Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rest in Peace, J.D. Salinger

This week marked the passing of J.D. Salinger, one the greatest modern writers. From his novel, Franny and Zooey to his short story, "To Esmé with Love and Squalor" (whose Esmé is the namesake for Esmé Raji Codell, famed author, Readiologist, and one of my favorite people in the world), Salinger remains a master of the English language. However, his greatest accomplishment lies in the creation of my boyfriend, Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye. For me, Holden was a kindred spirit who saw through the illusory skin of society to recognize the phoniness within. Rather than conforming to the "norms" of insincere conversations, false religion, and loveless relationships, Holden questions everything and remains himself. His ambition lies in being "the catcher in the rye," the one who saves children from falling off cliffs- and he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. His dysfunctional and frazzled example has given me the strength to accept my own journey and reject those who would push me off (metaphorical) cliffs. Like me, generations of young adults have found comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our struggles. Salinger has given us the language to express ourselves, to say "Fuck you" and mean it. His legacy is alive in all who decide to forgo phoniness for something genuine.

I have pasted an amazing poem from David Levithan's brilliant book, The Realm of Possibility, which captures the intensity of our relationships with Holden. Feel free to share your own experiences with Salinger below.

My girfriend is in love with Holden Caulfield
and it is driving me CRAZY. She has read that book
thirteen times, which is about eleven more times than
she’s bothered to read me. Everything she sees now
is PHONY. Starbucks is PHONY. Our teachers are
PHONY. Society is PHONY. And love – well, love
is the phoniest of all. At first I tried real hard
to argue, but that made me one of THEM and not
HIM. She tells me he is sweet because he wants
to stop all of the little children from running off
a cliff. And I say can you possibly think of a situation
where a group of children would be running towards
a cliff? And she says I just DON’T GET IT. Which
is her way of saying she just doesn’t get me, and how
I can get everything so wrong. Not like Holden,
who would be like seventy years old right now, but
is frozen at this age that I can’t wait to leave. She says
she misses being a kid, just like Holden misses riding
the carousel. But what’s going to stop us from getting on
the carousel, from sledding at midnight, from candy
and crushes? Just because we’re having sex doesn’t mean
we can’t kiss. Holden is a failure with girls, and my girlfriend
says that’s because he hasn’t met the right girl, one who’d
UNDERSTAND him. She says this the same night we
argue for an hour about the fact that I always say “I love you”
before she does. I leave the room to sneak us some drinks
and when I get back she has THE BOOK out, read so often that
it’s spineless. Whoever made the cover blank knew
what he was doing, because what image of Holden could be
stronger than the picture in my girlfriend’s head?
We’ve been going out for five months now, sleeping
together for two, fighting over who loves who
for one. I used to love that she could love
a book so much. It was her first present to me.
I told her I loved it, when what I really meant was I loved
that it was from her. Then I made the mistake of
CRITICIZING. I said that Holden seemed pretty sad.
And she said, yeah, that’s because his brother died,
and I said it wasn’t just that kind of sad. She said maybe
it took a certain kind of person to see the truth
in it, and because I loved her even then, I said she was
right. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought
less of it, and the more I thought less of it, the more she
thought less of me. And I began to think less of her
for thinking less of me. If I took up with hookers,
if I drank my daddy’s money away, if I ridiculed everyone,
it wouldn’t be charming. She wouldn’t love that
in me. And, yes, Holden would keep those kids from
falling off the cliff, but WHO WOULDN’T? Does she think
I would just fold my arms, give them a pat on the back before they
sailed headfirst to the ground? We are all catchers, and it’s sad
that she doesn’t see it. Instead she sees the PHONINESS,
she deplores the world even after I point out that
I am in it. If she were running through the rye, if she
were headed toward that abyss, I would grab hold
with every ounce of my strength, with every scared beat
of my heart, with every thought that could only be for her.
And if I were to be running the same way, I’d like to think
she’d do the same. But maybe her hands would be busy
holding the book. Maybe she wouldn’t see me, too intent
on looking for Phoebe from the carousel. Or waiting for Holden
to hold her, to wrap her in the pages of his arms,
to say she was the only one who truly knew him, as I
plunged past her, sad to be leaving, and a little
happy to be away.

1 comment:

  1. Hey!!
    I just wrote a song about love for my girlfriend and I thought I would find lyrics on your blog so that I can compare my song :P but anyhoo... you're blog is wayy nicer than mine that's for sure! If you have the extra 3 minutes to listen to the song I wrote that's on youtube, click here Girlfriend Love Songs and dont forget to rate and comment the song! :) thanx SOOOOOO much! :D