Thursday, January 28, 2010

Catcher in the Rye

Catcher in the Rye
Originally uploaded by chowmeyow
The very first book for adults that I ever read was the 1980's bestseller, Scruples, by Judith Krantz. I was 12 years old and the only reason that the librarian let me take it out was because I lied and told her that my mom asked me to bring it home. She believed me. I went home and over the next week, completely ignored my math homework and stayed up way past my bedtime reading about the sordid antics of a an illegitimate girl-woman who wreaks havoc on the lives of the 3 women she believes MAY or MAY NOT have kept her from her glorious past. It was steamy, badly written and completely over my head and I could NOT get enough.

What followed in the months to follow was a series of bad bestsellers that kept me bleary-eyed and utterly entertained - Stephen King, Danielle Steele, Lawrence Saunders. If there was an air-brushed picture of a temptress on the cover or a play on the word knife in the title, it was in my book bag faster than a fat kid on a Smartie.

Then, my sister brought home a book that she was being "forced" to read for school. She lamented the task to my father over dinner. He implored her to read it stating, emphatically, that it was one of the best pieces of American literature of the 20th century. My interest was piqued.

That night, I crept furtively into her room to take a look. The book was smaller than the ones I'd come to know over the past few months, brittle to the touch - a paperback - and its pages smelled of dust. Where was the picture on the cover? The play on words for a title? The author photo? How could this be a masterpiece, I thought as I smuggled it under my shirt and headed towards my room to examine it more closely.

By midnight of that night, my life had changed.

Today, the reclusive author of that work of art - one other greatest of the last century - J.D. Salinger, died at his home in Cornish, NH. Tonight, as a tribute, I am going to climb into bed and read that book from cover to cover in an effort to remind myself that literature - great literature - can come in the plainest of packages.


  1. I have had that book in my hands many times and have yet to read it. This inspires me to do so. Thank you. I also remember scooping some of my brother's homework reading assignments. The one that comes to mind is 'Flowers for Algernon'. Beautiful story. I'd love to pick that up again.

  2. A while back, I heard it was banned from the schools ??

  3. Love your blog, Laura! You're a great writer!

  4. Thanks, for the compliment, Lynne! I love writing it.....

    Catcher was banned for quite some time from various US public school system's on the grounds that it message was "misleading to young adults". Apparently, the issue was of a "sexual" nature (Holden has some scenes with a prostitute) but many believe,that at its core, it is the voice of a character who is struggling mentally is what disturbs the most.

    I think Holden's voice is original, funny and deeply honest. He doesn't always take the straightest path but his observations are genuine to the core. That makes people touchy.