J.D. Salinger made an appearance on BoJack Horseman. He was working in a tandem bike shop.
Tag Archives: The Catcher in the Rye
Writing a memoir about working at the literary agency that represented J.D. Salinger without having the memoir be about Salinger sounds impossible. Yet Joanna Rakoff does it, and does it well, in My Salinger Year. Set in late ’90s Manhattan, the book opens with Rakoff working as an assistant in a well-known literary agency that represents “Jerry.” Initially assuming the Jerry in question is Seinfeld, Rakoff only realizes which Jerry it is after she notices the spines of Catcher, Nine Stories, and the others on the agency bookshelves.
Young Rakoff is given the task of dealing with Salinger’s fan mail, which he receives by the bundle and leaves to the agency. Despite it being nearly the new millennium, the literary agency still uses typewriters, so the task is menial and monumental. At some point Rakoff starts responding to the letters on an emotional level. To several letter-writers – a war veteran, a high-school student – she veers from the form letter and crafts her own responses.
Among the embarrassing surveys of how few Americans can find Ukraine on a map and/or the dismal polls of people who believe the Senate should be controlled by Republicans, this week saw the release of a cultural indicator that actually bears good news.
Tuesday, Harris Interactive published the results of a poll asking Americans which books they love most. The survey — which last ran in 2008 — revealed that The Bible, by God, was America’s favorite. No surprises there, as other studies have clearly shown that Americans largely identify as Christian. The good book maintained the #1 spot it held in 2008, while Gone With the Wind also kept its ranking, coming in again at #2. The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter collections (each counted as one book, which is not altogether sporting, if you ask me) traded positions in the #3 and #4 spots, with Potter taking higher honors this year. Other books that appeared on the 2008 list did not fare as well — which is actually the best part. A number of blockbuster novels on the previous list were replaced by a handful of American classics.
Perhaps most interesting is the way the changes from ’08 to now sync up oddly well with the typical evolution of many American readers.
In 2008 we read like eager young adolescents, just starting to take on “big” books (as in 300+ pages, ostensibly written for adults) and devouring anything that caught our interest. This explains our 2008 affinity for Stephen King’s The Stand (#5); the Dan Brown books (Da Vinci Code #6 and Angels and Demons #8); and of course, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a hallmark of enthusiastic youngsters and Congressional staffers discovering the nascent thrill of thinking that they are thinking for themselves.
In 2014, we stepped up our game. We are now reading like older, slightly more sophisticated adolescents. The Stand has been displaced by To Kill a Mockingbird in the #5 spot, followed by #6 Moby Dick, #7 The Catcher in the Rye, #8 Little Women, #9 The Grapes of Wrath and #10 The Great Gatsby.
This trend indicates that, in the last six years, our nation must have felt the influence of a really important English or Drama teacher, someone who helped us figure out a lot of stuff we were going through recently and who we’re never going to forget. If the trend holds, we should all be getting into experimental fiction and Annie Dillard by 2020.
Whatever the case may be, we should all just be happy that Atlas Shrugged has fallen off the list. For those of you who think that’s bad, well, the last poll was taken in 2008. You know whose fault this is:
– Michael Moats
Despite what Wattpad is doing to the novel, a new program called RapPad has given everyone an excuse to read poetry.
RapPad was designed to help aspiring rappers write the hottest computer generated rhymes. Over at Mental Floss, linguist Arika Okrent recently used the “Generate Line” function to combine famous opening lines with existing rap lyrics. For example: Continue reading
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.
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:
– Michael Moats
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
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.
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.
– Michael Moats