Monday, February 01, 2010

JD's Dead

J.D. Salinger died last week. I still remember reading Catcher in the Rye for the first time out in Long Island. The copy was my dad's and it's still out there -- maroon covered and yellow paged. I was in middle school, and I thought I had stumbled across me in print. My high school quote was from Catcher, and I just assumed that I was the ONLY ONE that really got Holden. We were both sooooo misunderstood.

And then I found out that every frat turd in the world also thinks he is Holden Caufield, and I had a glimpse of my future corporate life. Sigh.

Erin Shea wrote a really lovely post about Salinger's death that you should go check out. Especially poignant is this bit:

"It’s funny to me now that I requested such a non-conformist book for such conformist reasons. I cut myself a modicum of slack, obviously, since I was all of 12, and when you’re 12 you desperately try to locate that secret space in the world where you’re unconditionally accepted by everyone for being staunchly, fiercely not like any of them at all. That place doesn’t exist, of course, but it takes years, many regrettable decisions concerning your hair, both its length and color, and the sheer exhaustion that comes from trying to fit in before you stop caring as much.

I wanted to read Catcher in the Rye because that’s what someone like the person I thought I wanted to be would read. It’s that simple. And I read it. And it changed everything.

Hyperbole aside, books like these for kids who lean towards awkwardness, like me, are game changers. This is how it happens for us. We know we’re supposed to like what everyone else likes, and for the most part we really do, but something else in the universe is calling us, moving us toward it, moment by moment, until we’re almost there. Books like Catcher land in our laps and it’s the first of many of those moments. Without it, we’re not ready for the next one when it comes along. We needed the first to unlock the rest."

I was so desperate to escape my middle-class suburban life and my perfect classmates and my parents that didn't understand.
And I escaped reading my DAD's old book.

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