Παρασκευή, 29 Ιανουαρίου 2010

J. D. Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye

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In the 1940s, Salinger confided to several people that he was working on a novel featuring Holden Caulfield, the teenage protagonist of his short story "Slight Rebellion off Madison," and The Catcher in the Rye was published on July 16, 1951. The novel's plot is simple, detailing seventeen-year-old Holden's experiences in New York City following his expulsion, and departure, from an elite prep school. The book is more notable for the iconic persona and testimonial voice of its first-person narrator, Holden. He serves as an insightful but unreliable narrator who expounds on the importance of loyalty, the "phoniness" of adulthood, and his own duplicity. In a 1953 interview with a high-school newspaper, Salinger admitted that the novel was "sort of" autobiographical, explaining that "My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book ... It was a great relief telling people about it."

Initial reactions to the book were mixed, ranging from The New York Times's hailing of Catcher as "an unusually brilliant first novel" to denigrations of the book's monotonous language and the "immorality and perversion" of Holden, who uses religious slurs and freely discusses casual sex and prostitution. The novel was a popular success; within two months of its publication, The Catcher in the Rye had been reprinted eight times. It spent thirty weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.

The book's initial success was followed by a brief lull in popularity, but by the late 1950s, according to Ian Hamilton, it had "become the book all brooding adolescents had to buy, the indispensable manual from which cool styles of disaffectation could be borrowed." Newspapers began publishing articles about the "Catcher Cult", and the novel was banned in several countries—as well as some U.S. schools—because of its subject matter and what Catholic World reviewer Riley Hughes called an "excessive use of amateur swearing and coarse language". One diligent parent counted 237 appearances of the word "goddam" in the novel, along with 58 of "bastard," 31 of "Chrissake" and 6 of "fuck."

In the 1970s, several U.S. high school teachers who assigned the book were fired or forced to resign. In 1979 one book-length study of censorship noted that The Catcher in the Rye "had the dubious distinction of being at once the most frequently censored book across the nation and the second-most frequently taught novel in public high schools (after John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men)." The book remains widely read; as of 2004, the novel was selling about 250,000 copies per year, "with total worldwide sales over 65 million."

In the wake of its 1950s success, Salinger received (and rejected) numerous offers to adapt The Catcher in the Rye for the screen, including one from Samuel Goldwyn. Since its publication, there has been sustained interest in the novel among filmmakers, with Billy Wilder, Harvey Weinstein, and Steven Spielberg among those seeking to secure the rights. Salinger stated in the 1970s that "Jerry Lewis tried for years to get his hands on the part of Holden." Salinger repeatedly refused, though, and in 1999, Joyce Maynard definitively concluded: "The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J. D. Salinger."

Download the e-book here

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