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What effect did Catcher in the Rye have on you?

by Stephen Dark
- Posted // 2010-01-28 -

Today's news that Catcher in the Rye's author J D Salinger died yesterday at age 91 threw me back thirty years to my ill spent youth. I remember reading Catcher in a windswept Greenwich Park over several afternoons accompanied by packs of Marlboro and a thermos of brandy-laced coffee.

His creation, the teenager Holden Caulfield struggling towards maturity, was a mesmerising figure. Salinger seems, judging by bios and articles a less than sympathetic personality, but Caulfield was a lifeline for me, along with Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. Caulfield's yearning for meaning in his life and his stumbling steps towards love, sexuality and self-acceptance combined to make an immeasurably moving read.

In some way, Caulfield's final realisation as he watches his sister Phoebe on the carousel that loving others is about letting them go helped me to, at that point, accept limitations I was chaffing against, to acknowledge that as much as I hurt back then in my late teens at the self-destructive behavior of one close friend, I had to accept I wasn't responsible for the choices she was making.

What effect did Catcher have on you? 

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