Friday, January 29, 2010

J.D. Salinger "Catcher in the Rye" SAMMY WALKER

As this is a blog of the obscure, there's no point going into detail on the tremendous influence of one-hit wonder J.D. Salinger (January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010). His famous first novel has led people to life-changing decisions, from naming their kids after Holden (as Dennis Miller did), to committing an assassination.

For some, "Catcher in the Rye" was the first time a book assigned by a teacher actually meant something. This was especially true in the 50's and 60's when books containing bad words like "goddam" and "Chrissake" were few, and the role models for young boys were The Hardy Boys or Chip Hilton...upstanding fellows never depressed, hostile, or casting an eye on prostitutes.

There were books about growing up before and since ("Huckleberry Finn" and "Portnoy's Complaint" among them) that have, and still do influence us, but nothing quite like that one. The book still sells an estimated 250,000 copies a year because people are still as alienated and pissed off with "phonies" as Holden, and because "Goddam" is still censored on television. Listen for how it's censored to "damn" any time a guest uses that word in a conversation with Letterman or Ferguson (or any of the others).

You all know what happened when the "chords of fame" resonated for Salinger. He gradually turned into a recluse. With big royalties, he was the rare author who didn't need a full-time day job. Instead, he spent much of his time becoming enraptured in, and then chucking, every possible spiritual and scientific teaching from Judaism to Dianetics, and from yoga to orgone therapy, and proving pretty difficult to live with. He may not have wanted people around him, but a good bedmate? You bet. Several of those. "Jerry" continued to write, annotating which items might be worth publishing after his death.

The few times Salinger turned up in the news was when he had to defend his intellectual property, something that Internet fans and the uneducated can't understand. Copyright was as passionate with him as his privacy. When someone decided to make a book out of letters he'd politely written to friends and colleagues, Salinger had his lawyer stop it. The court ruled the letters were still his property and ignored the bilge about "fair use" or "public domain" or "creative commons." In 2009, old but still feisty, Salinger fought with an obnoxious Swede who had decided to call himself "J. D. California" and write a book pirating the Holden Caulfield character.

Salinger appreciated the compliment of so many authors inspired by him. Philip Roth may have used Salinger's first person technique but "Portnoy's Complaint" was an original book. Likewise, Sammy Walker's song "Catcher in the Rye" is obviously paying homage to the influence of Holden Caulfield and J.D. Salinger, but using it to make an individual statement.

And since most everyone's heard of "Catcher in the Rye" the book, but not "Catcher in the Rye" the's the latter, serving as a tribute to Mr. Salinger, as an introduction to Sammy Walker, and as an example of how great art can influence others to be thoughtful and creative.



Anonymous said...

Thank you :) look at that emo boy style on this blog:

Anonymous said...


Holden Caulfield, the original emo boy?

Ill, when are you going to post a download of "People are Strange?"