“I LOVE GEORGE HARRISON” was the first thing I read when I cracked the old, dog-eared copy of The Catcher in the Rye that I found on the bookshelf at home. It was a brief time-capsule of the thoughts of my mother as a teenager, forced to read and analyze Salinger’s novel in school. Unlike my mother, it was not required reading for me, I was just bored. I was thirteen and with weeks of state mandated standardized testing ahead of me, I was in desperate need of a good book. Boy did I find one; I devoured it while waiting for classmates to finish their exams and along the way, found Holden Caulfield, a character who spoke to the naïve, moody, judgmental, and struggling girl that I was at that age. I wouldn’t grow out of my Caulfield stage until well into college, and he is still a character with which I look back fondly. MY SALINGER YEAR had very little to do with the Salinger or his books. It followed a naïve and privileged girl living in an idealized NYC of the ‘90s who “finds herself” while dealing with a lame boyfriend and reading fan letters to the eponymous writer. I have a feeling that if Holden Caulfield were to watch the film, he would just call the whole thing phony and be done with it. Honestly, I don’t disagree.
It’s strange; thinking back to my high school days, I remember reading from the required book list: The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, and Franny and Zooey, followed by a 20- page book report. Today, for the life of me, I can’t remember Catcher in the Rye except that the main protagonist was Holden Morrisey Caulfield. Perhaps this blackout was due to these events. In 1980 I was in my junior year and this protagonist inspired a lunatic who shoot John Lennon. I remember being in my art class when I heard the news on the radio; the entire class cried. The following year, 1981, another lunatic with a fixation on Jody Foster in the film TAXI DRIVER shot and wounded President Reagan. That guy’s parents lived in the Hiwan Country Club about 10 minutes away from where I lived. The entire neighborhood was in lockdown until the government could determine if it was either a conspiracy or mental illness, whereby they concluded the latter.
If you had asked me last year what memories I have about the author Salinger or about my high school, I would have said none. All these memories flooded back recently into my mind reminding me how much I must have been traumatized without knowing it. (What I do remember is I wanted to curl up on the sofa by the fireplace and read one of Jane Austen’s novels.) I guess that was a safety reaction! The opening film MY SALINGER YEAR certainly opened up a whole can of worms but also reminded me of finding the invaluable quality of time to be yourself and do what you love no matter what others think. I also wondered what happened to these shooters. They should be out of prison by now and are most likely wandering the streets right now while having wasted half their lives due to some strange obsession.
In an all-girls Catholic high school in the ‘60s we didn’t have The Catcher in the Rye in our syllabus. In fact, it was most likely banned in our local public library along with To Kill a Mockingbird. I grew up in Salem, the very provincial capital city of Oregon. I guess it was my older sister who lent it to me. She had borrowed it from a sophisticated classmate whose dad had gone to Harvard and was a shirttail cousin of the then renowned Upjohns of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Annie always was a little ahead of her time.
There was nothing about Holden Caulfield I could relate to; I thought he was a spoiled rich brat and certainly no one I would like to meet. I do remember I quite liked his sensible sister Phoebe, but wasn’t quite sure how to pronounce her name. I much preferred another of Annie’s literary nuggets, Lady Chatterley's Lover. Now that was a banned book sure to excite a sixteen-year-old Catholic school girl.
When I went to high school which was quite a while back (1959-1963), The Catcher in the Rye, was banned from our high school, which was located in a very religious, Calvinistic town. Since my dad was a Methodist minister and a very liberal thinker, I was not bound to the Calvinistic way of thinking and the fact that the book was banned made it all the more intriguing. I remember that I didn’t particularly like the main character, Holden, but it did strengthen my conviction that it is important to “do things my way” as Frank Sinatra would say. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the movie, MY SALINGER YEAR, but will definitely try to. By the way, my favorite authors don’t include Salinger either, but rather Shakespeare (the tragedies—my absolute favorite), Dostoevsky, Dürrenmatt, and many more.
Whilst in a book shop rummaging through a pile of books on sale— about five years ago (2015) — I was very surprised to find The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger here in Hamburg. Immediately it transported me back to the late 1960s in Cape Town, South Africa. With all my young friends the book was an absolute “must” at the time and everyone was reading it. My original copy was not only faded and moth-eaten, but it also got lost over the years. I was amazed how much emotion this title still stirred up in me as I could hardly remember any details of the story.
I then immediately bought this small book. It is now again sitting on my bookshelf. Apart from the sentimental value for me, the language and feeling of the novel has not dated. I feel it can easily be applied to our modern time. But I had never realized that this little novel is still read world-wide. My 18-year old granddaughter just told me that she read it at school in grade 10.
I read The Catcher in the Rye in high school and can’t remember the story at all. The film MY SALINGER YEAR featured the author Salinger as a steppingstone, but the main theme was about a young girl who wished to become an author herself and how she attempts to accomplish this. The best part of having watched the film was that it sent me to the computer (something which doesn’t exist in the film), to research Salinger and I learned that he was born two days after W. Eugene Smith, the photographer who is played by Johnny Depp in MIRAMATA (also at the Berlinale). Not only their birth dates, but their lives were quite similar: But why Salinger? Why not “My Hemingway Year” or “My Capote Year”? Perhaps this is Salinger’s “time” because he would have turned 100 on January 1, 2019. The film also sent me to my shelves where I found Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour an Introduction by J.D. Salinger. I doubt that I have ever read it, which I will do now.