J.D. Salinger

In Culture, Personal on June 6, 2009 at 5:32 PM
I had completely forgotten why I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Over the years, I’ve just assumed that I always had an interest in reading and writing. Then I came across this. I remembered that it was actually one particular book that inspired it all.

Before I read Catcher in the Rye, my reading experiences went like this:

  • The Hardy Boys (and other similar fiction series) were good stories but nothing about those books were special;
  • I read Sweet Valley High in 6th grade simply because I knew it would bother my teacher who didn’t think I should be reading books like that because I was a boy;
  • I read Lord of the Rings but it didn’t feel right because I skipped so many boring pages, and felt like I was just pretending to like it because everyone else liked it;
  • In 7th grade I read Farewell to Arms by Hemingway and didn’t get it.
I had no idea what I was looking for until I read Catcher the summer before I went to high school. I quickly accumulated everything I could find written by J.D Salinger (the entire family: Franny and Zoey, Carpenters, the banana fish, etc.) I found several different occasions to re-read Catcher (normally squeezing some credit out of my English teachers for doing so). It was the only book I knew that got better each time I read it.

But it wasn’t until an English presentation in 12th grade where I decided to enter the classroom in character, as J.D. Salinger, and present his works to the class for my independent studies project, when I realized how obsessed I actually was with J.D.

Lucky for me, the internet had emerged by that time, and I quickly discovered I wasn’t alone. The question that haunted all of us was always the same: Why?

It tantalized me. How could someone that connected to so many people simply not care about his popularity? How could someone that wrote such a perfect book not want to write more?

The number of artists and writers influenced by him is astonishing. There are numerous attempts trying to extend his work somehow, trying to write the sequels, finish the Holden Caufield story, or tell Salinger’s story – for so many people J.D. Salinger is not a person, but an inspiration.

The only time you ever hear about J.D. in the news nowadays is when he is fighting to protect the unique existence of Holden Caulfield in the locket that is Catcher in the Rye. There is actually a “legal conflicts” section in his wikipedia page, if you’re interested.

It’s my dream to create something, just one thing that people of my generation would hold dearly to their hearts. Now that I’m all grown up, I don’t really think about the “why” anymore. I understand it completely. Jean-Paul Sartre described this concept as the “ultimate goal,” a singular objective that an individual strives to achieve. It is the sole creation that justifies all the steps needed to create it. It is a lasting impression left on earth that justifies all the coffee, cigarettes, and sleepless nights.

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