Thursday, January 28, 2010
"All morons hate it when you call them a moron."
On a serious note, I was incredibly saddened to read today about the death of JD Salinger. I get that he was old and lived a long life and whatnot, but that still doesn't stop a small part of me from feeling as though Holden Caulfield died today. We'll be starting The Catcher in the Rye in a few weeks and I'm saddened to know that I have to change my notes to reflect this recent event. I read Catcher, and then all Salinger's available works, when I was 15 and I knew even back then that I was falling in love. When I found out I was going to get to teach Catcher, I was overjoyed. I was never assigned to read it in high school and I was so excited to share this book, which had meant so much to me, with kids.
I've read several articles recently about the relevance of Catcher to today's high school curriculum and how kids just aren't getting it anymore. While I understand where this line of questioning comes from, I still find the book incredibly relevant. Kids are always going to feel alienated from the world, no matter if it is 1951 or 2010. Holden Caulfield is the same whiny ass, apathetic kid who sits in my classroom today. But the thing we have to remember is that Holden is, in fact, a kid. A kid who went through some serious stuff, much like what kids go through today. You can say kids today have nothing in common with Holden, but the truth is, they're experiencing love and loss and heartbreak and adventure for the first time, just like Holden did. In the end, I just want to give Holden a hug and tell him everything is going to be OK, much like Mr. Antolini, Holden's former teacher (who Holden worries is gay and hitting on him). I think there has to be a sense of empathy for Holden, and all kids out there, buried in the hearts of teachers everywhere.
So I'm always going to have a soft spot in my heart for Holden Caulfield, just like I'm always going to think Salinger's short story "Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut" is one of the best modern short stories I've ever read. (The last line kills me every damn time!!) I'll start Catcher with a smile and hope to god that they never make a movie out of it, because, just like Holden says, " "The goddam movies. They can ruin you. I'm not kidding."