Saturday, January 30, 2010

Is it OK if you Hate a Book Everyone Loves?

It was a week of author deaths. Not that I am personally tracking them but I subscribe to a "Dead Letter" an electronic newsletter that emails me information about the works of recently deceased writers, actors and musicians. Kinda a weird tribute letter. So recently authors J. D. Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye), Howard Zinn (A People's History of the United States) and Louis Auchincloss (The Education of Oscar Fairfax) died, all at ripe old ages.

Since Salinger died there has been a lot of speculation about what he left behind, literary buffs are salivating over what might be locked away in "Salinger's Safe", whispers say it could be unpublished manuscripts. Personally I don't really care but as patron after patron came into my library to ask for copies of The Catcher in the Rye to read now that Salinger is dead, it got me to thinking. Am I the ONLY person who didn't like this book and it's character Holden Caulfield?

The book's controversy has gone on for decades (shooting of John Lennon by The Catcher in the Rye obsessed Mark David Chapman). So while the character of Holden is legendary in the literary world I just don't understand why. I found the character funny but sad, tiresome, contradictory and rather ridiculous. I didn't get his articulate views of disillusionment and abandonment. I didn't want to love him as so many female readers do, I wanted him to grow up.

Back in the 90's a friend was dating a rather broody, angry young man. For some reason she was wildly attracted to his bad behavior, his unreliability and his outright lack of respect for her. I just didn't get it. I'll never forget when she said to me with a sigh..."But he's wants to be Holden Caulfield!" Honestly, this boy had told her he was his hero. It probably took a few glasses of wine for me to simmer down.

Maybe it is the classic, "nice" girl being attracted to "bad" boys. Or maybe it's because The Catcher in the Rye came out in the 50's at the height of the brooding/angry/beautiful icon time of James Dean and Marlo Brandon but I think Holden's image is indelibly linked to that era (Salinger has FIERCELY protected the rights to his book and has never allowed it to be made into a film). Whatever the reason I just don't get the appeal. Maybe I need to read the book again and discuss it with someone who gets the book and the character. I think I will imagine broody Twilight actor Robert Pattinson as Holden and that will at least make me flip the pages. Better yet, I'm talk to my own moody disillusioned 16 year old son and perhaps I'll get it.

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