Monday, February 1, 2010

Holden Caulfield is my* ideal boy!

(*Not my ideal boy.  My mother's ideal boy. ) Well, not even really my mother but rather the teenage version of my mother.  You see, the copy of The Catcher in the Rye that I have was actually my mom's copy when she was in high school.  That alone would make it special; however, it is practically invaluable to me because her personal notes and thoughts are penciled in it.  Yes, my mother inscribed the inside cover with, "Holden Caulfield is my ideal boy!", in her curly, cursive, teen-aged handwriting.  Diving into the text, you will find other little notes she wrote, as well as the pencil markings of her favorite passages.

I just couldn't let the death of J.D. Salinger slip by without mention.  Of course I am sure he would be appalled by a blog entry written about him, but I'm not here to write about him or judge his seemingly strange actions after he became successful.  I mean, I sort of understand why he would want to become so reclusive.  Heck, sometimes I want to run away to a farm and escape modern life altogether too.  I definitely don't blame him for shunning the spotlight.  I do want to say that I am thankful for his writing (I was going to put his picture up here, but I read an article that reported how disgusted he was at seeing his picture over and over on the jacket of Catcher and so he asked the publisher to take it off!).  Anyhow, all this news about his death has unearthed my submerged affection for Holden Caulfield and Catcher.

I can't quite decide if I love the book itself or if what I truly love is how much the book meant to me when I first read it.  I have trouble remembering if I read it before it was ever assigned or if my first reading was a required one.  Regardless of that point, I'll never forget feeling that the book was somehow written just for me, just for the point I was at in my life.  Sure, my mom talked about how much she loved it--but I felt deep down, no one else out there could enjoy the book as much as I was enjoying it.  I remember so vividly that stage in my life (sophomore year of high school to be exact).  That was a year of teenage transitions--old friends falling away, picking up new friends, etc.  But I think it was also a time of self-exploration--I started writing poetry and really loved my English teacher (Ms. Perkins!!) who encouraged my writing.  Yes, it really was the perfect time to pick up Catcher, the perfect time to realize that there were young people (even if they were fictional) who had been through it all before me, young people who showed me it was ok if you didn't want to become one of those phonies.   

I come back to the book often.  I used to have a tradition going of reading it once a year (which hopefully I'll get back to).  I find that as I get older, different parts of the book resonate with me; different parts of the book help me figure things out that I happen to be going through at the particular place I happen to be in.  But always, reading my mom's copy, it's feels nice to know that she had been here too, in various stages of her life, and she turned out more than alright (undoubtedly with a little help from Holden).

So thank you J.D., thanks for Catcher.


  1. I loved that book too. I went on to read all of his other works. Then I did every report possible on the works of Salinger. I like that you read it every year. Maybe I will start the same :D

  2. Cool! It's so nice to hear about other people's love for Salinger. I think I need to re-read Catcher for the umpteenth time too!