Friday, June 19, 2009

No. 13: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Gentle Readers, I think it's time I tell you about my first crush. (Pretend like the music from Summer Place is swelling in the background. It makes the story better.) His name was Brian and we went to first grade together. I don't remember much about him except for the time he let me lift his lunchbox and it was really heavy. Then he moved away and I never saw him again. OK... it's not as good a story as I thought. Instead, let's talk about my first literary crush. His name was Holden Caulfield and he was just tortured. I knew if I could only meet him, he'd see that I wasn't a phony and I could save him from himself.

Holden, as I'm sure you know unless you've been living under a rock since birth, is the main character from J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, first published in 1951 and making foolish girls swoon ever since. If Holden were a real boy, he'd have black eyes, not just from getting beaten up by a bellman, but also from all the times he's been banned. The main reasons for the book's censorship are profanity (shocker! Holden = potty mouth), immorality and inappropriate sexual situations (among other things, Holden hires a hooker but is too angst filled to do anything with her), homosexuality (Holden's male teacher likes him a little too much) and (my favorite!) promotion of communism. The communism claim is a little vague but in 1978, parents in Washington state claimed that Holden's rebelliousness was part of a communist attempt to gain a foothold in American schools (or something).* Honestly, I think some people just don't get Holden.

Now that I'm older, I kind of see why. Holden can be a bit of a drag. When a teenage boy is too sad to have sex with a hooker, something is definitely wrong with the poor kid. Since we've already discussed how bad puberty sucks, I'll leave it alone. To his critics I say Holden is not beyond redemption, and point to his love for his sister Phoebe as proof. When I think about Holden now, I like to think that he got that job catching kids in the rye.

One last personal note to Billy Collins, I'm not the girl who left egg salad stains in his Marginalia, but I wish I was.

* To read more about this enticing ban, check out 100 Banned Books by Karolides, Bald, & Sova.


  1. I was just saying I need to dig my copy of Catcher out and read it. It's been years. I love all the reasons folks have wanted to ban this one. Profanity is my particular favorite since I cuss like a sailor...maybe I should be banned as well. Oh, I like all the other stuff, too...commies, cussin', whorin'...all of that stuff is just too good for anyone to read about. Great job, always informative and entertaining.

  2. You're moving up to my list of "must reads". Loved the Billy Collins reference.

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