Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Would You Like Some Cheese With That Whine?

Did anyone else get a chance to see the New York Times Article "Get a Life, Holden Caulfield"? It looks at how today's students see Holden Caulfield (protagonist of the "find yourself" J.D. Salinger novel, The Catcher in the Rye) and compares their disinterest with the fervent enthusiasm of the youth of fifty years ago. Apparently high school students today don't give a crap about Holden's weekend in New York.

For example, one expert cited argues that, "'Compared to the early 1950s, there is not as much room for the adolescent search, for intuition, for empathy, for the mystery of the unconscious and the deliverance made possible through talking to another person.'" While I might not be the best barometer for "the youth" of today, I would say that this is true--the youth of today do want to read about kids who are "different," but those kids need to ultimately come out as winners, not losers who reject the world as it is.

When I read The Catcher in the Rye (something like six or seven years ago, which makes me feel incredibly old), I just couldn't get over how Caulfield seemed like a big whiner. He had money, he had a free weekend, he had every opportunity to do something, but I wasn't entirely sure where he thought he was going. I wanted to read about someone who does something, whatever that something might be. (For example, I loved Jack Kerouac's books when I was in college. I adored The Dharma Bums with its escapist mentality, but the characters in Kerouac's books do things, write things, see things. Holden Caulfield, from what I remember, pouted about things.)

Anyone else have an opinion on the matter?

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