For the 100th anniversary of J.D. Salinger’s birth, the deliciously trenchant Ron Charles leaves behind all the silliness you might associate with his on-the-nose but super funny “Totally Hip Video Book Reviews” and gets back to his roots of brilliant observation. From hisWashington Post piece on the anniversary of the birth of Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger:
Tuesday is J.D. Salinger’s 100th birthday, but Holden Caulfield is still 17. The iconic teenager of “The Catcher in the Rye” is forever suspended in the amber of our youthful alienation.
Although a few pious schools continue to ban Salinger’s only published novel, for millions of adults, a faded copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” is a sweet teenage treasure, as transgressive as a trophy from band camp. Ninth-graders who secretly read the book with a flashlight when it came out in 1951 are now in their 80s.
To read it again as an adult is to feel Holden’s pain lingering like a phantom limb. His righteous cynicism is adolescence distilled into a sweet liquor. But the novel also feels like revisiting your first house. The familiarity is enchanting but discombobulating. The story is smaller than you remember, and some details you had completely wrong. But what’s most striking is how common the novel’s tone has become over the intervening decades. Holden is Patient Zero for generations infected by his misanthropy. We live in a world overpopulated by privileged white guys who mistake their depression for existential wisdom, their narcissism for superior vision.
We have met the phonies and they are us.
Oh ouch, but stunningly spun. There’s more, and it’s here.
Meanwhile, if you’re craving more of Charles’ copious wit and wisdom, you can find him at The Washington Post reviewing books, and also here.