Seymour'd told me to shine my shoes just as I was going out the door with Waker. I was furious. The studio audience were all morons, the announcer was a moron, the sponsors were morons, and I just damn well wasn't going to shine my shoes for them, I told Seymour. I said they couldn't see them anyway, where we sat. He said to shine them anyway. He said to shine them for the Fat Lady. I didn't know what the hell he was talking about, but he had a very Seymour look on his face, and so I did it. He never did tell me who the Fat Lady was, but I shined my shoes for the Fat Lady every time I ever went on the air again — all the years you and I were on the program together, if you remember. I don't think I missed more than just a couple of times. This terribly clear, clear picture of the Fat Lady formed in my mind. I had her sitting on this porch all day, swatting flies, with her radio going full-blast from morning till night. I figured the heat was terrible, and she probably had cancer, and — I don't know. Anyway, it seemed goddam clear why Seymour wanted me to shine my shoes when I went on the air. It made sense.
J.D. Salinger in Zooey (1957)
What stays to me the most from your books is the Fat Lady from Franny and Zooey. I remember Seymour telling his siblings to polish their shoes for the fat lady [...] I remember Zooey explaining years later to Franny that there wasn’t really a Fat Lady, that the Fat Lady is God, or that faceless unknown person in the audience for whom a performer must always do his or her best, even when we don’t feel like it, or when we’re confronted with a cold, unresponsive, audience.
Stephen Collins in Letters to J.D. Salinger, edited by Chris Kubica, Will Hochman
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