Well. Damn. When someone like JD Salinger dies, I usually think “there goes another one from the team.” The team is me and maybe you and everyone we think could be like us, or at least the ones who make things make more sense for us. George Carlin. Kurt Vonnegut. Matt Groening, whenever he dies. But I said when someone like JD Salinger dies, because I’m not sure he was from the team. He’s got a special place in my brainheart and all, but there are those rumors about him being a pee-drinking recluse. So. Ew.
But anyway. I’m sadder than I thought I might be, I guess because it’s easy to forget how you were back in high school and also how you got that way. And when I heard the news today, I remembered that I got this way because of Catcher in the Rye.
(You know, don’t bother telling me that Catcher wasn’t all that great, and his short stories were better, and did you read that piece from the New Yorker back in 1961, blah blah blah. Catcher in the Rye was my – and, I imagine, almost everyone else’s – introduction to JD Salinger, and I still like it better than Franny and Zooey and Nine Stories and any other collections out there.)
So thanks to my friend April. She read Catcher in the Rye first and told me that I had to get it out of the school library. When we went to check it out, the guy working at the desk gave us the side eye and asked what we were planning on doing with it.
“We’re going to chop up lines of blow on it,” I said. “Reading is for losers.”
He shrugged. I like to think that I had every intention of bringing the book back to the library when I was done with it, but it’s sitting next to me right now. The spine is held together by yellowed masking tape, which isn’t quite as yellow as the pages. There’s a deep crease down the cover, on the opposite corner from the book’s price. 75 cents. It’s the old red cover with yellow lettering, too, which is way cooler than the white-and-rainbow-stripe covers that came out afterwards, or the cartoonish carousel horse after that.
By my senior year lit class, no one else had read Catcher in the Rye. I’d planned on doing my literary analysis on it, but then my teacher got another conformity bug up her ass and started marketing it to everyone. Well, I wasn’t about to write the same paper as everyone else, so I requested Slaughter-House Five. Since then, my two favorite writers have been Salinger and Vonnegut, which is why my personal literary landscape feels very, very lonely today.