Thursday, January 28, 2010

J. D. Salinger 1919-2010

J. D. Salinger was not my favorite author ever, but I'm sorry he has died. I teach Catcher in the Rye to my students each year and they really like it. I used to teach A Separate Peace which I kind of like, but the kids hated it.

They always kind of get into Catcher in the Rye. I'd venture to say that the profanity is what catches their eye at first! "What! The TEACHER is letting us read this?!" Prostitutes?! Underage drinking?! Wow!

From the NYT:

With its cynical, slangy vernacular voice (Holden’s two favorite expressions are “phony” and “goddam”), its sympathetic understanding of adolescence and its fierce if alienated sense of morality and distrust of the adult world, the novel struck a nerve in cold war America and quickly attained cult status, especially among the young. Reading “Catcher” used to be an essential rite of passage, almost as important as getting your learner’s permit.

But once we get into it, they start understanding themes and the bigger picture.

My department head, whom I really respect, loathes Catcher and can't figure out why anyone would want to teach it.

They are often disheartened to find there is no film version. I'll usually show Finding Forrester somewhere along the way, though, and note that the Sean Connery role in that film is supposed to be similar to Salinger.

I had been giving thought to passing on Catcher this semester and going back to A Separate Peace. Maybe not, now.

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