Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger & The Catcher in the Rye

Today, the world has lost one of it's greatest treasures - J.D. Salinger has passed away.

It's difficult to put into words, even to comprehend, the great effect that Salinger's writing has had on the world. Every good book that comes out now that deals with disillusionment is compared to Catcher in the Rye, every book that deals with the intense pain of growing up. I've just finished reading Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower - all three reference Catcher.

Catcher is my husband's favorite book - one that he asked me to read when we first started dating (he was shocked that I hadn't read it already). For his birthday, I gave him a hardcover second edition of the book.

Everyone who reads this book feels connected to it. Everyone who has ever felt disconnected from the world feels connected to it, which to me is a miraculous thing. Everyone who has read and has felt one with Holden Caulfield feels one with Salinger, yet Salinger hid from the world - hid from the press, from photographers, from publishers, from everyone. This man who worked so hard to stay away from the rest of the world is still so very much at the center of our consciousness - still someone that teenagers AND adults wish that they could talk to, years and years after Catcher was published.

Catcher in the Rye is to the literary world as Led Zeppelin is to music. You listen to Led Zeppelin and you think, "This still sounds new. This still sounds fresh, modern, and innovative. This is what so many of our contemporary musicians are TRYING to sound like but will never be able to."

When you read Catcher, you think "Oh... THIS is what all of those other authors were trying to say."

I think that John Green describes the beauty of The Catcher in the Rye better than anyone when he explains that Holden is human, Holden has no one to talk to but us, and we love him for his humanity, for his imperfections, for his frailty and his loneliness.

We love him because he isn't a character - he's a human being. He is us. He is me.

J.D. Salinger, the hole that you have left will never be filled.

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