I’m re-reading Catcher in the Rye. Again. I read it for the first time when I was about 14 or 15. And, of course, loved it! I carried paperback copy around everywhere, thumbing through it constantly until it pretty much fell apart. After that first time, I read it at least once a year, and often more than once, all the way through undergrad. There was something about it that was a comfort to me, especially as a teenager.
I remember after dropping out of Central Michigan University, after only a week, and feeling like a complete fucking loser, I read it again. Then I read Salinger’s other books — Franny and Zooey, Raise Hight Roof Beam, Carpenter and Seymour: an Introduction, and Nine Stories.
I continued reading it all the way through undergrad. By time I hit grad school, I stopped for some reason.
Not sure exactly what made me pick it up again. I was looking for something to read and it just happen to occur to me that I’d not read it in years. Perhaps find a hard copy of Franny and Zooey had something to do with it.
It was a formative book for me as a teenager, but I suppose that is true for a lot of people. Still, I can’t help wondering if Catcher in the Rye is particular resonant for other GenXers? It strikes me as a particularly GenX kind of book. Of course, it was published at a time when many Boomers were coming of age — 1951. But even so, I wonder if that alone allows them lay particular claim to, which they no doubt will. I suppose the appeal of Catcher in the Rye as more to do with adolescence, never mind a specific generation.
Re-reading Catching in the Rye at 40 is…interesting, I suppose. Of course, it does not strike me as powerfully as it did when I was 14/15. How could it? I still like it to be sure, but at times I find Holden a bit of a whiner. I find myself wanting to smack him upside his head, and tell him to get over himself. Did adults, at the time that Catcher in the Rye was published, have a similar reaction?
Still, for a portrayal of the confusion and drama and dread and angst of adolescence, Catcher in the Rye is the gold standard. Although I can’t help wondering if that Salinger‘s intent. Certainly, if it was, it wasn’t his sole intent. Beyond being a teenager, Holden is a character on the edge of cracking up, which of course he eventually does.
One thing that struck me was the regular reference to pop culture of the time — music, movies, etc. I do this pretty regularly in my own writing. I was, at times, in my graduate writing workshops, taken to task for it, and for a time I worked to refrain from it, but I’ve learned that it is simply a natural tendency and so I no longer try to curb it.