Monday, 5 November 2012

Rereading "The catcher in the rye"

Of course I don't have to, because in the IB I read it, worked for months on it and wrote nearly 4000 words, and right now in this course at the final exam I'm very likely to skip the question on "The catcher in the rye" if there is, and might write about Sylvia Plath's "Daddy", Nathaniel Hawthorn's "The minister's black veil", Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the scrivener", F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The great Gatsby", William Faulkner's "A rose for Emily", Tennessee Williams's "A streetcar named Desire", David Henry Hwang's "Butterfly" or Toni Morrison's "Sula" (and ignore the rest, sort of), but rereading my EE yesterday (or the day before?) made me want to reread it. And now I'm doing so. 
Here, in this letter Salinger explains why "The catcher in the rye" wouldn't work as a film: 

I know lots of people disagree, thinking he just hates movies, or most writers have trouble seeing their works adapted into other mediums, but I, as a literature lover and cinema lover, must say he is right. Not all books can be adapted into films, and in some cases any attempt will be disastrous- the fact is, the plot of this novel doesn't have much action in it, and there are some dialogues, but the whole book is an extended monologue- Holden Caulfield's philosophy, ways of thinking, thoughts, feelings, and most importantly, voice, all that vividly portrays Holden and all that makes up the greatness of the novel. All these things are lost when it's turned into a movie. 
Today as I read the book, twice I almost forgot to get off the metro. Twice. The 2nd time I was on the way home, so it was alright because Mortensrud- where I stopped- was the last station anyway, but this morning I had to stop at Forskningsparken and when I looked up the metro was about to leave Blindern. If I had not looked up then, I would have forgotten to get off at the next stop. And the book, it killed me. I still love it, or even more. I didn't notice if anybody grimaced or stared at me, but I knew I was laughing like a hyena. “And I have one of those very loud, stupid laughs. I mean if I ever sat behind myself in a movie or something, I'd probably lean over and tell myself to please shut up.” The depiction is so vivid, so convincing, so real, that I could picture Holden Caulfield right here, and wish I knew him, wish I were a friend of his. Last Friday leaving the American literature seminar I was deeply depressed and suicidal I went around wearing Vivien Leigh's Waterloo Bridge expression, at some point I looked up and met the eyes of a young guy, and he looked really concerned, as though he thought I was going to kill myself or something, but today I laugh again, and even laugh like a hyena. This book knocks me out, it really does. “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish 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. That doesn't happen much, though.” Well, I feel a distance from Kafka or Nabokov, but it's how I feel about Salinger or Fitzgerald, I love how they're so insightful, brilliant and acutely aware of everything around them, capturing the essence of a period (like Fitzgerald and the roaring 20s) or a group (Salinger and teenagers). I just want to talk to them, Fitzgerald and Salinger. 
In the IB, I remember, once a girl named S told me how she hated the book. And called it stupid. You know what I thought? I wanted to say to her "That's predictable and very understandable. The book resonates with those who refuse to go over that cliff, and the other side of the cliff doesn't stand for adulthood as people often interpret, but hypocrisy and conformity and the pursuit of appearances, false values and other pointless things. (That's what connects Salinger and Fitzgerald- both use their pens to attack hypocritical, shallow, superficial and selfish people). And you, you're 1 of the biggest phonies I've ever known." And it's true- when I 1st met her I liked her instantly, but after a while, though she didn't do anything directly to me and there was no conflict or argument whatsoever between us, I only observed her and started to see what kind of person she really was, that on the surface she's most popular and well liked in class, confident, dominating every conversation and having the power to persuade people, she's a real phony, simply saying what she knew people wanted to hear but always being dishonest, self-centred and mean and laughing at everybody, the type that no one could rely on or ask for help and no one could trust. But I didn't say so. I don't remember how I responded exactly, but I kept it to myself and didn't say what I thought. 
Of course, Holden Caulfield wouldn't speak to such a phony. 
Anyhow, after finishing rereading this, I'll resume reading "The love of the last tycoon", Fitzgerald's last book. 

o O o 
“Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter—as indissolubly as if they were conceived together.” (FSF) 

[If only I could write like that. If only my experience, my sadness, my awareness of things around me and understanding of human beings were of any use instead of bothering and tiring and tormenting me all my life. If only...] 

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