Salinger, My Man

I originally wrote this when I was working for The Appalachian two years ago, but I have tweaked it a bit, as the message kind of got lost through the editing process. I wrote this before he died, so I just haven’t addressed it. I don’t think I’m ready to yet.

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish 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. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
– Holden Caulfield

You’ve probably heard of Catcher in the Rye. Whether the knowledge is from high school English courses or from a lyrically overcrowded Billy Joel song, most know the book by name.

Stumbling across this treasure of a book happens to everyone a different way. My parents and a lot of their friends found to be a coming of age story for their generation. Others have been forced to read it for class and have “ya know… kinda liked it.” There’s even a school of thought that Rye sucks, one of which I have hostilely been brought into on multiple occasions when I mention how much I love the little thing. Some people really hate this book. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people call Holden Caulfield a whiny bastard.

But, ah! Then there are the seldom few who, after reading Catcher in the Rye, haven’t been able to get it out of their heads.

After I finished Rye, I was then and forevermore smitten with Salinger’s style. The book was perfect – flawless from beginning to end. And as opposed to Team “Fuck Holden,” I found the most lovable aspect to be Caulfield, the tragic hero of the story. He’s someone you want to know, despite the fact that he exists on a fictional plane.

This is how Salinger sucks you in, and it’s how he keeps you there. He has the uncanny ability to create the most interesting and realistic characters. It seems effortless.

Franny and Zooey, another of Salinger’s books, finds the author creating an entire family of wild, messy, flawed, beautiful, and equally relatable characters as Holden. Franny and Zooey are only two of the many members of the Glass family. Nothing about their lives seems too much out of the ordinary. However, the interaction of the characters and the way they react to the events in their lives is riveting. They could be watching a pot of water boil and they’d still be fascinating.

Whether you love him or hate him, Salinger has a distinct literary voice that our generation may or may not pay enough attention to. Actually, no. I’m going to go ahead and say it: our generation unequivocally takes him for granted.

I find that fewer and fewer of my fellow students know about Salinger, let alone read him. Why? None of the four novels sitting on my desk are larger than one of those giant heaps of paper that make up the travesty that is the Twilight series.

Forget your hesitations and the opinions of that asshole hipster friend of yours who thinks that loving Rye is too mainstream these days. You won’t lose more than a day of your life by giving one of his four novels a shot. Maybe you’ll like it. If you don’t, maybe I’ll personally write in a story line involving fangs, glitter, and a woman with the personality of a plastic bag.

Salinger’s other works:
Nine Stories
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction


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