Catching the Uncapturable

OK, this is tomorrow’s post – but I’m posting now so people can contribute while the thought’s still fresh. Lots will be said in the weeks to come about Catcher in the Rye and Salinger, but what do you think about it NOW? First thoughts. Don’t get it? The book that changed your life? The greatest work of the 20th Century? Victim of its own hype? Post a single para here, or in the comments – can be anything from reflection to a poem or an inspired by flash. If we care as a group about what we say we do, then we ought to mark a moment like this, however sentimental it sounds. I’ll start. Please, no replies to people’s comments. Reflections, not debate 🙂


White piano


glasses and song,


voices – a scream in the past

glasses – a scream in silence

generations – a scream in the future

friendships – a scream in dark corridors

relationships – a scream in autumn poppyfields

dreams – a scream in my soul

hearts – a scream in the night

minds – a scream

a scream

a scream

that doesn’t end.



~ by yearzerowriters on January 28, 2010.

14 Responses to “Catching the Uncapturable”

  1. I see a crumpled guy, clutching a gun and a copy of the book , in a corner of a dark entrance hall, with John Lennon lying feet away. I share a birthday with John and feel a special link to him. On my own 40th which would have been his 60th I visited Strawberry fields and the Dakota to pay my respects. That connection has always put me off reading the book and possibly always will.

  2. I came to reading very late. Aged about 15 or so. I was completely uninformed, but had an intuitive grasp that I didn’t want to go back into the previous century for my novels. The 3 books that were touted as being the three formative reads for boys, were Camus’ “L’Etranger”, “Catcher In The Rye” and Fowles’ “The Magus”. Camus and Salinger blew me away and ensured I continued to indulge my newfound reading bug (and look where it’s got me today!). I am forever in both their debts.

    In their personal lives, the two authors also demonstrated the two poles of visibility; Camus was a public figure, demonstrating against the Algerian war, putting his name to campaign petitions and giving his opinion on issues which were treated with due gravitas of his profession as is held in highest esteem in France. Salinger was the complete opposite, shunning the consequences of his success that made people presume he was public property. Has there ever been an artist who so closely protected his privacy? I am perenially finding myself bouncing from between the two as to how to conduct my professional self. My temperament is that of the Salinger approach. The artist as hermit, as anchorite. Locked up in cloistered cell in order to pursue the art single mindedly. I think with Salinger’s passing, also disappears that pole of behaviour, as we all have to stamp and scream our petty selves in virtual public in order to get noticed. Few if any of us adopt Camus’ social role on the back of our art. Both are crying shames and indictments of the role and status of the writer in our society.

    marc nash

  3. Kerouac? Life changing. Burroughs? Even more so. But Salinger? Indifference.

    Sorry – I’m going to have to read Catcher again now, because you all like it so much, but as a kid it didn’t touch me at all.

    • See to me Kerouac offers nothing. Burroughs yes, but a bit tricky for a 15 year old stripling to get to grips with – I was in my 20’s when I tackled him.

      I think because American sensibilities are different (or at least used to be) to our own British/European one, that it is very possible to see nothing in Kerouac and everything in Salinger and of course vice versa. Road trips speak nothing to me. (i neither drive nor fly and can derive no Zen from the act of motion itself). Kids who are too clever for the school system does speak to me (even though I was a goody two shoes – making up for lost time now though).


      • Have to say I no longer rate Kerouac in the way I did, 40 long years ago. But, in 1950s Britain, reading On the Road was like a bullet in the brain. Maybe you had to live near a US base – comics, Lucky Strikes, rock’n’roll.

  4. I was sixteen when I read Catcher in the Rye… a young sixteen. I thought the book was teaching me about boys and dating which I do not blame J.D. Salinger for… His short stories gave me much hope and I loved his book Franny and Zooey. Salinger and his characters touched me; I viewed them as friends I would never meet.

  5. I did not go through the teenage angst and rebellion that so many people I knew experienced. I read Catcher in the Rye and was sometimes exasperated by Holden. But, still, I was intrigued by the writing, by the jumble, by the man.

    Now, that I’m an adult I fell into the angst and rebellion that should have been lived all those years ago. Funny, that.

    I guess my lot is to always be out of order, eh. 🙂

    And I did have two dogs. One was named Zoey. The other, Frennie. People always mistakenly asked, “Oh, they’re named after that Salinger book?”

  6. Never read it.

  7. I remember reading it in ninth grade, and thinking, what is this all about? Much ado about nothing? My more cultured classmates wrote reams in analysis, and I thought that I must be thick as a brick for not catching the idea in the rye.

    I am still thinking that way, but having re-read it as a University student, I have understood the way it broke the mould, and that is grounds enough for its status.

    Rest in peace, finally, JDS.

  8. I remember reading it very young, 9 or 10 yrs old & being incredibly excited, getting a feeling of freedom from it. & relating to it. It was one of MY books… But that was many lifetimes ago & I should re-read it now. I only recall how it affected me, nothing at all about the way it was written or what it was about.

  9. I read it aged about 15 I think, and loved it, with no idea why. On later reflection, once I started writing myself, it was the voice that impressed me most.

  10. When I read Catcher, I could tell it was flawlessly written, but it didn’t move me at all. Sad as I was to hear of Salinger’s passing, it didn’t upset me like losing Vonnegut did. Holden never broke my heart lke Sal Paradise, or Yossarian, or Billy Pilgrim.

    I’m not sure why.

    R.I.P. Salinger

  11. i was entirely psyched that we got to read catcher in school. i had already read it the summer before, 8th or 9th grade maybe. i felt like my school and my english teacher was the coolest guy ever that we got to read this book, which hardly seemed academic at all. that begun the end of “academic” reading for me and enabled me to truly appreciate english class and the books that were assigned in the conext of literary criticism (later, a major in college) and of course, in their cultural context.

    holden was the first time i realized i could appreciate a book and the experience of reading it over the course of a week or so that i didn’t have to love the main character, or even empathize with him too much. it was an exploration in understanding depth of character without having to identify too much with him. for years after–even now–i struggled with reconciling that concept. the traditional notion of main character development is someone that the reader can identify with, empathize with, see himself in, feel comfortable with. holden didn’t capture all of those categories. it was a darker, subtler sense of identifying with him. it made us think more about ourselves and our own foibles.

    as a writer, it made me strive to be able to write a character that is deep, complex, but annoying, silly, needlessly dramatic, and has a terrible set of interactions with her world. i still haven’t been able to draw that as well as salinger did.


  12. No writer really affects me when they die.

    I don’t know them, and I almost prefer it when they’re dead…then they can’t embarrass themselves anymore. In Salinger’s case it wasn’t a problem though, he was a non-person. Vonnegut on the other hand…

    Catcher is a book with a great voice though.


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