Tag Archives: Pour One Out

You Goddamn Phonies! A Tribute to J.D. Salinger

3 Feb

I did not think of writing a tribute to J.D. Salinger until I started writing this sentence. By now it’s likely old news that he died and we are waiting to see whether he spent the rest of his hermit years writing more great literature. However, I cannot deny the impact  The Catcher in the Rye had on my adolescence and literary ambition.

I first read The Catcher in the Rye in ninth grade. I checked out an old, tattered copy from the Cheyenne Mountain High School library. No one had checked out this particular copy since 1991. This made me feel as though I had superior taste, and that I was as cool as someone who grew up in the grunge era. I can remember reading each sentence and pausing, thinking something akin to, “This is just like my life,” or a simple “Fuck yeah.” Holden Caulfield was me, and I was Holden Caufield.  Despite the obvious physical differences and the more obvious fact that he was fiction, I strongly identified with angst-filled Holden. The universality of Holden Caulfield is unparalleled by any other character in American literature. Although some may argue for the superiority of the portrayals of Humbert Humbert, Tom Joad, or Jay Gatsby, Holden Caulfield is the quintessential American fictional protagonist. Jaded by his charmed private school life and running away to New York City after his expulsion to escape the “phonies” that plague him, Holden is the picture of American teenage frustration.

The Catcher in the Rye is a novel that people tend to read to appear normal. Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s murderer, carried a copy with him at the time of his crime. Mel Gibson’s character in Conspiracy Theory hoarded copies of the novel and would buy another each time he went to a bookstore to feel at ease. I am unsure of where this is going, but The Catcher in the Rye is the novel of the normal and the abnormal; the sane and the insane. Holden is your average, frustrated teen, and by the end of the novel, he’s speaking to us from a mental hospital, completely powerless and strapped to a bed.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about The Catcher in the Rye is Holden’s disdain for “phonies” and the seemingly universal appreciation for the novel. Holden would likely hate that we care about his story. You can immediately tell whether someone is a phony if they tell you that The Catcher in the Rye is their favorite book. When someone asks me that question, I tend to say anything but CatcherIn Cold Blood, A Confederacy of Dunces, etc. But of course, I’m a goddamn phony, and my favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger is one of the authors who inspires me to want to write for as long as my mind will allow for it.

Pour one out for J.D. Salinger.