“If you really want to know about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap …” - J.D. Salinger, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’For the rest, clickety-click here …
Routinely hailed as ‘the great American novel’, J.D. Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ offers a story that is on the face of it modest in ambition and scale. First published on July 16th, 1951, it follows the disaffected Holden Caulfield on his perambulations around New York city late in December, 1949, in the wake of his expulsion from an upmarket prep school. Intended by Salinger for an adult readership, Holden’s intensely first-person tale of his experiences amid the snobs and ‘phoneys’ of his social set has fired the imagination of generations of adolescents ever since.
“God, I loved that book,” says Sarah Webb, herself an author of young adult novels, and who first read ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ at the age of 15. “I read it in one all-night sitting, gobbling up every page. The next night I turned back to Chapter 1 and started all over again. I remember slowing down towards the end, distraught to be coming to the end. I wanted the reading experience to last forever.”
Holden Morrisey Caulfield first appeared in the short story ‘I’m Crazy’, which was published in Colliers in 1945 (a previous version had been accepted in 1941 by The New Yorker, but not published, as it was thought too bleak in tone). A reworked version of ‘I’m Crazy’ would eventually provide the material for the first chapter of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, establishing Caulfield’s expulsion from Pencey Prep, and also the unfussy, stream-of-consciousness first-person narrative that seems to bypass the critical faculties to speak directly to the teenage heart.
The novel sells roughly 250,000 copies per year, with total sales topping 65 million …
“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Happy Birthday-Ish, Holden Caulfield
I had a piece in the Irish Times during the week, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the publication of JD Salinger’s CATCHER IN THE RYE, which featured contributions from authors Sarah Webb, Ed O’Loughlin, Eoin McNamee and Belinda McKeon. It opened up a lot like this: