After reading about J.D. Salinger’s death, I went home and took my copy of Catcher In the Rye off the shelf. I bought it, secondhand, in the spring of my sophomore year, on my high school’s biology field trip. I’d previously read the book, of course, but I didn’t have a copy — I’m the daughter of a librarian who thought books ought to be borrowed rather than owned. It still has the address of a Down East public school stamped on the inside flap.
I remember being deeply impressed Salinger’s writing, by the fluidity and forceful voice. But the worry of finding it somehow adolescent made me hesitate to open the book again today. At the time, my own writing was feverish but unformed. It’s been enough, I guess, to earn me a living and, that Salinger spring, a spot at the Breadloaf. Coming home from Vermont, my friend R.S. and I tried to convince our chaperone, Mrs. A., to detour to Cornish. Like all tortured teenage poets, we were Salinger stalkers.
I suppose it’s because Salinger was the quintessential author of teen angst that he still has such sway, even though nothing’s been published in his name, short of court filings, in decades. Don’t we all romanticise our rites of passage? Don’t we want to return to a place in time where, beneath professed cynicism, we could believe in the catcher in the rye?