Tuesday, February 2, 2010

J.D. Salinger

JD Salinger died last week in NW New Hampshire away from the public eye - just like he liked it. Unable to cope with the limelight that came with the success of The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger all but disappeared from society. With the exception of a late 70's interview, the eccentric author was really never heard from again. In Salinger's mind, his writing was for his own personal enjoyment. Having to share these musings with the world was far to invasive for him. There is a line in Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park by Dr. Malcolm (that's Jeff Goldblum in the movie, kids...) that says, "What is so great about discovery? It is a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores...". Salinger was most certainly scarred by his own discovery. Regardless, I'm sure he lived a very peaceful life out of sight.

Whether he wanted to or not, Salinger crafted one of the greatest literary characters of all time in Holden Caulfield. The insecure, foul-mouthed, prep school flunkie led readers through a vivid description of the span of 4-5 days that I may never fully comprehend. Considering it has been my favorite book from the moment I read it in 10th grade English, I wish I could sit around and talk about The Catcher in the Rye ad nauseum with others just to see what people pulled away from it. I read it about once every 3 or 4 years, and I'm back in it again as we speak still reaching for answers. It never fails to make me laugh, make me sad, and make me think. I feel like a leper holding the book on the subway each day as sadly, the book carries some negative connotation for me, too. The name Mark David Chapman may not register with everyone, but he was a troubled soul and obsessive to say the least. On December 8, 1980, Chapman made his way around Manhattan retracing the steps of Holden Caulfield and eventually ended his day at The Dakota apartment building. It was there that he gunned down John Lennon with his copy of The Catcher in the Rye at his side...
Nevertheless, this post is about Salinger. His writing was always vivid and his characters always numbing. Whether it was Caulfield, Seymour Glass, or Franny & Zooey, his lead characters knew how to hold your attention. Thanks to Seymour Glass, I am forever haunted/confused/disturbed by A Perfect Day For Bananafish (and Whitney is too after I gave her my thoughts on it.....). These characters may not have been your cup of tea, especially when it was required reading for school, but they deserve a second look. Like I said, I am plowing through The Catcher once again in Salinger's honor. Holden sure looks different to me at 30 than he did at 15, but I enjoy him just the same....

What really knocks me out is a book, when you're all done reading it, you wished the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.

Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye