Tim Tan Huynh

The Catcher in the Rye diamond jubilee

  • 2 Sep 2014
  • JD Salinger's masterpiece turned 60 this year. It was first published on July 16, 1951, but I waited until this time of year to celebrate everybody's favorite scholastic underachiever, Holden Caulfield. (Spoilers)
The Catcher in the Rye cover, first edition
The first-edition cover features a carousel horse, which plays a role in the climax. Park benches and city buildings are in the background.

I first read Holden’s epic misadventure for an English class in high school, over a decade ago. I had to pick a book that was controversial in some way. I knew this book was banned at some point and was a big deal and all, but I didn’t know much else. I was surprised by the casual and readable narration style. Holden was funny as hell to me, both his words and his actions, though when I read the climactic run-in between him and Phoebe, I bawled.

I’ve admired this book ever since then. I try to read it from cover to cover every New Year’s Eve. I start in the morning and finish in the evening. My annual reading is essentially a literary pilgrimage, though I’ve never thought of it that way until now. Revisiting The Catcher in the Rye leads me to think about what I’ve done and what I’m doing in my life, which is to say, not a whole lot.

A part of me think thinks that I’m the guy who Mr Antolini warns Holden about becoming, like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come if Salinger had written The Christmas Carol. Regretting and resenting because of what could have happened. On the other hand, I appreciate the insight of this defining passage every time I read it. I always get inspired to make something lofty and enduring like old JD has done.

I hope that a movie adaptation is never made. Or, I hope that I’m dead if it does get made. Otherwise the movie that I play in my head whenever I read it would be ruined forever. Plus, an actual movie would be ironic considering how much Holden hates movies. I’ve always imagined a young Scarlett Johansson as Jane Gallagher, though.