Moderns Forever Be Holden by Douglas Jones


For the Salinger fans out there. An interesting reflection on The Catcher in the Rye and the enormous impact it has had. While I am a fan of the book for it's humor and voice, I tend to agree with the author of this article here when it comes to it's ultimate message and significance.

Moderns Forever Be Holden
J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye
by Douglas Jones

"I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.” That voice, that distinctive voice of sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield, confessing and sinning, tripping and announcing, produced more fictional grandchildren in a short time than any bodily grandfather could.

Holden Everywhere

Holden is now everywhere. Short stories. Stage. Commercials. Novels. Big screen. Home. Every contemporary writer can speak Holden Caulfield, even those who have never read of him. Holden is a dialect. In 1951, the year J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye appeared, the literary critic T. M. Longstreth prophesied, “Fortunately, there cannot be many of him yet. But one fears that a book like this given wide circulation may multiply his kind.”

In some ways, that’s a compliment to Salinger: Something he created became pervasive. In another way, it’s an insult: His art is easily imitated. Hemingway and Joyce face the same problem; Shakespeare and Dostoevsky don’t.

So many social factors have to mesh at the right moment for an artwork to dominate a culture like this, for even a brief moment of decades. Salinger’s novel accomplished this by precisely expressing the secular theology of our time, modern gnosticism.

On the surface, Salinger gave us the believable rebelwithoutaclue that teens longed for. Critic Fred Batman said of his first reading at sixteen, “I was simply dazzled. I thought the book had been written especially for me. . . . Holden has also been a personal savior of sorts.” He speaks for many.

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5 thoughts on “Moderns Forever Be Holden by Douglas Jones

  1. Jones nails the alienated, sentimental essence of modern gnosticism. Though Salinger’s mythology may fade, it’s ideological DNA is infecting new popular myths; for example, the Twilight series.
    TCitR is a good study in predictive programming.

  2. I loved it – got kicked out of the library at the age of 10 for laughing too much (and loudly) while reading it. I remember sitting in the hallway reading it.

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