Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger

Like many other readers, I'm sure, I was saddened to see the news of J.D. Salinger's death. I came to Catcher in the Rye late in life in comparison to most. I think I was maybe 22 or 23 at the time, so I was past the severe angst most experience if they read it closer to their teenage years.

Somehow, I still loved it. While Holden was certainly whiney and stuck up, and a pain in the butt at times, he was also very relatable, and I still found him a sympathetic character. Maybe what really pushed my sympathy over the edge was the title of the book itself and how it played out in the novel.

If you haven't read the novel and want to be surprised by what the title means, STOP READING HERE!

Basically, this is the way it goes...

In Chapter 22, when Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to do with his life, he replies with his image of a “catcher in the rye.” Holden imagines a field of rye perched high on a cliff, full of children romping and playing. He says he would like to protect the children from falling off the edge of the cliff by “catching” them if they were on the verge of tumbling over.

The way this whole scene meshes with the novel is just breathtaking. I remember being so touched by this image that it really "made" the whole book for me.

I haven't read any of Salinger's other work. I started Nine Stories, and I'm certain I'll come back to it, but I might try Franny and Zooey first.

Anyone else have fond memories of Salinger's work?


  1. I know that supposedly this is a teenager's book but there is something to be said for reading books like this when you are older. In 9th grade I had no idea of how beautiful and poignant that piece of the story and the title are. I did like Holden though.

  2. I loved this the first time I read it in high school. But when I re-read it a few years ago, I really really appreciated it so much more. I think there's a little Holden Caufield in all of us!

    I was saddened to see this today as well.

    Let me know when you are going to try Frannie and Zooey. I've wanted to read this for years. Maybe we could buddy read it?? Any time. I'm game!

  3. Nine Stories is one of my favorites; I always prefered it to Catcher. :-) friends of mine named their cats Franny and Zooey- cute.

  4. I just read The Catcher in the Rye a few months ago. Hard to believe that I made it to the age of 46 having not read it. I enjoyed it but didn't quite understand how it had become a classic. My almost 16 year old son is reading it now and he loves it. I'm thinking I waited until I was too old to read it. The angst of being young was too dim a memory for me! ha

  5. John Green's vlog yesterday, of him reading that passage, drove me to tears <3

  6. Nicole, great point. It's always interesting to get new perspectives on these types of novels as we move through our life at various points. So much changes with perspective.

    Stephanie, I know there's some Holden in me!! Especially when I was younger, but he still pops up once in a while. I will keep you posted on Frannie and Zooey. I would love to do a buddy read! In fact, let me see if I can find an ebook copy. And I'm sure my library has one otherwise.

    Marie, I'll have to bump Nine Stories up on my list because I hear and read endless good things about it. And I love the cat names! :)

    Kathleen, and that angst dimming is not a bad thing! The teen years are such a turbulent time. It's good that this book can be a comfort to so many during those years.

    Nymeth, I just tried to watch it here at work, and my speakers aren't working. Dangit! I'll definitely take a look when I get home tonight.

  7. I am one of those weird people that didn't really like this book... I hate when that happens, but I guess it happens.

  8. It happens to the best of us, Kailana. I remain one of the only people in America who truly hated my Lovely Bones reading experience. lol

  9. I loved Catcher and The Rye, even though the teacher I had who 'made' us read it asked this question, the only question, for our final exam: "Where was Holden at the beginning and the end of the book?" Apparently, he was in the psych ward, but at fifteen, I was most interested in his take on life: sarcastic and very to my liking. I picked up Franny and Zooey, hoping that it would be as enjoyable to me, but sadly, it wasn't. I wonder how it would appear to me now, thirty years later...

  10. I might be one of the few people that made it through high school and college without reading this book.

  11. Every time I drive past a cemetery I think of Alfie, and the rain falling on his stomach as everyone runs back to their cars.

    Sad for America to lose such an icon.

  12. Bellezza, I'd be interested to know how you feel about it 30 years after the fact, too. I remember being shocked by the ending having forgotten that he was in any kind of institution in the beginning of the book.

    Softdrink, I read it on the tail-end of college, but I definitely had to pick it up on my own. I wasn't one of those students who had it assigned.

    Very sad, April. I bet his book are climbing up the best seller and Amazon lists again, though. :)

  13. I loved Catcher in the Rye as well, and I also have not read any of his other work. Have you read that they may have found a safe of unpublished work?

  14. Jenna, I have heard that! I'm curious if we'll see any of Salinger's work posthumously or if he had an airtight legal gag on that material, too. I wouldn't be surprised if he did!


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