Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye

The news of J.D. Salinger's death and the picture of that iconic cover -- I had that same paperback and wore it out -- took me back to 1960 and my freshman year in college.

Catcher had been out nine years when I first met Holden Caulfield. And everything about this book spoke to me -- true and real and sweet and sad.

I went on to read more Salinger, to write papers about his work, to have long discussions as to whether or not Franny was pregnant and what was the meaning of banana fish. And what about Seymour -- See more -- what did he represent?

J. D. Salinger -- I would say he'll be missed but he hasn't been around except as a legendary recluse for the past fifty years.

It's said he continued to write -- for his own pleasure. It would be lovely to think that more stories will surface -- but somehow, I don't expect it.

Besides, what we have of his is perfect.

At some point during that freshman year of college I was also introduced to T.H. White's The Once and Future King. This is one of my very favorite books of all time -- I love the Arthurian legends/tales/stories and this sprawling, multi-leveled book is magical. I've read it over and over.

These are two more books that I particularly remember from that freshman year. I was passionate about Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged -- a bit of a rite of passage for college students. When for my Intro to Philosophy class I was assigned to write about my personal philosophy, what I produced was was a pastiche of Rand's ideas.

I still remember the discussion the professor and I had: me, burning with the true flame of Rand's Objectivism and him, wearily shaking his head and saying, "But you leave no room for compassion."

I got over Rand rather quickly. I still have several of her books but haven't been tempted to a re-read. And as I think back on it, they seem a bit . . . corny.

Mary Renault's The King Must Die and its sequel The Bull from the Sea have held up much better. The beautifully retold story of Theseus and the Minotaur, these are some of the best historical fiction around. And yes, I reread them too.

A note: as of last night, the snow was coming down with more forecast. We may lose power; we may lose internet. If I don't post, that's what's happened.
Posted by Picasa


Martin H. said...


I read that Salinger may have had as many as 15 complete manuscripts locked up in his safe. If that's true, one can't help but wonder what/if.

Let's hope the snow doesn't bring about another power-cut.

Carol@ Writers Porch/ Book House said...

Hey Vicki.......glad to see you still have power! My daughter had a real scary drive from Memphis back to Nashville yesterday. It took her 7 hours! We just have rain and cold wind here. I've never read any of these books. Hope you don't mind if I don't add them to the TBR stack, it already frightens me how large it is! HA!
I am going to add this Peggy Poe Stern as I think she is probably an author I would really enjoy reading! Stay warm! :)

My Carolina Kitchen said...

It took me back to my freshman years in college too. I was able to skip first year English and our professor introduced us to The Catcher in the Rye and also Franney and Zoey. Those were the days.

I have a copy of both books, but not my originals. I've moved too much and lost them along the way.

I see there'e a storm up your way. Hope all is well. Stay warm.

Vicki Lane said...

I'm happy to say that all our preparation paid off and though the wind howled, we awoke to only three inches of snow. We think the snow is over for now.

It would be fascinating to get a look at those manuscripts, Martin. Let's hope...

I'm almost positive you'd enjoy Peggy Poe Stern, Carol.

Those were heady days for me, Sam. So many new ideas...

Star said...

Salinger's death has certainly sent you back down memory lane Vicki, hasn't it. I think it's great that you have kept so many of your 'old' books. I never had the space to do that in my houses, but I still remember a lot of the covers.
I've never read @The Catcher in the Rye'. Do you think it would still be good to read these days?
I hope you don't suffer too much in the snow.
Blessings, Star

Vicki Lane said...

A good question, Star. I honestly don't know if it could have the impact now that it did back then. If you give it a try, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Diana said...

" a bit of a rite of passage for college students"

Hahahaha! Count me in that Re-jectivist camp! :) Never bothered to reread them, either.

Vicki Lane said...

Interesting, Diana, that Rand continues to be read by college students. (You're a LOT younger than I am.) And it's probably just as well that it continues to prove only a passing fancy with most.

I see on your profile that you're a gamer. My older son and his wife work for White Wolf and are pretty much consumed by the gaming world. An interesting phenomenon.

Vagabonde said...

I like to read your book reviews. I know of J.D. Salinger but just since I came in this country. When I was in France we would read authors like Marcel Camus, Simone de Beauvoir or Françoise Sagan. Now when I go back to Paris I don’t know the new authors there too well. I heard on the TV this morning that there would be snow from Asheville to Nashville – did it happen?

Miss_Yves said...

I have discovered Salinger too late ...I was no more a teen ager.
I feel the same regret about L. Durrell, that I only read when I was thirty years old ...
We received an author , Alain Rémond who loved "the catcher in the Rye".
In France, this author was very enjoyed , his death was the subject of many articles .

Miss_Yves said...

"no longer'a teen ager
Sorry !

Vicki Lane said...

Vagabonde -We had snow Saturday but only about 3 or 4 inches. And we didn't lose power. The roads are treacherous in some places and we are staying home.

U read Camus's L'etranger (in translation of course) and think that I must have read The Second Sex and Bonjour Tristesse at some time.

We studied Montaigne and de Maupassant and I loved Jules Verne and Dumas. I'm sure there were more -- but always in translation!

Vicki Lane said...

That was meant to be I read Camus...

I think one had to be quite young to really love Catcher in the Rye, Miss Yves.

Diana said...

Vicki, I have been a huge fan of White Wolf product since their very first release! Your son and wife do phenomenal work! (You're not bad, either. ;) )

Vicki Lane said...

Cool! I'm totally impressed by them myself!