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Figaro rips the innards out of things people say and reveals the rhetorical tricks and pratfalls. For terms and definitions, click here.
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    J.D. Gets More Privacy

    Do you want this book published
    or just printed?

    Angus Cameron, top editor at Little, Brown, to J.D. Salinger

    reductio ad absurdum, “reduction to absurdity.” Also erotesis (eh-ro-TEE-sis), the rhetorical question.

     J.D. Salinger died Wednesday at age 91, almost six decades after his adolescent-angst novel, Catcher in the Rye, came out. Already something of a recluse, he said he didn’t want any publicity for the book; not even review copies.

    Angus Cameron’s reply neatly reveals the difference between publishing a book and merely printing it. He deploys a reductio ad absurdum, an argument technique that boils the opponent’s argument down to its ludicrous core.

    Salinger lived in extreme privacy in Cornish, New Hampshire, near Figaro’s neck of the woods. The townsfolk discouraged or even misled nosey types and journalists. Once, however, we were browsing in a local bookstore when an old man came in, bought a book, and quickly left. A friend of ours who lived in Cornish nodded toward the door and muttered, “That was J.D. Salinger.”

    May he rest in the remotest part of heaven.

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