"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Friday, October 25, 2013

Finally Caught by 'The Catcher in the Rye'

The Catcher in the RyeThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this book has been an act of repentance. It is one of the novels I slacked off on when a high school English teacher assigned it. When it came to assigned reading I was a brat in high school, alternately loving and resenting the books assigned to me. A classic gesture of hypocrisy, I did to J.D. Salinger’s novel what the main character Holden Caulfield did to his school. I blew it off.

I resented my teacher’s focus on identifying and interpreting symbols in the text. That approach felt forced and distracting to me at the time. Moreover, in high school I was a rather privileged/ungrateful mamma’s boy, and hardly a rebel. To me The Catcher in the Rye was an uncouth story about a foul-mouthed cynic who runs away for the mere sake of rebelling. I simply did not identify with the protagonist. I read a few chapters and then I quit ‘and all’, to borrow Holden’s signature two-word tag.

I came back to this book in my late 30s to celebrate Banned Books Week. Having done a great deal of rebelling since high school, I was surprised to find I still don’t strongly identify with Holden. But now I kind of wish I did. Holden is remarkably take-charge about his rebellion. That was generally not me. However, with a college English degree and a great deal of life experience at my disposal, the book still hit home.

The Catcher in the Rye is a triumph of narrative voice. Holden’s slang, his phrasing, the way he improvises assertions and then walks them back, betray a painful self-awareness. There were a few moments, and a whole chapter or two, where I identified completely.

Holden is intelligent and thoughtful, even as his speech is roughshod and rambling. As a portrait of discontent, he is marvelous and richly drawn. I’ll leave the social implications and the stigma of obsessive fans for other critics to mull over. Instead, I’ll say this is a masterful first-person novel and rightly a must-read. I’m sorry I waited so long to give the book, and Holden, my full attention.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Salient Pessimism 3

One drinker proclaims the glass is half full. Another retorts it is half empty.

The glass brims with propaganda.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Buffalo Humor and Pumpkin Hunting


Decency forbids me repeating the joke I told, but obviously one buffalo found it hilarious. Or maybe he needed a quick back scratch. In any case, lazy domesticated buffalo are good company.


Good times were had by four generations of my family as we visited
Heritage Farms Market, south of Hesperia, Michigan. Autumn is a wonderful time of year.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Tale of Two Parties

I looked at two houses, or thought about them as if they were once again in front of me. Two populated houses of people with passion. They each had money and a following. They each had a long-term plan in mind for how they wanted things to be. And since they were different, they stayed always at each other's throats.

There commitment remained to self-validation and self-revelry. They were always marketing themselves to themselves. And to the ladies. Let the ladies in, whether openly or secretly. Get the ladies on our side, each would say.

They battled. They fired off salvos of pranks, of minced words and the like. I must confess it was quite fun to watch. Sometimes individuals from opposite sides seemed on the verge of liking each other. But it never lasted. I also confess this was invigorating to watch, the being-pulled-back-in-and-deciding to-be-staunch. Ruffled feathers are invigorating to watch.

At last, after much fun and revelry, after back-room deals and altercations, even a little death that no one proved culpable for, everything exploded in an orgasm of cultural catharsis and devil-may-care melee. It was a sight to see. And you knew that people had stopped pretending that everything was okay, and it was exciting and troubling in equal measure. I confess it was exhilarating.

You dared not consider the amount of cleanup and repair that would be required to make things livable again. And so you, why am I saying you, I mean me, I shouldn't try to pull you in.

Anyhow, everyone just kept trying to feel momentous so long as they were being watched. But you could tell most everyone just wanted to go somewhere quiet and cuddle another and fall asleep. Or drive off alone, or with a new lover. Because maybe the fall and still of night would do all the cleaning and reconciling magically. And when they woke up in the morning, maybe these two warring houses would at last be set at peace, enjoying stasis and maturity.

Gosh, I love the movie Animal House! ...wait. What did you think I was writing about?