The Catcher in the Rye is one of those touchstone novels for young people coming of age.
I was sorting through some old books the other day and found my copy – now tattered and worn. But it should be; it’s old like me! I'm rather amazed I still have it after all these years and through so many moves.
How well I remember the first day of school as I began my senior year of high school. In English/Literature class, Mrs. Hannah passed around mimeographed copies of the class requirements. Included was the name of our textbook for the year, as well as additional reading assignments for the semester: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; Green Mansions by William Henry Hudson; and The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer.
Now I know you may be thinking, “how in the world does she remember that?” (I admit I had to look up author names of the last two books mentioned). But I do remember because of the humorous story associated with The Catcher in the Rye.
When we returned to class on the second day of school, Mrs. Hannah announced a change to the reading list: we were to delete The Catcher in the Rye. She announced the title of the book she was substituting (now that one I CANNOT recall!)
|This is how the book begins|
One student asked why she was removing it and she replied (something to the effect of), “it’s been determined it’s not appropriate; it’s a bit too racy.”
Well, of course, that did it. Every student sitting in class hurried out to a bookstore to buy and devour the book. It became a big joke in our class for the remainder of the year. All of us read it, so we just discussed it among ourselves.
Looking back, it seems odd, in a way. It’s certainly a novel of teenage angst and alienation and has a liberal dose of profanity and sexuality, but considering what 16-year-olds are exposed to these days, it seems mild in comparison. But the times have changed so much.
There’s a very interesting piece on the National Public Radio website about Salinger, his life and how the novel’s publication affected him.
Here's a quote from the NPR story:
"J.D. Salinger spent 10 years writing The Catcher in the Rye and the rest of his life regretting it," according to a new book about one of America's best-known and most revered writers.
|The back cover of my book|
Salinger died three years ago at the age of 91. He published four books, The Catcher in the Rye being by far the most popular. It has sold more than 65 million copies, has been translated into almost all of the world's major languages, and continues to sell about 250,000 copies each year.
Have you ever read it?