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Opening Arguments

R.I.P., J.D. Salinger

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is what I felt about "Catcher in the Rye" when I read it in my lousy high school class and what my life and all was like outside of class and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Ah, teenage angst. Nobody captured in quite like J.D. Salinger, which is why Holden Caufield is usually mentioned right up there with Huck Finn in the pantheon of youthful rebels of American fiction. Kids today may seen Holden as just a whinny preppy, but the book still has a hold on those of us who read it in an earlier era. I've probably read it half a dozen times since high school, and it still doesn't seem dated to me.

The best thing about Salinger is that writing that one very short book (which still sells hundreds of thousands of copies a year) enabled him to become a recluse for 50 years:

"Don't Tread on Me'' would be another maxim adopted by Salinger, who would have added: Don't Send Me Letters, Don't Visit Me, Don't Phone Me, and Don't Hang Around the Bottom of My Driveway. He lived in a modest hilltop house, hidden by birch and maple trees. His driveway, like so many in the Granite State, was festooned with “No Trespassing'' signs.

Just the life I'd lead if only newspapering paid as much as Great American Noveling. Just read the blog, and stay off the damn lawn!

Some say Salinger has still been writing all these years for himself and that his death might unlock great masterpieces. I doubt it. He had only one great theme -- struggling to grow up without direction in a world that seemed to have no values -- and he captured that in "Catcher" about as well as it could be done.

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. . . . What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff. . . . That's all I'd do all day. I'd be the catcher in the rye and all."


Posted in: All about me, Books


Bob G.
Fri, 01/29/2010 - 10:36am

That's some fine observations you have there (I did my senior year "final" report on that novel, comparing it to the teens of those nasty 60s).
I don't think my 50-something teacher understood where I was coming from THEN, though...shoulda got an "A...wound up with a "C"...(!?!)

Damn shame, because at 50+ myself now...I STILL know.
(and I think YOU know for yourself, as well)

Feel free to walk on my lawn...any day.
(but only you...LOL)


Sun, 01/31/2010 - 6:29am

I wish that today's fame mongers, mugging in front of every lens they see, and famous for doing nothing, would take a lesson from Salinger and hide themselves away.