Farewell Salinger

I don’t remember how old I was when I first read The Catcher in the Rye, but I loved it. Like a lot of people, I sought out Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beams Carpenters (which I have in this edition; my Catcher looks almost just like this) and Nine Stories (which, just to be complete, is this edition; my Franny is the newer white one).

The editions are significant because Salinger made them significant: he’s the one who dictated the lack of imagery. When a reissue of the original Catcher cover showed up in bookstores a few years back, I was really thrilled. I love book design of eras past, and will not hesitate to buy a vintage paperback I already own if I like the cover.

Salinger was a companion of my youth (not in the Maynard sense, of course). A couple years ago, I started to re-read Catcher, but I just couldn’t finish it. Someone in my FB feed said that she thought to read it at one’s current age (aka, for me, early 30s) would be insufferable, and that’s pretty close to my experience. I felt like I’d grown out of it; my copy is as battered as a well-loved toy and I view it with the same nostalgic fondness, but I don’t need to pull it off the shelf again. (I likewise feel like I outgrew Tom Robbins, only minus the nostalgic glow.)

It’s really fascinating to me the way the myth of Salinger overtook his work, the way his refusal to play the game dominates virtually any discussion of him. And it puts me in mind of a quote I’ve been hanging on to from Ethan Hawke, a guy who perhaps at one point or another saw himself as more than a little Holden-like:

“I feel bad for kids who are just getting famous now. If Reality Bites had come out now and I had all those people Gawker-stalking me, my life would have been hell. I feel bad for the way pop culture seems to be eating itself alive. It ends up belittling everybody.”

I’m not an Ethan Hawke fan (I disliked his first book and didn’t read his second), but this quote has really stuck with me. Salinger, like Hawke, would have endured far worse under today’s cultural microscope. Holden: the proto-Edward? [shudder]

I’m working on a story collection that deals with pop culture and meaning-making in a bunch of different forms, but it’s from the perspective of pop culture consumers, not the…wait for it…products themselves. Celebrities basically are products, so it’s interesting when an artist enters the mix. Jezebel did a story today pointing to Amanda Palmer’s take on the Golden Globes debacle that originally came to my attention here. The GoFugYourself description sent me straight to Neil Gaiman’s blog for an explanation. It kills me (see what I did there?) that the photographers took pictures of her changing, which, when published out of context, hijack her…something. Public image? Story? Not that this sort of thing sounds completely out of context for her. Really, the public drubbing is the main issue. Not that she cares, and not that she isn’t perfectly capable of setting the record straight.

The Dresden Dolls are not my cup of tea, but I think I’ll check out some of her solo stuff.


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