Thomas Merton’s very tone conveyed a spiritual and intellectual authority which made his divagations into Orientalism sound rock solid; but Salinger in those days was still obliged to work with the cap and bells of his profession—by which I don’t mean that he was funny about his Eastern discoveries but that he was doomed to entertain whatever the subject. His story “Teddy” provides a far too slick introduction to Oriental wisdom (the magazines he trained under might have been okay at times for fiction, but they were death on wisdom). But when, in “Seymour: An Introduction,” he attempts to reduce the slickness by stirring some seriousness into the entertainment, his message strains mightily against his style in all its too-perfect shapeliness, causing Buddy Glass to apologize more than once for his helpless wordiness.

So let us suppose the following: that Salinger swiftly became dissatisfied with this half-baked condition, half-slick and half-serious but really not enough of either, but yet was unwilling simply to retreat into his early triumphs, whose high polish might by now even have begun to strike him as a bit phony; so he simply decided to suspend publication then and there until such a time as he found a new style worthy of his subject. And if that should take forever, what is forever to a mystic?

— Wilfred Sheed, many years ago