Monday, February 08, 2010

Catching Up on the Death
Of the Author of Catcher

J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye, died recently, touching off the felling of many trees in tribute. We can't say we were similarly caught up in all the literary mourning. To the contrary, the guy has always seemed quite creepy to us, with his weirdly gothic insistence on being left alone (if you really want to be left alone, we figure, do something, anything, besides publish a popular book). A preference for quiet and semi-isolation is one thing, and we share that instinct. But he took it to such an extreme that it seemed to border on a mental disorder. Anyway, Gawker has a nice roundup of coverage and tributes to the late author. And Working With Words reader and frequent commenter Kass posted this nice tip of the cap to him. Finally, we remembered this two-year-old piece about Salinger and Catcher by an aquaintance of ours, Anne Trubek, an Oberlin College English professor and prolific writer (her new book will soon be making its debut, and she recently published this interesting piece in the American Prospect about the Langston Hughes house). The Salinger piece was published in an interesting new magazine, Good, which I hope you'll check out a little. She argued that, while the character Holden Caulfield has entered the canon as our 20th century Huck Finn, the book doesn't really deserve the central place it still occupies in the curriculum. At the very least, she wrote, it should share some room with more recent coming-of-age novels.
UPDATE: I should have included this rave from my friend and mentor Bill Gunlocke, who had this to say about Catcher on his blog: "I tried this just now. I opened The Catcher in the Rye randomly to 10 different places and read the first sentence my eyes fell upon. Not one wasn’t interesting. It didn’t surprise me. If it surprises you, you haven’t read it in a while, or maybe you’ve never read it. There’s nothing like it." While you're there, consider taking another couple minutes to read his thoughts on New York's decision to cut library hours.


At 11:34 AM, Blogger Kass said...

There's nothing wrong with being 'relatable.' The language in The Catcher In The Rye is what people responded to. I had never read anything like it. I didn't like the swearing, but I was heavily conditioned. There will always be nay-sayers. To them I say the book was immensely popular. Deal with it.

Trubek's peice about the Lanston Hughes home is well-written and brings to mind the Robinson Jeffers Home I visited in Carmel. Well worth the $7.

At 11:40 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

With Catcher, I think it's simply a generational thing. If you read it as a kid, and I'm afraid I didn't, it wasn't as easily adopted as a favorite. And as I mentioned, I'm reacting more to what I consider his creepy hermit-like existence in real life (that seemed mostly about misanthropy) than for anything he wrote. I suppose I also think he represents a sad waste--a half century of missed opportunities to follow up Catcher with subsequent books he never shared.


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