Archive for January 29th, 2010

Before I was a painter, I had jobs, as a service tech and a salesman,  that quite often had me in the homes of clients.  One of the first things I did when coming into a home was to look for bookshelves and scan them quickly.  You could tell a lot about a person by seeing if and what they read.  I was looking for something that gave me an idea of common ground we might have.  It was disheartening how many homes had no books visible and many times, if they did have books, the books were mass market romances or self-help books.  But sometimes there were shelves filled with great books that jumped out at me and generally I was able to establish instant rapport with that person.  I became very adept at glimpsing shelves and judging what was there.

This particular edition of The Catcher in the Rye had a cover that my eye could glimpse at a hundred feet.

JD Salinger died yesterday, at age 91.

I don’t know that this tale of teen Holden Caulfield still resonates with the youth of today but for the generations of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, this book was an eye-opener, one that gave voice to the real emotions of many young adults.  It was bold and funny and real.  It was unlike any literature that featured a teen protagonist ( if you can call Holden a protagonist) at that time.  I don’t know if Holden was just a reflection of true behavior of disaffected teens or if he became the template.  That will have to fall to sociologists and cultural anthropologists to determine.

Whatever the case, Holden Caulfield and JD Salinger both became cultural  icons.  Salinger became the very definition of recluse, eschewing all publicity and interviews with steadfast determination for all these many years, and living a quiet  life in New Hampshire.  While his last published piece, a short story,was in the mid 1960’s, he continued to write but only for himself, filling bookshelves with his written notebooks.  I wish I could have scanned those shelves.

I wonder if Holden lived on in his private writings, moving through his phony-filled life in the manner of  Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom?  Perhaps we will never know.  If so, let it be JD Salinger’s choice to share it with us.

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