October 2021


Missing Rye

It’s always amazing to me how often I must remind myself that the experiences I had growing up were not the same experiences that everybody else had growing up.

Furthermore I have a gap as large as Beverly Hills in my knowledge that are laid bare whenever somebody makes a 90210 reference—never mind my pop music ignorance.

Recently a friend loaned me the first season of “How I Met Your Mother.” I watched a couple episodes and found it… ok, at best. My friend called it the “friends” of this television era: cumulatively I’ve watched less than 15 minutes of “friends” in my lifetime. I know that there’s some long haired blond girl on the show who is annoying—but then again, annoying probably describes all of the characters on “friends”. I quit “How I Met Your Mother” when my friend accidentally let it slip that the show is now in its fourth season and “Mom” has not yet been met. Given my lack of interest in the characters, I would have quit no matter what.

Enough about that—usually I focus on literature.

A couple of weeks ago I caught the news that a judge prevented a faux-sequel to the book, “The Cather in the Rye” from being published in the United States. This news kind of caught me off guard because usually judges error on the side of publication rather than muzzling a writer. I also realized that I have never read Cather in the Rye.

It seems sort of shocking—and I actually went looking for it on the English language shelves of Jena’s Thalia, only to discover it wasn’t in stock. I’d even had to go and find out who the author was: J.D. Salinger.

There is, however, a random connection here: I started rereading one of my favorite teen-ish oriented gay novels, Entries From a Hot Pink Notebook. I like this book—not because it reflects my upbringing, but because it’s a charming story about coming to terms with oneself in high school (something I did not do), in a dysfunctional and poor family. I was putting the book down when I read the back and realized it had a Catcher in the Rye headline:

What if Holden Caulfield were coming of age—and coming out—in the Reagan Years?

It’s only because of the news coverage of the book in the States that I knew this was a Catcher in the Rye reference. It’s also made me immensely curious: what is it about this book that has made it so popular.

And how did it pass me by?

6 comments to Missing Rye

  • G

    I read Catcher when I think t is best read: as a young teen. I loved all Salinger’s work with a passion. But it’s been 30 years and it grows dim.
    If you read them (and I loved Franny and Zooey) tell us how you feel about them looking at them as an adult.
    It is just a perfect book for the disaffected teen- although now I wonder whether it is dated?
    I often realize that what I thought was an ordinary “background” is quite unusual, although perhaps more ordinary in its unusualness in the US than it would be anywhere else.

  • disenchanted

    Oh wow. I wrote my senior high school thesis on The Catcher in the Rye. Although, I have to agree with G, it might be a book better read as a teenager than as an adult. I have a sneaking suspision that Holden would come across as whiney and annoying to an adult reader … but then maybe I need to re-read the book?

  • How interesting that you write about “Catcher” at this time, as I am just now happen to be re-reading the novel for the first time since high school!

    I find myself a little bored on this second reading, so many years later — I agree that its highest impact was as a teen.

  • The Catcher in the Rye shows us what happens when a child grows up without love. The unloved child becomes an unloving, and unlovable, adult.

    If you got love as child, you probably wonder what all the fuss is about. Why does Caulfield wallow in self-pity? Why doesn’t he just pull himself together? Why doesn’t he just buckle down and get a life? Can’t he see the abundant riches which life can offer? Why is he so clueless?

    Well, that’s the kind of person you become when parents are distant, critical, hypocritcal, and…well, just assholes. Alienation and delinquency tend to appear at this stage of life for a reason. The unloved child begins his journey to loveless adult.

    The narrator spends two days pondering a life that is supposed to offer richness and reward, yet seems meaningless–the word he uses, endlessly, is “phony”. The visit to the prostitute is Salinger’s peak statement about the phoniness of love. Caulfield can’t even get fake love right.

    Without love, no wonder life seems meaningless. Caulfield, in a roundabout way, recognises this at the end of the novel. But he doesn’t reach a solution to his problem. Some readers find that annoying; this reader finds it realistic.

    Children flourish when swathed in a blanket of love. If there are holes in that blanket of love, kids can feel them, quick. They become jhighly sensitive to phony emotions. It jades them, and they turn cynical. A dreadful waste of a soul.

    If you grew up in a happy family, which instilled a sense of wonder and joy in the world, you will throw this book at a wall halfway through. If you are a child of the self-absorbed, this book resonates.

    The Public Examinations Board of South Australia assigned this as a text when I was in the 11th grade. I lapped it up.

  • One of my friends here in Weimar has a copy of it in English–hopefully I will borrow it and read it, because now I am really curious. Thumbs pressed…

  • […] recently confessed to the fact that I’d never read Catcher in the Rye – actually, it was back in July that I made this confession—and the truth is that I read the […]