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Monday, January 24, 2005 

Famous Jerry

I could sit here and summarize the book for you, tell you how Holden is in a psychiatric unit retelling the story of his last year, his story of being kicked out of Pency Prep, one of the many schools he has been kicked out of. Our I could discuss the different glaring themes in the book; loneliness, fear of change, alienation, fear of becoming an adult, the phoniness in the grown up world, Holden wanting to be the protector of the youth - saving the young from losing their innocence’s and turning into one of the others… one of the “phony’s”. I could discuss the reference to the catcher in the rye and how Holden actually gets the lyrics of the song wrong and what this error really tells us about our dear simplistic Holden. But I really don’t want to… I figure we will be doing this for the next six days and then I will be doing it again with another group entirely Thursday night at my other book club where we are discussing, yup that’s right, Catcher in the Rye.

So onto the topic that really fascinates me: the author of the book, Jerome David Salinger, and why he no longer publishes and has become a hermit.

Jerome David Salinger was born in 1919 to a half Jewish, half Irish Catholic New York family that was in the meat and cheese business. He wrote many pieces, but supposedly the two that provide the most incite into who J.D. Salinger, prefers to go by Jerry, is are Catcher in the Rye and Bananafish. After Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951 it gained mass notoriety which drove J.D. Salinger into hiding and then he stopped publishing all together. He stated that “publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.” (The New York Times, 1974). I don’t believe this statement, possibly because I don’t understand it. Of course he writes for himself, we all write for ourselves, but I believe he stopped writing for the same reason that he started writing… to gain notoriety. Once he discovered how talented he was, how approving the general public was of his work he had to do something different. But could it be another book? Most likely not because another book would never gain the attention that Catcher in the Rye did, but everyone would expect that it should. The only place he could possibly go from Catcher in the Rye was down, unless of course he never publishes again. But he can’t stop writing because it is what he does, what he likes, what he loves. So he decides to drop of the face of the earth (some where in New Hampshire) and continue to write, but never to publish. He has always promised that his works can be published once he is dead, once his work can’t be criticized. Of course, this is all merely my opinion. But I truly believe that J.D. Salinger stopped publishing, not for his own pleasure like he claims, but in an effort to remain famous.

Interesting theory Becca. I think trying to do ANYTHING after a huge sucess is terrifying. The fact that people publish second novels after the first one is a hit AMAZES me. I don't think I could do it. I think I'd buy a farm right next old Jerry's.

Let us all hope I am a giganitc failure. ;) 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

Very interesting...I didn't know that about Salinger. So, if he was born in 1919, that means it won't be long until we can all enjoy more paragraphs lasting 2 pages that "digress" on the topic of "digression" by Jerry. Sarcasm aside, I hope his unpublished works DO get published. Comparing his later work to this one would be really interesting.

I understand this book was very controversial when it was first used as part of curriculum in public schools (and understandably so...a lot of swearing, sex, underage drinking, prostitutes...) Do any schools use it? And how do kids react? I can't wait to get our resident English teacher's thoughts on the book.  

Posted by Suzie Petunia

Sarah: You already ARE a huge success… yet you still trudge on!

Suzie: I have many friends that have read this book in school, most of the members of my other book club are reading Catcher in the Rye for the second or third time having only read it in English classes before. What I find interesting is how against promiscuous sex Holden is. I think Holden is such a prude… a curious potty mouth prude, but a prude none the less.

Posted by Rebecca

Interesting insights on Jerry... What about Franny and Zoey (or is it Frankie and Zoey)? I see that in the bookstores all of the time.

I agree with Sarah, though, that it's just scary to put out something else.

Re: Reading it in school, I asked my English teacher friend and she said that it would be hard to teach because the slang is SO distracting for the kids.  

Posted by Kaycee

Suzie- This book was on the book list for my high school honors English class. We were cautioned about the language, sex, etc.

Rebecca- How fascinating about our friend Jerry. The idea of him wanting to write for himself and his own pleasure appeals to me and makes sense in my head. I feel that way about my music. I'm not saying that I've ever been so famous that I need to go hide out, but, there are times when I want my music just for me. Not always, but hiding out has it's appeals, especially when Jerry knows people would hound him.

J.D. Salinger is someone I would like to run into in a New Hampshire coffee shop. 

Posted by Star

Franny and Zooey is excellent… the story of Franny’s nervous breakdown and she and Zooey’s religions angst.

I love all of Salinger’s Glass Family stuff; Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters, Seymour: An Introduction… okay that is all I know. 

Posted by Rebecca

Great job, Big R! Thank you for filling in the details of Jerry's life. I guess good old JD is the prototype for the recluse writer in "Finding Forrester". (Great rental!)

I also have a tough time relating to the desire for anonymity, but then again, I've never been famous. And with writing, who really wants it to be picked apart and analyzed. Refer to aforementioned movie. Forrester writes a book about one thing and everyone thinks it's about something else, and the insecurity of creating another masterpiece drives him into hermitude.

I wonder what Jerry's day job is? 

Posted by Carrie Ann

Christian, I forgot what a scouting nerd you really were, but as soon as I saw the picture I remembered, like the time they had the scouts show up to church services in scout uniforms and pass the sacarment, I am really glad my brother did not let me. I also remember the infamous 50/20, I did not however know about toilet and the chair incident.
As to your "awkward" years, of course at the time it may seem bad, but if you think about it know its hard to feel awkward compared to the guys in teh troop, come on all they wanted to do was play b-ball. Plus I always loved, you gave me hope that there was a normal Faulconer out there.

Posted by Cameron

This story is obviously about an undisclosed mental illness (am I wrong?). Rebecca, is Franny and Zoey mainly about menal illness, too? I haven't read it, so I don't know. I was just thinking, maybe Jerry's "hermitude" is somehow linked to mental illness... just a thought.  

Posted by Suzie Petunia

My creative writing teacher is a huge Salinger fan. In class he refered to Franny and Zooey several times. He said he often asks himself, "Am I having a Franny moment or a Zooey moment?" From what he has talked about I think F & Z is about perfectionism and maybe just a little mental illness. I mean, is a good book a good book if no ones sanity comes into question? I think not. 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

I think that Salinger stopped publishing after The Catcher in the Rye because he thought it was hardly worth indulging an audience so impressed by such an over-indulged, self-centered weenie as Holden. 

Posted by David King Landrith

The meat and cheese business? He must have been the happiest kid in the world. No wonder he is such a good writer, if I grew up in a world of meat and cheese, I would be a great writter too. 

Posted by Cameron

David: This could very possibly be the case, but I have always felt Salinger is himself pretty over-indulged and self centered. He comes out of hybernation to sue the pants off anyone that even dares breath his name. He seems so far above his fan base that while I have always been fascinated by him I also find his belief that he is better, above his readers a bit rude and with out a doubt self centered.  

Posted by Rebecca

Have you guys ever thought that maybe he is just nuts? 

Posted by Cameron

I have considered he is nuts, but not JUST nuts. 

Posted by Rebecca

Personally, I agree with Rebecca (and Cameron...yes.) Just from reading Rebecca's Author Intro, to me it would seem that he has a narcisstic personality dissorder. So self centered plus a perfectionist to a fault. I think the inner-turmoil drove him nuts...

Great reflections...Great post, Rebecca... 

Posted by JP

OK, I confess that I have not read the book...BUT I am going straight over to Amazon to order that and the other one, they both sound great! I will say this, I can completely understanding wanting to quit while you are at your peak....not to gain great noteriety for it but because the prospect of creating something that great again or something even better is absolutely terrifying, the fall is devesating and when you already feel that anything great you have done is a fluke well...this is a great out.

Just my $.02 

Posted by EJ

Also...just to clarify (because this floored me) that the reason it was banned from schools was not for the language but for the prostitute 'involvement'. Isn't that something? Boy, do we live in a different world. 

Posted by JP

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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