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January 28, 2010


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I want to cry. This is even worse than Zelda Rubenstein yesterday. i think Salinger and Fitzgerald are the finest American novelists. Period. I read catcher in the Rye in middle school and it did exactly what it was supposed to do. I felt like I had discovered it. That it was a secret book written just for me. Then I was floored by his other books, which quickly over shadowed Catcher in the Rye. I know just about everything about the Glass family and can recite the family tree to you. I'm devastated.

Duncan Pflaster

I read "Catcher in the Rye" in middle school and it made me very depressed, and made me want to kill people.
Then the next year of school I was actually assigned it and we read it in class and my teacher pointed out that it was a comedy. That changed my life.

If you've felt outside the "Catcher Cult" (or even if you were in it) you might enjoy reading Frank Portman's "King Dork".


So Sad! My favorite book would never have existed without Catcher in the Rye.

King Dork by Frank Portman:

"It is every teacher’s favorite book. The main guy is a kind of misfit kid superhero named Holden Caulfield. For teachers, he is the ultimate guy, a real dreamboat. They love him to pieces. They all want to have sex with him, and with the book’s author, too, and they’d probably even try to do it with the book itself if they could figure out a way to go about it. It changed their lives when they were young. As kids, they carried it with them everywhere they went. They solemnly resolved that, when they grew up, they would dedicate their lives to spreading The Word.

It’s kind of like a cult.

They live for making you read it. When you do read it you can feel them all standing behind you in a semi-circle wearing black robes with hoods, holding candles. They’re chanting “Holden, Holden, Holden…” And they’re looking over your shoulder with these expectant smiles, wishing they were the ones discovering the earth-shattering joys of Catcher in the Rye for the very first time.”

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist

It's cool, not everyone connects with a certain writer, but I really connected with CATCHER IN THE RYE, I felt like Holden Caulfield and I realized I wasn't alone in my rage and anger and hatred for society.


Cole Matson

I never liked it either. I thought Holden was a selfish whiner. I just didn't get (and still don't) the appeal. But, if it was helpful to others, very good then. And my opinion of the book in no way affects my whole-hearted desire that the author rest in peace.

The two books that changed my life around age 13 were Les Miserables and The Lord of the Rings.


The Giver by Lois Lowry both haunted me and creeped me out.

George Washington Gomez by Americo Paredes really resonated with me at a time when my cultural identity was figuring itself out.

Dune by Frank Herbert. I used to read it annually.


Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around-nobody big, I mean-except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff-I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy.



Catcher isn't the book that got to me. Nine Stories, and his other collections did it.

A Perfect Day for Bananafish changed the way I looked at art. Utterly. I was about twelve when I read it, and about a week later, I wrote a short story with the identical plot, and then brought it to my mom. When she asked me why I copied the story but changed the names, I apparently said, "I wanted to make it my own." Which is what I had unwittingly been doing as a musician my whole life, and what I would later do as an actor, and what I'm doing now as a producer.

Scott Walters

I agree with Sean. I stumbled on "Catcher" and liked it a lot, but the short stories about the Glass family really affected me.

Scott Walters

Of course, he was WAY over 60 -- probably couldn't handle formal experimentation.

Zack Calhoon

I had one of the most visceral reactions in my life to that book. After reading the final page I threw the book at the wall and screamed "Fuck you!". It was strange, I felt tricked and betrayed by Holden. He was the phony. He was a liar and I had been manipulated by him. I've never been able to interpret if that was the writer's intent and if so whether I thought that was a good thing. Nonetheless, it provoked a strong reaction in me that I have never forgotten. I also rather enjoyed "Franny and Zoey". It's a shame he didn't write more.

Josh James

Catcher In The Rye may have saved my life, I read it when I was a beaten, bullied and tormented 14 year old kid ... and it just opened me up raw and somehow made me feel like I wasn't as alone as I was before I read the book.

I didn't read it for a class, for an assignment, I don't remember why ... I was a bookworm and I think I picked it up because it was supposed to be cool for teens to read it.

It was a lot more than that ... I just reread some quotes from the book and it brought tears to my eyes ... Brought me back, the man could write.

I recommended it to my younger brother when he was 14 and he really liked it, too.

I've read it many, many times since, but not for awhile now.

I know he was supposed to be some crazy loony hermit with major mental issues, but the fact remains he was a brilliant writer.

We went to Central Park for my son's birthday last September, and I finally visited the carousel Holden and Phoebe ride at the end ... I always put off seeing it, but I'm glad I did.

I'm sort of, I dunno, a bit out of it with all of this, Howard Zinn and JD Salinger died within a day of each other ... And Robert Parker just recently (I know, he's very different in terms of craft, but I loved his books when I was in school, too) so forgive me if I'm a bit cranky.

Health Is Wealth

I know just about everything about the Glass family and can recite the family tree to you....


I didn't read any Salinger until I was an adult and finally started casually catching up with some of the books I had managed to avoid in high school.

The feeling I had reading Salinger was that my Dad's family had suffered a great deal from the misapprehension that they were the Glasses, or certainly from the tragedy that they aspired to be the Glasses. Like, what? These are not happy people. But they are very urbane and seem to feel things a lot without having to go through a predestined tragic arc.

I love the post-WWII Americanness of Salinger's characters -- the sense that you can be a deep person without having done anything serious or even thoughtful or have anything serious happen to you (and in a place as fun and full of life as New York, rather than Beckett's post-apocalyptic landscape for instance.). It is comic, and philosophical, and existential. Or at least it strikes me that way.

And I'm so glad to have King Dork on my to-read list (along with Warlock, which you cited several months ago). Thanks!


Picked up "Catcher" at age 14 (don't remember why--I wasn't assigned it in school), read it in a day and a half, and have been re-reading it once a year ever since. I quickly devoured everything of Salinger's--and thinking I might want to be a writer, too, I quickly BECAME Salinger. I tossed off short stories about precocious kids living in Manhattan--they were, by all accounts, atrocious. I reached a point where I realized I'd never be anything but a Salinger clone if I tried to write novels and short stories. And just then, as if the Gods had decided to intervene to end my anguish, I discovered "Waiting for Godot", Beckett, and theater in general, and the rest...well, the rest is a long and quite dull story that I will be happy to tell over drinks sometime.

Thomas Garvey

Ok, you don't "get" either Catcher in the Rye or King Lear. I'm beginning to see why I always disagree with you.


Hey Thomas,

At least I read the things I decide to write about first. When you decide to stop commenting on shit you haven't bothered to actually read or see, and cut down on some of your shockingly dishonest habits like not publishing comments on your blog you can't satisfyingly refute, or routinely misrepresenting things that people you disagree with write, I'd be happy to have a conversation with you about Salinger, or Lear for that matter.


Isaac- I'm kind of with you on Catcher: I recognize the brilliance and artistry and want to grab that Holden Caulfield kid by his scrawny neck and shake him. He just reminds me of all the kids I couldn't stand (and probably too much of myself).

Thinking about it, around that time, you know what I was reading religiously? Stephen King. In particular, It. I read that the way people read Catcher. Which probably explains WAY too much.


Maybe you were too old when you read it? Even a year makes a difference. I read it in 8th grade and loved it. I still love it.
Isaac, NY Trilogy is good, but it's no Catcher in the Rye. All that tells me is that, as typical of younger people, as a teenager you preferred a focus on plot rather than character.
It's a real struggle for me to think of books that hit me hard in adolescence. The Bluest Eye shocked me a bit, but otherwise, not much sticks out. I guess that's why I'm writing a YA novel.


Sasha- that's definitely possible. I didn't read it until I was 15 or so. I might have missed my window.

I'm having a similar issue; I guess my memory is getting hazy. I'm having trouble remembering what I read in adolescence or early teenhood, vs. childhood books (Bridge to Terabitha, A Wrinkle in Time). I don't remember reading anything that I felt really captured the way I felt, the way people talk about Catcher.

Mark Schultz

I read Catcher and really liked it. Though I can't remember when I read it...think it was late Junior High. And while I did really like it, it wasn't a life-changer for me. What really hit me around that time wasn't a novel but a poem by Amiri Baraka, "Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note." That really did it. It was amazing. It was on some standardized test I was taking. In the middle of the test, I tried to memorize it, particularly that last verse because I thought, "YES!! That's life!! That's me!!" I later forgot the title, but all of the images haunted me and have continued to haunt me. In high school, I even wrote a really bad sort of homage that I tried to get published in a local goth-oriented zine. Ah, youth.

As far as novels that did something similar at or around the time, On the Road did it a little bit later. Naked Lunch, too. But nothing like Baraka's poem.


Thomas Garvey

Oh, Isaac, cut it out. I'm the honest one around here, not you. If I didn't publish one of your comments, it's because it had either already been said, or wasn't worth considering, not because I couldn't refute it. I'm pretty confident I can refute anything you've got up your sleeve. And I don't misrepresent what people write, I simply reveal their true biases in a way they don't always appreciate. Hardly the same thing.



given the great man's passing, wouldn't it be more pleasant, constructive and appropriate if you simply told us what Catcher in the Rye meant to you?

Thomas Garvey

I don't really have too much to add to the corpus of Catcher in the Rye commentary. I began reading it on a family vacation when I was 15 - a bit late, I suppose. But it still grabbed me; as in Huckleberry Finn, the adolescent voice is perfectly rendered. I read it continuously in the car as we drove around Colorado, and I remember struggling to hide my tears from my family during the terrible scene in which Holden realizes that "fuck" will always be written all over the universe, and his final collapse as he watches Phoebe ride the Central Park carousel. Still, even then I appreciated that Salinger had not only memorialized teenage angst but also undercut it; Holden was obviously grandiose, self-pitying, and simply afraid of adulthood, sex, and anything but utter moral certitude. The genius of Salinger's vision is by now undeniable - even if, as some have pointed out, "Nine Stories" may be the greater, and more deeply influential, work.


Like many others, my memory of first reading "Catcher" is super fuzzy. I remember that I liked it, but I don't remember details. How frustrating. Anyway, I don't know if anyone here read all of the the piece in yesterday's NYT about JD, but I found the excerpt below interesting:

"Mr. Salinger was controlling and sexually manipulative, Ms. Maynard wrote, and a health nut obsessed with homeopathic medicine and with his diet (frozen peas for breakfast, undercooked lamb burger for dinner). Ms. Salinger said that her father was pathologically self-centered and abusive toward her mother, and to the homeopathy and food fads she added a long list of other enthusiasms: Zen Buddhism, Vedanta Hinduism, Christian Science, Scientology and acupuncture. Mr. Salinger drank his own urine, she wrote, and sat for hours in an orgone box."

Sifting through what's fact and what's fiction about people's real lives gets sooo tiresome. I had to look up "orgone box," and then afterwards, I wished I hadn't.

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