Valley News – Column: ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ at 70, with digressions

July 16, 1951, JD Salinger’s The catcher in the rye hitting bookstore shelves. Dressed in a red, white and yellow jacket with a merry-go-round horse jumping through an urban landscape, this short novel, now 70 years old, refuses to fade away. The subject of 26 book studies and hundreds of articles, with thousands of references from magazines, newspapers, movies, TV, songs – even cartoons, Seeker, narrated by the eternal teenager Holden Caulfield, is available in four formats, including a Kindle edition. Tens of millions of copies have been sold.

Seeker says a moderately wealthy Salinger. As he confided to his close friend, Lillian Ross of The New Yorker: “This little boy, I owe him so much. It gave me the freedom to do what I love.

The film rights alone could have bought him all of Cornish, where he lived from 1953 until his death in 2010. The author, however, was to prohibit any further monetization of the work, categorically to preserve the intimate relationship. of its readers with its main character. But Holden’s voice, as he tells his story of failing prep school and embarking on a three-day odyssey through Manhattan, would gain international recognition.

Realizing that Seeker was going to celebrate a milestone anniversary this year, I began to remember (having turned 70 myself) my attachment to the book.

On my 16th birthday, my mother gave me a copy and my lifelong obsession was born, growing to embrace other works by Salinger and inform my own publications about the author and his writings. I wondered if Holden’s voice could still speak so clearly to us veteran fans, and, if applicable, the younger ones. I had already interviewed my niece in high school a few years ago when the novel was included in her required reading list. “Everyone loves Holden,” she assured me.

But during a recent visit to my family doctor, I learned that her son in college had chosen the novel from a list of suggested titles. Once a staple of the college curriculum, then high school, was Seeker in danger of being put aside? I turned to others in the field for answers.

I heard for the first time Ennio Ranaboldo, author of Invito alla lettura di Salinger (Invitation to the reading of Salinger), who told me about Scuola Holden, a college founded in Turin, Italy, with the goal of “creating a school from which Holden Caulfield would never be expelled.” And British author Geoff Dyer replied: “Seeker was a defining reading experience for me. … What was extraordinary was how, in 1972, a 15-year-old schoolboy in an English town found himself quite comfortable in this foreign idiom.

Seeker “had an electrical impact on me,” said Jay McInerney. “Holden’s voice was spellbinding and remained remarkably fresh for about 20 years afterwards… however, as I got older, it was the news that really impressed me.”

Salinger biographer Kenneth Slawenski wondered if “the novel itself is as relevant to the current generation as it was to the past.” Indeed, on Seeker50th anniversary, in 2001, Louis Menand of The New Yorker had expressed the opinion: “The book continues to acquire readers not because children continue to discover it, but because adults who read it when they were children continue to make children read it.

Encouraging news has arrived from Japan.

Yasuhiro Takeuchi, professor and distinguished scholar Salinger with an upcoming book, Nazotoki Salinger (Deciphering Salinger), attracted my attention to the 2019 animated film Alter with you, “Whose hero carries a copy of (Haruki) Murakami’s translation (of Seeker) with him. ”The film sparked a new tsunami of interest in the novel.

Brad McDuffie, professor and author of Teach the nine stories of Salinger, noted in his writings Salinger’s attempt to reconcile his conflict with World War II and its aftermath. McDuffie sees the “conflict” addressed in Holden’s grief over the death of his brother, Allie. “Holden finds a way to come to terms with the world (even the fake ones). That’s (Salinger’s) great gift… a lasting legacy that resonates just as powerfully 70 years after its publication.

Summary by Roger Lathbury of Orchises Press Seekerrelevance of: “This novel, as Gatsby the magnificent, became emblematic of a slice of American life and influenced subsequent generations. Its intensity, its reserves of humor and sadness, and its absolute authenticity of style and perspective ensure the permanence of its appeal. More than just a beloved book, (Seeker) is an event in the lives of Americans in their quest for maturity and judgment.

Yet even those who valued Seeker and the 1953 collection, Nine stories, condemned the subsequent work.

John Updike may have dealt the hardest blow in his 1961 review of Franny and Zooey: “Salinger loves (his characters) the Glasses more than God loves them. … He loves them to the detriment of artistic moderation.

When I asked Gordon Lish what he thought of him, he felt, “unfortunately,” that Updike “will be the dominant posture among those you ask about reactions to Salinger’s writing” . But he stressed the importance of “keeping Salinger’s work noted.”

In 1965, The New Yorker published Hapworth 16, 1924. While two previous books had received a hostile reception, this latest story suffered outright rejection. Salinger’s voice fell silent.

Ironically, the author’s removal from the literary scene only served to heighten curiosity about her personal life and his efforts to shield it from scrutiny. I was not surprised when Anna Johnston, from Sydney, Australia, told me that by founding her business with the aim of “consulting, training, posting, blogging and tweeting about all things privacy” , she chose the name “Salinger Privacy. “

With the death of Salinger in 2010, Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker wrote: “And so his death sends us back from the myth to the magical world of his writing as it really is, with its incomparable comedy, its ear for American speech, its contagious ardor and its incomparable charm.

The New York Times British critic and novelist David Lodge was appraised: “This was arguably the first truly original voice in American prose fiction after the generation of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner.

During the author’s lifetime, his reputation as a writer survived the devastating memories of Joyce Maynard and her own daughter, Margaret. But with the advent of #MeToo and subsequent articles from Maynard, January 1, 2019, saw the centenary of his birth come and go with barely a mention, “a surprising fact,” observed journalist Cathy Young, ” which almost certainly has more to do with the cultural and sexual politics of the moment than with Salinger’s place in literature.

The JD Salinger Literary Trust revealed, later in 2019, that 50 years of previously unreleased material will finally be released. Matt Salinger, the author’s son, estimated “another five to seven years” to prepare the work for publication. If you don’t want to wait, I can give you a taste. Access the centenary pocket edition of Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour – An Introduction. You will find, hidden on the inside flap, three never-before-seen Buddy Glass phrases.

In the same way Seeker, many of Salinger’s stories have been cherished by decades of readers, and some have become part of their lives. Novelist Maxine Hong Kingston shared, “When my friend, Bill Ogilvie, was on his deathbed, I read The man who Laughs to him. Funny to remember New York and Hong, the Mongolian giant whose tongue was burnt by white men.

For many of us, the desire to see new books becomes urgent. “Like everyone,” Ranaboldo remarked, “I hope to read some of his unpublished work before I die!”

Bruce F. Mueller, of San Francisco, is an independent Salinger scholar and author, with Will Hochman, of Critical Companion to JD Salinger.

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