Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Missing Everybody


his week has been a kind of melancholy one - so I guess if my favorite author had to chose a week to take his exit from this earth, this week was fitting.

No other author has ever touched my heart more than Mr. J.D Salinger. Holden Caulfield will forever and for always be my all time favorite fictional character. (which is why I have a child name Holden) At times I have tried to put my finger on what about this book felt like it saved my life. After all, the main character is sort of depressed, and he's sort of on a semi-self-destructive journey that lands him in a mental facility. Sounds cheery right?

But this book cheered my soul during a time in my life when I just didn't know who I really was or what I really wanted and I thought I was the only person in the world who felt that way. And then, along came Holden Caulfield, and I didn't feel so alone anymore.

A lot of people read this book in high school. My high school was probably way too conservative for this book. We read "Les Miserables" and "The Scarlet Letter" (and that AWFUL "Wuthering Heights" about depressing!)

I've talked about Sam Jones on my blog before - but Sam was just this super awesome kid I met at college. Here are some photos of Sam and his band "Second Thoughts" from college,
and one of he and I on temple square (he's doing the hand stand - probably the only person to ever do a hand stand on temple square) and now of course, he does super awesome stuff like this: and anyway, one day when I was particularly depressed and sitting on the roof of my apartment building (sounds odd - but we had dormer windows in the attic of an old house that had been compartmentalized into apts and I could easily climb out onto the roof, which I frequently did at night), Sam climbed out the window and sat and talked to me for a while. Sam was always so sunny and cheery and it was hard to be in a bad mood when Sam was around. And Sam said to me "You're all messed up with no where to go!" And that sounded so right. I always felt a little bit like I was "All messed up with no where to go" but no one had ever quite articulated it for me quite that way. And that's when Sam told me. "You've GOTTA read Catcher in the Rye, it'll change your life I swear". So he brought me his copy of it. And from the opening lines, I couldn't put it down:

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."

who isn't going to love a book that starts off like that? I just adore it. I can still read it over and over again. Some of my favorite quotes:

It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like you were disappearing every time you crossed a road.

People always think something's all true

What really knocks me out is a book, when you're all done reading it, you wished the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.
I'm always saying "Glad to've met you" to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.

I'm sort of an atheist. I like Jesus and all, but I don't care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible. Take the Disciples, for instance. They annoyed the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth. They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head. All they did was keep letting Him down. I like almost anybody in the Bible better than the Disciples. If you want to know the truth, the guy I like best in the Bible, next to Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones. I like him ten times as much as the Disciples, that poor bastard.

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be.

Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.

Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.

In a weird way that book has sort of saved me life. It gave voice to a lot of feelings I had at that time in my life and made me feel not quite so alone. Plus the written voice of Holden is just such a unique gem in literature. There's nothing quite like it.

Salinger wrote a few other great books - I love "Franny and Zooey", "Raise High the roof Beam" has it's moments of greatness. But I really want to read all his short stories in "9 Stories" there are some really lovely writing moments there.

Cranky old J.D. Salinger holed up in his Connecticut cabin for years and years and never published anything since the 1960s. Which broke all our hearts. It would be nice if there were manuscripts sitting around up in that cabin somewhere. But who knows. Maybe he felt like Holden Caulfield really said all there was to say about the human experience and what more could he add? I always like to think of Salinger as the grown up Holden. In "Catcher in the Rye" he keeps saying he wants to run off with Sally Hayes to a cabin in the woods and live there forever. And he can't get Sally to agree to it. I like to think Salinger thought of himself as Holden, living out his days the way that Holden would have wanted.

We miss you already Mr. Salinger.


Anonymous said...

This is a great post. Sam and I have thought about you all when we heard of his death. Thanks for your thoughts.

bandanamomtoo said...

Oh Jenn...miss you!


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