A very fine friend of mine has written an excellent post about Catcher in the Rye and its recent deceased author.
There are many things that ought to draw me to Catcher in the Rye. First of all, it is somewhat short. My reading habits as an adult have suffered a great deal. I would blame tv, but I can't do that to my precious picture box. It is my problem with sitting in one spot and only reading. Got to get over that.
The second point is that my favourite people have talked about this novel a great deal. Wes Anderson was inspired by it for the character in Rushmore. Holden Caulfield is referred to by many people. I see it all over the internet with handles that must be in the thousands now.... h_caulfield_1887 and so forth. Clearly there is something about the literary figure that has caused so many to believe that they don't merely relate to Caulfield, but that the character was written with them in mind.
Probably the biggest potential draw is the author. I admire anyone with the restraint to fall for allure of fame. I didn't think JD Salinger was alive at all. I had heard so much about how mysterious he was... much the way I've heard so much about Thomas Pynchon (which I also have the guilt of never having gotten past page 287 of Gravity's Rainbow... another failure of reading on my part). I adore mysterious people. Those who insist on being different, who embrace their less endearing qualities, who are comfortable accepting others calling them assholes. I'm genetically predisposed to becoming a crazed hermit, so it makes sense that I study such people. I may find myself living at the top of a mountain in a comfortable little shack myself.
I feel like I'm missing something because I can never be bothered to get past the first 3 chapters. For whatever reason the writing did grab me at first. I've had a copy that I've kept with me and travelled great distances with, and yet have never finished reading.
My friend suggests that reading Catcher in the Rye should be done in one sitting... I suppose that is the problem for me. Despite many grey days here in Vancouver, and no employment at the moment, I still cannot relax with a novel. What happened to those long days at the family cabin where my mother could never get my nose out of a book? I used to absorb anything that came along. I started with Hardy Boys, but when I discovered dad's copy of victorian erotica.... well I learned a great deal more than a 13 year old boy ought to about sex. The knowledge that humans are all perverts and that it has been going on a long time didn't help me much through the trials of junior and high school.
I do remember three novels that did impact me and I must have read in my early 20s when my university english prof was inspiring for a time. Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers was tough to get through, but ultimately made some sense. I'd have to re-read it to explain more... but I did like the idea of being a beautiful loser myself... which gives you some sense of the damage ultimately done by the aforementioned junior and senior high years. I also read and re-read A Soldier in the Great War. It explained to me at least the simultaneous disgust and adventurous draw towards violence. I am now so grateful that violence in my life is mostly limited to video games. And the final novel that I can say has had a lasting impact was/is Been down so long it looks like up to me by Richard Farina. He only published this one novel, to my knowledge, and then died after a fight with his girlfriend and an unfortunate motorcycle ride... which to me is number two of the most tragic deaths that I have heard of. (number one is still too personal).
Farina's novel was possibly the most inspiring read for me, and I read it because of a fellow treeplanter, right in the thick of questioning my existence. Those hard days seem so simple now in hindsight.
The point is, I've lost my reading habits and my love for literature, but clearly I long for it. I must get back to reading before I get too much older.
Currently I'm reading Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces, in hopes that it will re-inspire my love of stories. Otherwise, I fear becoming dull. I'll try to read faster. I've got a few Salinger novels to absorb.