The more I get into writing and what it takes to deliver a story or article that I both feel deeply passionate about and simultaneously want to write about (often two different things), the more I am critically examining literary favorites that (to me) are important, and what makes them so. I mean, I love the works of Edgar Allen Poe, but I also love “Cemetery World” by Cliff Simak and while it’s no “Fall of the House of Usher”, believe me when I say I am probably the only person on Earth who has them both side-by-side on his bookshelf. Because these books carry some lesson or tale of intrigue that I glean from them every time I open them again. I want my books to carry something to the reader, some lesson or warning, perhaps something unexpected that makes their little eyes pop open in the middle of the night and look under the bed…Just to be sure. But the last thing I would ever want to be is the kind of pseudo-intellectual two-faced bigot that can’t pull his head out of his own ass for ten seconds to see that he wasn’t the center of the universe.
Having said that…
The Catcher in the
Think about that figure for a second: This book generates hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. It’s a friggin’ literary ATM machine that’s barely 275 pages long (I don’t count the index, sorry). Cemetery World is barely 150 pages, and it’s got ROBOTS, yet The Catcher in the
I first read The Catcher in the
Exactly two days later I woke up in a perfectly foul mood because I felt as if somebody had left a flotilla of warm ejaculate in my coffee and failed to mention it until after I downed a cup. I was halfway between the decision to either perform fellatio on my .22 rifle, or crawl to the top of the school gymnasium with it and see what my chances were on catching the English Lit. teacher (that bastard) unawares when I realized that almost everybody else in class was raving about the profound effect this book had on them. I guess that’s what happens when your hormones are in full bloom and you aren’t getting laid: Your mind starts to play tricks on you. My report on Catcher in the
I have never liked Catcher in the
About a million people have suggested I read it, and when I reply that I have they always look at me like I missed something because I don’t speak in an awed hush with an air of reverence at the mention of the title. They get REALLY gobsmacked when I say I didn’t think much of the book in the first place. “But Holden is so much like you” they have said, “He’s a loner, an outcast. He does his own thing, and fuck the rest of the world. I thought you would be able to identify with it.”
Now how the fuck am I supposed to reply to that? Holden doesn’t “do his own thing”, he just sort of drifts with the goddam wind. He doesn’t care one whit about where he has been, where he’s going, what’s going on or the feelings of those around him. At my utter teenage worst when I was one of the Wild Boys, I’ve never been kicked out of several prep schools, gone to New York, hid out from my parents, been tricked into paying some broad’s bar bill because I was a young idiot, failed to procure a hooker on my own and been so stupid that I didn’t know where the ducks went during winter. I mean, that takes a SPECIAL kind of stupid, the real short-bus variety. The Protagonist is 16 years old, for fuck’s sake. What the hell do you know about ANYTHING at 16 except who the latest pop tart is and how Sally from down the street is starting to get her boobies. Salinger tries to pass Holden off as some sort of teen messiah on a pilgrimage to truth, but if falling miserably short in the life achievement category while spouting sanctimonious rhetoric and bar hopping in between pissing off everybody who ever gave a shit about you constitutes deification then I’m the fucking Dalai Llama. Holden spends the entire book wandering around
The book ends just as free-form fart suckingly eyeball-gougingly apathetic as it started, with Holden just looking around thinking that he “Sort of misses everybody” (since he was such a loner at school, I can only surmise that the “somebodys” he’s referring to are imaginary). So what’s the message here, “life sucks”? What the hell does Salinger think he’s telling us that we don’t already know? Kids try drinking? Yeah, that’s breaking news. Kids have sex? I knew that when I was 13 and having sex. Regularly. (but that’s another story). Holden just tries time and again, and blows it every time. He seems to be altruistic, every time he turns around he’s paying other people’s bar bill or giving cash to nuns, but I think this is J.D. Salinger’s’ way of making us think Holden has at least SOME redeeming qualities. Sorry J.D., not even close. You missed that one by a damn mile.
Holden is the vanguard for the Goth movement, in spirit if not dress code. The whole book is one long narrative about Holden’s apathy toward life, living, even breathing. He’s the walking poster child of every angst-ridden teenager who swears their parents don’t understand them, and how deep they are because they listen to the Cure (or the Doors, depending on how old they are) and read Nietzsche, (gaahhh!) wear all black, dye their hair black and run around crying “Oh, the crimson woe of it all!”. About the only thing that I got out of Holden’s character was that he had at some point probably been tied to a chair and beaten over the head for about 6 hours by a giant gorilla with a baseball bat made out of frozen stupid. Whoever spawned a child this dumb needs to give serious consideration to alternative forms of birth control, perhaps such as drowning your other offspring to insure they don’t turn around and breed more apathetic idiots.
Oh, and to J.D. Salinger, if you’re reading this: I realize your what I’m going to charitably call a book was written in the 50’s, and was probably considered cutting edge at the time. Well and all. But it certainly has not aged well, and I don’t care how rich you are, Philip K. Dick shits on you.
But then again what do I know, I actually read “Fahrenheit 451” and “Slaughterhouse Five”.