Having become an iconic New Hampshire reclusive during his
later decades, the 'mystery' of author J. D. Salinger's whereabouts
has fed the intrigue and the perpetuating classroom and booklover
discussions. At least twice a year, young folks in particular would
come into Hedgehog's Whimsey Books in Newport NH, down the road from
Cornish, look for his titles, and then sheepishly asking to be
directed to his home so they could meet the master.
I shouldn't, wouldn't, I would reply. If he wants to
hold court, I suggested, he could and would. In the meantime,
neighbors and friends choose to respect his privacy.
This winter, Salinger died. Months later, his 'The
Catcher in the Rye' breakout 1951 novel and its reprints have been
consistently among the top five titles purchased at my bookstore's
listing site, alibris.com, where I am one of many booksellers.
Having not read this tale of Holden Caulfield since
high school days, I figured I had better pick it up again. In fact,
there are many titles I should read again. So, last week I read
'Catcher' with new eyes. When first published, folks were either
delighted to find their own voices in the character Caulfield or
appalled by the free use of language, repetitive commentary and a
general departure from literary style of the era.
Considered an enduring coming-of-age, male-based
classic, 'Catcher' caught my attention again from the get-go. This
time, though, I worried about the young man Holden Caulfield and his
mental health as I would one of my own. His intolerance for hypocrisy
I applauded all over again and now pondered where that lesson had been
lost over the decades of new readers. But I recognized this time in
Holden a failure to express his views to most others in the story.
That in itself seems hypocritical. I found his characterization by
Salinger intriguing for me as a writer, rather than recognizing in
Caulfield a peer this time around.
Considering the language that first brought
criticism among the literati (stuffed shirts and 'phonies'), it is
pretty tame in today's circles. And, with this reading, I found this
work to be less a coming-of-age tale, and more of a psychological
breakdown by the lead character, Caulfield.
Salinger marked new territory with his writing in
getting this work published 60 years ago. Little, Brown and Company
showed publishing courage in 1951 to put his words in print. Two
earlier chapters (edited) had appeared in Collier's and The New Yorker
during 1945, 1946.
What do you think?
read 'The Catcher in the Rye' recently?
you remember of related classroom discussions or personal
Could it, would it be published today?
I'd be pleased to have your feedback; please send to
I will post in my store a printout of your comments unless you ask me
not to do so.