Tag Archives: Holden Caulfield

Holden Caulfield is “Anti-White”

In these days of grievance, it seems anyone can be “anti-white,” even America’s most iconic, lily-white, emo, prep-school complainer, Holden Caulfield.

As Quartz reports, over the next month, in honor of Banned Books Week, the Washington, D.C. public library system is hiding banned books around the city as part of a scavenger hunt. The books will be distinctively marked. Like obscenity, you’ll know them when you see them:

Each book has a black cover, printed with quotes from people who have tried to have them banned or removed from US libraries and schools. John Knowles’ A Separate Peace will be labeled “filthy, trashy sex novel,” and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is labeled “anti-white.”

The “anti-white” quote on the Catcher cover comes from a 1963 effort to ban CatcherBrave New World and To Kill a Mockingbird. Presumably, the anti-white complaint is more targeted at the book in which African-American characters are mistreated by whites. But hey, it’s a fun scavenger hunt, so just go with it.

While Salinger surely would have objected to this whole thing — since he objected to everything (including whites, I guess?) — he did once write a story that the kind of person who would label something as “anti-white” might consider anti-white. It was based on the life of Bessie Smith, including her death, which was alleged to be the result of being refused admittance into a whites-only hospital. The story was published in Cosmopolitan in 1948, and the editors changed Salinger’s title from “Needle on a Scratchy Phonograph Record” to “Blue Melody” without telling the author, which upset him deeply.

-Michael Moats


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Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way

Rhodes Office

When he was working on his MFA in creative writing, Ben Rhodes used to write Frederick Barthelme knock-off fiction. In the tiny office where he works today — almost 15 years after leaving the program — he has shelves of books and binders, a picture of his daughter, some reminders of his favorite baseball team. When asked, he says his life could fit the mold of a Don DeLillo novel. His colleagues compare him to Holden Caulfield.

This is all familiar territory for anyone who has, or knows someone with, a creative writing degree. Except that Continue reading

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Books that Mattered in 2013: The Catcher in the Rye


In 2013, J.D. Salinger was the subject of Salinger, a much anticipated biography written by Shane Salerno and David Shields after a decade of research and extensive interviews. The book, along with a concurrently released documentary, was marketed with a slow-trickle of revealed “secrets,” including never-before-seen photos of the author, a dramatic theatrical trailer, and a legitimately exciting announcement about the works that are planned for publication in the years to come. Hopes were high. Unfortunately, when the biography arrived, it was clear that it was terrible. Same for the movie.

For that reason, we are returning to the source, the real reason any of this is happening at all. Salinger the book might have mattered briefly in 2013, but Salinger the author has mattered since 1951, when his debut novel The Catcher in the Rye started something that still has us talking 62 years later.

See all the books that mattered in 2013.

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If There’s One Thing I Hate, It’s the Movies

Salinger Paris Theater

More Salinger news from Time Online:

Less-than-stellar reviews of the recent documentary exploring the life of The Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger haven’t stopped Harvey Weinstein from plans to turn it into a scripted feature-length film.

The movie will be written by Shane Salerno, the man behind the current documentary and book. Regarding that:

Penning an entirely new Salinger movie, while already well researched, isn’t the only thing going on for the former Armageddon writer. Even while promoting his documentary and book of the same name, Salerno has continued work on one of the three Avatar sequels.

Let’s just hope Salerno’s depiction of Salinger’s postwar struggles is more nuanced than his previous portrayal of mental health challenges:

Previous Salinger coverage herehere, and here.

– Michael Moats

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Filed under a motion picture is worth a couple of words, The Real Holden Caulfield

Jerry, Rigged


FA review tag

Salinger by Shane Salerno and David Shields is not so much a biography of J.D. Salinger as it is an assortment of press clips and interview excerpts about Salinger. None of the pieces are properly dated or sourced in the main text, aside from the name of the person speaking or writing, so fifty-year-old articles are lined up next to commentary from academics and the thoughts of the actor Edward Norton. Somewhere in between are words from people who actually knew Salinger. In the book’s 500-plus pages, the “authors” contribute maybe 50 pages of text.

The result is something like a J.D. Salinger Facebook news feed. This is not optimal, but it’s not the biggest problem with Salinger.

The biggest problem is that on a subject where nuance and understanding are required, Salinger is sloppy and lazy. Its flood of information ends up being a mile wide and an inch deep. Even when presenting new details that are valuable and intriguing, Salinger manages to tell a story that is less than the sum of its parts. Then there is David Shields, who I will deal with in a moment. But for these reasons and more, this is about to get ugly.  Continue reading


Filed under Hooray Fiction!, The Real Holden Caulfield

The Colbert in the Rye


Last night, two of my favorite things came together when the cOlbert Book Club covered “Everything but The Catcher in the Rye.”

Colbert has spoken often about Salinger on his show. In 2008 he challenged the author to come on The Report, and covered Salinger’s passing in 2010. These segments hold to Colbert’s usual irreverence, but the show’s attention to Salinger comes from a genuine place. When he’s not in character, Colbert is a dedicated fan of  the author. In 2011, he contributed a small letter to Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public Library at 100. In the book, he is pictured holding a stack of Salinger’s letters that are stored at the NYPL. Colbert wrote:

I suspect this photo would have annoyed J.D. Salinger. Here I am, the stereotypical liberal arts fanboy, going weak over something he typed.

But I can’t help myself. When I first read Salinger, I thought he wrote the Glass family stories just for me.

You can see the image and read the full entry in the book, which also features contributions from Jonathan Franzen, David Remnick, Zadie Smith and others.

Colbert reading Salinger's letters.

Stephen Colbert reading Salinger’s letters at the New York Public Library.

Last night’s Report was completely dedicated to Salinger. Over the fireplace was an adapted Catcher cover reading “The Colbert in the Rye,” and the segments included the first installment of the one-part series “Better Know a Salinger;” interviews with Tobias Wolff and Shane Salerno; and an appearance of JarJar Caulfield (just watch it).

There was no mention of The Real Holden Caulfield, but I speak for all of us at Fiction Advocate in saying that we would happily provide Mr. Colbert with a free copy. Or if he wants to purchase one (or a few), our proceeds are still being donated to the Wounded Warrior Project — another issue I know Colbert cares deeply about.

Watch the full cOlbert Book Club “Everything but The Catcher in the Rye” episode.

– Michael Moats


Filed under Hooray Fiction!, The Real Holden Caulfield