The reason that it’s been quiet around here lately is that I’ve been working on a book. And I’m very excited to report that I’m almost finished reading it. If anybody else here has read The Catcher in the Rye, I’m looking forward to discussing it.
Speaking of reclusive writers (and speaking as a reclusive writer), the passing of J.D. Salinger isn’t the most tragic news I’ve heard all day. That would have to be my girlfriend’s report of one of her kindergarten students wandering around the classroom while clutching an infected ear, whimpering, and dragging a deflated helium balloon behind him on a string. (And it was his birthday!)
Still, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most influential books ever written for a teenage audience, second only to Gordon Korman’s This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall, so his loss is keenly felt. The real tragedy of his death, as my friend Matt noted on Facebook, is that J.D. Fortune continues to live. Of course, I’m pretty sure that, as Michael Hutchence’s replacement as INXS singer, J.D. Fortune is contractually obligated to eventually hang himself with his belt in a hotel room, so that situation will resolve itself.
Immediate reactions to Salinger’s death ranged from fears that misunderstood teenagers everywhere who hadn’t even read The Catcher in the Rye would get morose about it to hopes that the news would inspire some of those teenagers to actually read the book. More likely, however, now that Salinger is no longer alive to block all film adaptations of his work, all these morose, misunderstood teenagers will likely simply watch the upcoming blockbuster major motion picture version of The Catcher in the Rye, starring mopey Twilight vampire Robert Pattinson as Holden Caulfield.
Face it — it’s a lock to happen. And of all possible news involving J.D. Salinger — a hypochondriac who experimented variously with Scientology, Christian Science, and drinking his own urine; a fifty-three-year-old who wooed an 18-year-old writer for Seventeen magazine by mail; a Jew who married an alleged former Nazi party official — I think that would be the most shudder-inducing.
Boy, when you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.
— J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 20
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Incidentally, the timing of Salinger’s death is interesting to me in that it happened on the the same day on which I stumbled across an old friend on Facebook at whose home I first read The Catcher in the Rye in a single sitting while waiting for my turn to play Sid Meier’s Pirates!
And speaking of friends, Facebook, and piracy, quotation is the gentleman’s plagiarism.* If I begin a sentence with “As Milton Berle used to say …” I might get the laugh, but who actually did the hard work? Probably one of Fred Allen, Bob Hope, George Burns, or Jack Benny, the last of whom the unrepentant Berle once quipped, “I listened to him on the radio last night; he was so funny, I dropped my pad and pencil.”
So, let me repay Matt back for the use of his best J.D. Salinger gag by linking you to the J.D. Salinger parody he recently wrote after reading The Catcher in the Rye for the first time, as well as the amazing shitstorm in the comments. After all, if you liked Matt’s joke, why not read more? And if you hated it, why not give him hell?
*That said: Talent borrows, genius steals.**
** Which I lifted from Morrissey.***
*** Who swiped it from Oscar Wilde in the first place.
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