Tag Archives: The Catcher in the Rye

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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A Horse is at Least Human, for God’s Sake


J.D. Salinger made an appearance on BoJack Horseman. He was working in a tandem bike shop.

Read more at A.V. Club.

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My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

My Salinger Year

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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.

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America’s Ten Favorite Books are Better Than You Expected


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

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Technology is Making Poetry Awesome Again

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

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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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