David's Reviews > The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
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Jan 28, 10

bookshelves: pants-crapping-awesome

Okay. So it's like this. My not-just-GR-friend-but-very-real-friend brian called and told me that J.D. Salinger had died maybe about a half hour ago (as I begin this 'review'). This sounds immensely absurd, pathetically sentimental, and embarrassing to admit, but I'm glad I heard it from him and not from some animatronic talking head with chin implants and immobile hair on the nightly news or from an obnoxiously matter-of-fact internet blurb, commenting like a machine on how Holden Caulfield has lately become less relevant to Generation Y or Z or AA or whatever stupid generation we're up to now.

At first when brian told me, I thought, 'Oh, well... He was old. He was (probably) batshit crazy anyway. It was his time to check out, I guess.' Really. What difference does it make? He's been dead to the world since the mid-1960s. Before I was even born. A strong case could be made that he truly died in spirit when he started stalking Elaine Joyce on the set of 1980s sitcom Mr. Merlin. And yet... I still clung to this (still technically living) legend as if he were some kind of talisman I could wear around my neck, a good luck charm to ward off phonies and all manner of soulless dreck who populate this despicable world, writing 'fuck' on grammar school walls (and metaphorical equivalents).

After returning for a few minutes to my soul-deadening job, which -- when you really get right down to it -- is just another way of killing time until I join Salinger in oblivion, I started getting all funny-feeling about it. At the risk of sounding like an adult contemporary power ballad written by Jim Steinman, with synthesized violins in the background, I began to feel as if my adolescence had finally come to an end. I guess it's about time. I'm thirty-eight years old, and yet I look at the people who are my age -- hell, who are even much younger than I am -- and who appear in all particulars to be adults, and I grow frightened/alarmed that they've graduated to the 'next level': they're mating and spawning and drawing up wills and completing their own tax returns and investing money and dealing (gracefully -- or with stoicism?) with the deaths of friends and relatives... and even some of them have died themselves of terrible diseases -- the kinds of diseases which are not content with merely claiming lives but which demand the optimal human suffering (the optimal dehumanization) before they cash in.

So of course. I love all of Salinger's writing, but his value in my life has far surpassed that of a 'mere' literary pastime. He has kept me company for many years when I felt left behind by the exigencies of time and the claims of 'maturity.' In my head, I still picture myself as a nineteen-year-old, and I'm shocked again and again when somehow every other moron on the planet seems to be under the ridiculous impression that I'm a thirty-eight-year-old man. With graying hair. And deepening crow's feet. What idiots!

I know all of this shit I'm saying is cliché, cliché, cliché. Lots and lots of people feel a special connection to Salinger's writing -- for just the reasons I described -- and lots and lots of people hate his writing because they find it grating and immature (Catcher in the Rye) or pretentious and ponderous (the Glass family stories). But I felt compelled to commemorate today in some way -- however trite and superfluous -- because I sense again and again (with the relatively recent deaths of some of my heroes, like Ingmar Bergman and Jacques Derrida, for instance) that I am entering a world that is no longer safeguarded by the great men and women of the elder generation; I am entering a world in which I am now the elder... with my own responsibilities and obligations. Yes, this still frightens me, but I'll always have Salinger's very particular and empathetic world to which to retreat when I have sacrificed too much of myself to a real world I'll never completely understand or feel at home in.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 57) (57 new)

message 1: by David (last edited Jan 28, 2010 12:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David P.S. If the New York Times even DARES to do one of its obligatory postmortem slash-and-burn op-ed pieces on J.D. Salinger in the next few days -- you know, where an 'esteemed' literary personage peeps out from behind a bush, makes sure the coast is clear, and then commences to lament how Salinger is incredibly overrated and irrelevant -- I will go to the NYT offices in March and personally kick its ass.

The whole publication's ass. Kicked. By me.

message 2: by Misha (new)

Misha I'm usually too shy to comment on reviews written by people I'm not "friends" with, but I wanted to say this one in particular was quite lovely. I don't have any strong feelings about Salinger, but I understand thoroughly the sense of still being an adolescent nearly two decades after high school, and in a sense being left behind by those who have married, had children, bought condos, etc. It's a frightening thing to lose our heroes and to have the reins of the world turned over to us. I know I'm not ready for it.

I offer my condolences on the loss of one of your literary heroes.

message 3: by David (last edited Jan 28, 2010 12:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Thanks, Misha! It's good to know there are other adolescent adults out in the world.

Kimley Oh, David, every time you come close to convincing us of your cold, cold heart, you go ahead and write something beautifully real like this.

No matter how "expected" a death is, it always still has an element of shock and unreality to it.

message 5: by brian (last edited Jan 28, 2010 01:21PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

brian   man, you're shameless.
you'll even exploit the death of your hero for some votes.

great review/essay, you old fuck.
now gulp down some viagra and go fuck yourself.

here's the first nytimes obit:


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Lovely, David. I knew what he meant to you, so sorry.

I think I'm going to be grieving in a similar fashion when Bradbury takes his leave.

Dave Russell I guess all his obits have to mention the Lennon connection.

message 8: by David (last edited Jan 28, 2010 01:40PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Seriously... Bradbury is still alive? I really thought he was dead.

Edit* Yup. I guess he's still alive. In a manner of speaking...

Kasia brian wrote: "man, you're shameless.
you'll even exploit the death of your hero for some votes.
wow. "

Cut the jokes, Brian. THe Book Huntress must be stopped.

message 10: by Ademption (last edited Jan 28, 2010 01:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ademption I hope Salinger didn't have an obedient version of Max Brod in his life, i.e. the literary equivalent of a porn buddy. Here's to the potential, non-canonical posthumous novels.

Ademption @David

That Bradbury's clearly taxidermied.

message 12: by David (last edited Jan 28, 2010 01:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

David Yeah, Evan, I'm kinda on the fence about what to hope for. With respect to Salinger's mental stability later in life (or alleged lack thereof), any extant writings lying around his house could be like the literary equivalents of Godfather Part III or the Star Wars prequels. I want a panel of trusted authors (and Salinger fans) to inspect said writings and decide whether they are worthwhile (to some extent) and deserve to be published or whether they're just long self-referential screeds about Salinger's poopies and should be burned immediately.

message 13: by Ademption (last edited Jan 28, 2010 01:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ademption David, while I'm in agreement with your author-quorum-cum-inquistion for the purpose of safeguarding Salinger's reputation, it begs the question as to who's actually up for the task. Lemony Snicket?

Even Coppola and Lucas had grown so self-indulgent, they didn't have any idea that they were doing harm to their already hallowed works. Some authors just cresting fame and pure adoration would have to do. Do you have a Harlem Globetrotters lineup, a living author dreamteam, that could accomplish the task? Because I don't, and now I can't stop thinking about it...

or it is time to get off the clock, and get drunk in memory of Salinger instead.

message 14: by David (last edited Jan 28, 2010 02:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Davidor it is time to get off the clock, and get drunk in memory of Salinger instead

message 15: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen Brace yourselves- Joyce Maynard is now going to publish her letters and everything. I am pretty sure she was waiting for this before doing so.

message 16: by Dave (last edited Jan 28, 2010 02:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dave Russell Message 9:

Weekend at Ray's

edit: Sorry, Yvette.

Jackie "the Librarian" I'm still waiting to feel like a grown-up, too, David.

Ademption @Jen
I'll probably read it anyway, thinking "Bitch!" the entire time.

message 19: by Kathy (new)

Kathy I don't think my husband (age 65) feels like an adolescence but he feels like a part of his adolescence died today.

message 20: by Michelle (last edited Jan 28, 2010 03:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Michelle Awww, your beautiful review brought me out of vote retirement, David. R.I.P., Salinger♥

message 21: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 28, 2010 04:31PM) (new)

I gave this to my boyfriend a couple of weeks ago because he'd never read it and then I felt scared that he wouldn't like it because I thought it was perfect for him. I'm really good at getting scared irrationally, lately. He loved it, thank goodness. Especially the scene which explains the title. And the part where Spencer looks at him like he just beat him at ping-pong or something.

David, I think you should be the only one on the committee that decides if any more of his writings get published. If you need me to write a letter or something, let me know...

Jesse Cliché or not, it feels very felt, so thank you for writing it. I haven't been able to read anything of all that's appearing across the web in light of his passing--it feels so dry, dead--it's nice to read an impassioned, very subjective voice explaining why exactly this is a big deal for so many people.

I also wanted to voice my agreement with your last paragraph--that's exactly how I've been feeling the last two months, with the passing, in quick succession, of individuals whose work I particularly admire (Eric Rohmer, Kate McGarrigle, Robin Wood, now J.D.). It's such an odd, and oddly unsettling feeling.

message 23: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell David wrote: "P.S. If the New York Times even DARES to do one of its obligatory postmortem slash-and-burn op-ed pieces on J.D. Salinger"

I'll hold your coat!

message 24: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Beautiful review....I got really incredibly irritated earlier in the day at a literary writer type who was all 'I didn't know him and CATCHER SUCKED' because they're oh-so-edgey, and it just makes me irate when people go 'CATCHER SUCKS' without knowing about any of his other work or how profoundly he influenced not just modern American fiction but social discourse (almost everyone's voice on the web owes a huge debt to Salinger). Anyway, v well-done. I might reread Catcher later this evening....it was one of the first 'grown-up' books I ever read, along with Portnoy's Complaint (heh).

David Thank you to EVERYONE on this thread for your comments. It's great to hear from people who feel the same way about Salinger and even from people who didn't care for him but understand the sentiment.

Now please... let Woody Allen and Jean-Luc Godard live for a long, long time...

Stephen David, very moving. I didn't know you had it in you. The stories are my favorite. Beautifully written, as always, even if Brian's possibly unfounded accusations are true. Something tells me they are not, because you actually revealed something about you.

karen i always said if i ever freaked out and had a kid (not gonna happen), i would name it esmé. because i am french. and it is my favorite story.

Ademption The view from a few Caesars later is somewhat better (Don't ask me tomorrow though). I poured out some vodka for my homie who was sent up the river.

message 30: by Ademption (last edited Jan 29, 2010 06:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ademption Man, every time I see a picture of Laura Bush with her demented smile, I always think of Jack Nicholson as the Joker.

Me too. I chalk it up to cognitive dissonance leaking onto her face.

The Onion did a decent Salinger "obit."

message 31: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jan 29, 2010 06:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio

Stephen YOu guys. That's not fair. LOL

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Evan wrote: "The Onion did a decent Salinger "obit.""

Pretty good. Reminded me that they did this, too.

Ademption Pretty good. Reminded me that they did this, too."

That was so beautiful. Thanks, MFSO!

Ademption Speculation on the rest of Salinger's works has already begun with "Bright Lights, Big City" author Jay McInerney weighing in.

McInterney would never have been on my inquistion dream-team.

message 36: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jan 29, 2010 11:07AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Matt wrote: "Freakish. I'm glad I'm not alone."

I've also thought the same thing about this creepy infomercial mogul:

[image error]


Not the best shot of Ron's Joker-face. See him in action: http://www.youtube.com/results?hl=en&...

David I am happy to say that I went to Borders today and their Salinger shelf was almost depleted. All copies of The Catcher in the Rye were sold out.

Too bad great men and women have to die before people decide to remember them again.

Kimley Alvy: Whose Catcher in the Rye is this?
Annie: Well let's see now. If it has my name on it, then I guess it's mine.
Alvy: ...You know, you wrote your name in all my books 'cause you knew this day was gonna come.
Annie: Well, uh, Alvy, uh, you wanted to break up just as much as I do.
Alvy: No question about it. I think we're doing the mature thing, without any doubt.
Annie: Now look, all the books on death and dying are yours and all the poetry books are mine.

From Annie Hall

message 39: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jan 30, 2010 02:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio And hopefully it'll get people to branch out to his other work as well. I still haven't read Raise High.... I've definitely been reminded to through the terrible news.

message 40: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary I bought a hardback copy of this book not long ago, because my paperback was in pieces, I've read it so much. I ended up reading it for our bookclub,and we had a great discussion about it,and then (when they let me) I read it aloud to my 2 sons. They loved it. My youngest wanted my old paperback in pieces. He has a rubber band around it to hold it together on his shelf.

message 41: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary I am definately in mourning.

message 42: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary I love Annie Hall. I love Woody Allen! His movies are great!

message 43: by Gary (last edited Jan 30, 2010 03:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary The Onion Obit.....goddamn it made me laugh.....

Bunch Of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger
January 28, 2010 | Issue 46•04


CORNISH, NH—In this big dramatic production that didn't do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud. "He had a real impact on the literary world and on millions of readers," said hot-shot English professor David Clarke, who is just like the rest of them, and even works at one of those crumby schools that rich people send their kids to so they don't have to look at them for four years. "There will never be another voice like his." Which is exactly the lousy kind of goddamn thing that people say, because really it could mean lots of things, or nothing at all even, and it's just a perfect example of why you should never tell anybody anything.

Sarah Null David wrote: "Yeah, Evan, I'm kinda on the fence about what to hope for. With respect to Salinger's mental stability later in life (or alleged lack thereof), any extant writings lying around his house could be l..."

Can I vote for this comment?

Sarah Null karen wrote: "i always said if i ever freaked out and had a kid (not gonna happen), i would name it esmé. because i am french. and it is my favorite story."

Sadly, I fear many people would think you named it after the Twilight character.

MFSO: I just had a horrible flash of a spoof on the Lady GaGa song... "My Joker Face."

karen wait, what???

there is an esme in twilight???!!!???

great - now i can never breed. i am the end of the line, too...

Sarah Null Yes, Esme is Edward's "mother."

karen ugh. i give up.

David Seymour Glass is still available, brissette. But ouch. Those omens.

How about Boo Boo??

karen only if the kid is an accident...

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