ditto the House. But what’s really important is how gaga Lady Gaga is & who is in jail for drunk driving and or drugs. It’s all so silly, it’s all so fluffy, it’s all so fiddling away while Rome burns. Very apt analogy, Chauncey. We don’t have a thing on Rome when it comes to being sidetracked by bells & whistles. Pity the fools! Naw. Shakespeare may have put it best: “Think yourself a baby that you have taken these tenders [toilets, towels] for true pay which are not sterling.” Is it too early for three fingers of vodka?

  3. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    August 19, 2010 2:03 pm

    Bread and circuses, Duff, bread and circuses.

    Oh, and for a prophetic, funny and melancholy view of where these trends are taking us, I recommend Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story…

  4. August 19, 2010 8:46 pm

    Got it, Chauncey. Will order it from Powell’s in a minute. Yeah, bread and circuses. Maybe the best thing any of us can do is write about it, catch it, so to speak, on the wing. Or should that be broken wing? Melancholy subject, eh?

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      August 19, 2010 11:06 pm

      Yeah, but the birds are singing, the sun is shining, and the bookstores are still open. So far.

  5. August 20, 2010 11:20 am

    Quite frightening actually! I was hoping for some discovered unpublished works when he died.
    Even if they were flushed down the loo, they would be in the sewers now. I remember my teenage cousin when I was a kid, stuffing a glass into her purse at a restaurant because the waiter looked like Elvis. At least she had the excuse of being an adolescent with an, as yet, undeveloped brain.

  6. John Karwacki permalink
    August 23, 2010 12:15 pm

    May I just join you and say double ewww. I remember “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire” sitting huge on a favorite uncle’s bookshelf when I was a lad; never read it – too intimidating. If this be the tipping point, I say bring on the Visigoths.

  7. August 26, 2010 1:58 pm

    According to E-Bay as of today there have been 105 offers made.

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