My fifth grade teacher gave me my first copy of Catcher in the Rye. I was eleven years old, dealing with puberty, reading at a level far beyond my years but still trapped in a fat little girl’s body. I don’t remember much about fifth grade, really, except what I read during that time. That year I made the transition from whatever kid/tween stuff I’d been devouring (Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, etc) to the big time. I had a bizarre obsession with Civil War-era novels and couldn’t get enough of the North and South books, Roots, and Gone with the Wind. I even read The Color Purple.
But this was supposed to be about The Catcher in the Rye. It released me somehow, the book with the plain brown cover and yellow letters. I identified with Holden Caulfield as if I were the first person to read the book, which I’m sure is the magic that sucks in young readers to this day. Tomorrow marks the 58th anniversary since its publication – I can’t help but wonder if kids today can still identify with the book. Our world is so slick and immediate now. When I first read it, over 20 years ago, we weren’t so far removed from Holden’s time – hell, we still had a rotary phone. But can someone understand that sort of removed anguish in this day?
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve read the book since college. I used to read it once a year or so, but at some point it just didn’t sing to me like it once had. I’m debating picking it up again – should I leave it to my fuzzy childhood memories? Do I want to meet Holden Caulfield again? I wouldn’t say we were friends back then, but he was sort of a tour guide for me, opening doors to other options, other ways to live, other types of fiction. I wonder if I took that tour now would it marr what I’ve left behind, or would it remind me once again of where I could go?