where the writers are
CATCHER IN THE RYE
J.D. Salinger in 1951, the year "Catcher in the Rye" was published

 

The 1951 iconic novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger has been in the news recently because of a new book out, Sixty years Later: Coming Through the Rye, by Swedish author Fredrik Colting. Salinger's lawyers filed a lawsuit, saying the book is a sequel and infringes on Salinger's copyright.

Colting has responded, saying that his novel is not a sequel but rather "a complex and undeniably transformative exposition about one of our nation's most famous authors, J.D. Salinger, and his best known creation, Holden Caulfield."  The book "explores the famously reclusive Salinger's efforts to control both his own persona and the persona of the character he created," according to the brief.

Colting also says his book "scrutinizes and criticizes the iconic stature of Salinger and his creation by comparing the precocious and self-satisfied 16-year-old Holden with a 76-year-old version of himself fraught with indecision and insecurity."

I happened to come across The Catcher in the Rye at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport a few months ago. I hadn't read it since I was a teenager. I'm such a major fan of Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey, though, that I was curious how I'd respond to it now that I was a writer.  I read most of it on the plane and only returned to finish it this weekend.

On the plane, I fell into the humor and the vivid first-person narration by teenager Holden Caulfield. He's returning to New York City after getting kicked out of Pencey Prep School in Pennsylvania. He doesn't want his parents to know, so he's hanging out in the city, visiting friends and staying in hotels and on couches for a few days until he plans to show up at home as if everything were normal. However, nothing is normal.

About a third into the book, I became frustrated. The story would stop often and Holden would digress and explain some side issue at length. Where I wanted to see what Holden would do, which would reveal his character, instead I had to endure a great deal of exposition. In fact, I was reminded why I found Salinger's later published work uninteresting, such as Seymour, An Introduction. Almost all of it was exposition. What people do is far more interesting than fact after fact.

As example, in Chapter 16, Holden digresses about Laurence Olivier in Hamlet for most of a page, and then there's three pages of Holden's memory of going to a museum when he was his sister's age. He thinks about the two nuns he met earlier and he thinks about Sally's mother. I just wanted him to meet Sally.

An important action in this chapter, though, is he comes across a kid singing, "If a body catch a body coming through the rye." The kid singing this song makes Holden feel less depressed. The song later becomes important when Holden's little sister, Phoebe, asks him what he wants to be when he grows up. Holden recalls the line and imagines thousands of little kids playing in a field of rye, "And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff." He has to catch the kids before they fall over. He's the catcher in the rye.

Like the precocious kids in the Glass family, little Phoebe happens to know the line Holden remembers isn't from a song but a misspoken line from a Robert Burns poem. The real line goes, "If a body meet a body coming through the rye." Holden's whole notion of life and society by this point is a misunderstanding.

When I finished the book this weekend, I realized all the great stuff comes toward the end. Essentially refusing to be a part of adult culture even though he tries to pass himself off as an adult in one bar after another, Holden slowly spirals into severe depression until near the end of the book, I started worrying about him. This guy might do something bad to himself and not even see it coming. It even made me pause to consider Mark David Chapman, the young man who shot and killed John Lennon on on December 8, 1980. Chapman had The Catcher in the Rye on him and claimed it would explain his perspective. Maybe it shows that Chapman thought everyone was phony and that Chapman didn't understand his own spiral down.

One of the great passages in the book is near the end when he goes to the apartment of Mr. Antolini, his former school teacher. He and his wife deeply care about Holden and let him spend the night. Before Holden goes to sleep, Mr. Antolini counsels Holden that he's headed for a fall, "a special kind of fall, a horrible kind," which soon happens. Mr. Antolini tries to be Holden's catcher, perhaps, but Holden doesn't take in all that Mr. Antolini says, including a line from a Wilhelm Stekel poem: "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one."

Holden tells Mr. Antolini one of the things he hated about a speech class was that no one was permitted to digress. If you did, classmates could yell out "digression!" As Holden says, "The digression business got on my nerves... The trouble with me is, I like it when somebody digresses. It's more interesting and all."

Mr. Antolini tells him differently, saying if the digression is the most interesting part of a speech, shouldn't the speech's subject be what was the digression? A few pages later, the teacher says that the best creative and educated people "tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than men who are merely brilliant and creative. They tend to express themselves more clearly, and they usually have a passion for following their thoughts through to the end."

People are eagerly awaiting what Salinger has been working on for almost forty-five years since his last publication. Now 90, he reportedly has been writing novels. My fear is that the novels won't be as interesting or as disciplined as his short stories. Rather they'll be meandering and expositive like Seymour, An Introduction. Perhaps Fredrik Colting's book will be a siren for Salinger to write--or edit--vividly again. Maybe it'll remind Jerome David that he's taken himself too seriously for many years, and he's fallen off a crazy cliff. He needs catching. My hope  is that Salinger takes his own words above as a truth. May he express himself clearly and with passion. May he follow his thoughts through to the end.

Comments
18 Comment count
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Holden and Catherine Ross

Chris,

I only remember a few scenes from “Catcher in the Rye,” a skating scene and a dating scene in a car. I read it in Japanese during high school. I thought it would be a nightmare to date such a mean boy.

I don’t remember the movie, but Catherine Ross is abducted, and she and her abductor talk about the book. The abductor trashes Holden. In response, Catherine Ross defends Holden saying he is a charming boy. When she said that, I wondered if average American women thought the same about Holden. I thought him a nightmarish boy! I thought he was the kind of boys all girls should stay away.

I probably read Nine Stories because I have the book, but I don’t remember anything.

Thank you for all the info. I enjoyed reading it.

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Keiko, the movie must be The

Keiko, the movie must be The Collector  ( author of the book, John Fowles). I just read it, it was a fantastic read.

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The Graduate

Keiko--

You remembered vividly at scene with Katharine Ross, so I searched on the Internet for "Katharine Ross" and "The Catcher in the Rye" and up came comparisons of Salinger's novel to the movie "The Graduate." I don't remember her and Dustin Hoffman discussing the book, but the filmmakers certainly thought of Benjamin Braddock as an older Holden Caulfield. There's a very interesting article on the making of the film in Vanity Fair, which you can read at http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2008/03/graduate200803

Thanks for writing.

--Chris

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cannot find the movie

I researched several times, but I could't find that movie I saw. It isn't "The Graduate." I saw The Graduate also during high school. In the other movie, She was kidnapped and stayed in a basement. I think the male character had a butterfly collection. He walked through a beautiful green garden outside the building. But the movie wasn't great because I don't remember much. "The Graduate" was a great movie. I bought a Simon and Garfunkel record right after I saw it.

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Katherine Ross

Keiko--

Here's a list of her films from 1967 to 1978 that I took from the Internet Movie Database. Any of these sound familiar? You can look up the storylines at IMDB.com.

The Legacy (1978) .... Margaret Walsh
... aka The Legacy of Maggie Walsh
The Swarm (1978) .... Capt. Helena Anderson
The Betsy (1978) .... Sally Hardeman
... aka Harold Robbins' The Betsy
Voyage of the Damned (1976) .... Mira Hauser
Wanted: The Sundance Woman (1976) (TV) .... Etta Place / Mrs. Sundance / Annie Martin / Bonnie Doris
... aka Mrs. Sundance Rides Again
"Alle origini della mafia" .... Rosa Mastrangelo (1 episode, 1976)
... aka "Origins of the Mafia" (International: English title)
- Omertà (1976) TV episode .... Rosa Mastrangelo
The Stepford Wives (1975) .... Joanna Eberhart
Le hasard et la violence (1974) .... Docteur Constance Weber
... aka Amore e violenza (Italy)
... aka Assassinio al sole (Italy)
... aka Chance and Violence (International: English title)
... aka The Scarlet Room (International: English title)
They Only Kill Their Masters (1972) .... Kate Bingham, Dr. Watkins' Nurse
Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972) .... Terrific-Looking Girl
Daddy's Deadly Darling (1972) .... Miss Macy
... aka Daddy's Girl (USA)
... aka Horror Farm
... aka Lynn Hart
... aka Pigs (USA: recut version)
... aka Roadside Torture Chamber (USA: reissue title)
... aka The Killer
... aka The Killers
... aka The Strange Exorcism of Lynn Hart
... aka The Strange Love Exorcist
Fools (1970) .... Anais Appleton
Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969) .... Lola
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) .... Etta Place
Hellfighters (1968) .... Tish Buckman
The Graduate (1967) .... Elaine Robinson
Games (1967) .... Jennifer Montgomery

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Giving up for now

Yes, I went through the list randomly, and I checked a little more just now, but still couldn't find it. I don't remember what the story was. At the time, I couldn't understand English very well, and the movie wasn't enticing.

I'm amazed that Katharine Ross has appeared on so many movies and television programs.

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More Beyond 1978

Keiko--

Katherine Ross was in many more projects, which you can see at www.imdb.com. Then again, I was so curious that I searched for it. Wikipedia has an in-depth summary of the many people who've tried to get the rights to film it.

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The Legacy!

I felt the title seemed unlikely, so I didn’t check before.  But I received an email from the right source, so it must be “The Legacy.”  I knew that the movie had a British feel, and I learned that it was shot in England.  So it makes sense now.  I read a few very good reviews in Amazon.  I think you’ll enjoy the movie.  If you see it, please let me know how Katharine Ross replied about Holden.

 

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Readers, please help

Chris,

I hope readers can help us identify the movie I saw. I'm not giving up. I'll definitely let you know if I find it.

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ITS THE COLLECTOR

ITS THE COLLECTOR !!!!!!!! Promise. This is my second comment  and nobody appears to notice! Mary Wilkinson! And it is not Katherine Ross but Samantha Eggar or Egger!

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Mary, Oh, I didn't see your

Mary,

Oh, I didn't see your top message.  I'm sorry for that.

I don’t know if I saw “the Collector.”   But if I saw the movie, and if you could match some of my descriptions, then it’s possible that my memory is from both. 

Thank you for your comment.  Now I can sleep better.

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Great - My voice was heard!!!

Great - My voice was heard!!! Yes, Keiko I am positive this is the movie you are talking about. It is set in England and yes the protagonist kidnaps the woman and locks her in his basement and he collects butterflies and they discuss The Catcher in the Rye. The book is wonderful.

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Thanks, Mary

Mary, your persistence paid off. I found the following Wikipedia entry on the cultural influences of "The Catcher in the Rye," which includes "The Collector." You can see it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_references_to_the_novel_The_Catche...

The 1965 film with Samantha Eggar and Terrance Stamp can be bought at Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Collector-Terence-Stamp/dp/B00006RJ5W/ref=sr_1_1?i...

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Christopher, that is

Christopher, that is marvellous! I felt that perhaps I was imagining the whole thing and that I should possibly write a novel with that scenario. Mp

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Hi Chris and Mary,  I’m

Hi Chris and Mary, 

I’m so excited!  Now I know the connection between the Collector and the Catcher in the Rye.  It’s funny that I forget other things but not important things like stories?!

Thank you both for your insistence.  I feel great.

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By the way,

Chris,

I just want to make sure you noticed my new comment titled "The Legacy!" Like Mary, my comment was added at the beginning. I clicked a wrong button. Next time, I'll add at the end of the tail.

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"The Legacy" and "The Collector"

Keiko, I had read your comment about "The Legacy," but that was just minutes before I saw Mary's comments about "The Collector." Hence, I didn't think there'd be anything about "The Catcher in the Rye" in "The Legacy." I tried reading "The Collector" once, by the way, and I stopped because it wasn't compelling. Perhaps I should try it again. I wonder what people consider his best book "The French Lieutenant's Woman" or what? I need to explore that.

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I enjoyed watching “French

I enjoyed watching “French Lieutenant’s Women.”

About “The Legacy,” I thought the description seemed very close to the story I saw. I thought maybe an adaptation or something. It was weird. But Mary’s confirmation on what I wrote before and a photo of Samantha Eggar assured me with your judgment. Long ago, I couldn’t tell a difference between British and Americans.