Do teens still re­late to Holden’s angst?

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY BETH J. HARPAZ

NEW YORK — Zoe Miller, 16, likes J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the

Rye so much that her copy is do­geared from mul­ti­ple read­ings. And she wishes her par­ents had spelled her name Zooey in­stead of Zoe, in hon­our of an­other Salinger book, Franny and Zooey.

But Becky Johnston-Carter, 19, hates Catcher so much that she made a YouTube video in which she stabbed the book with a knife, then burned it in a bar­be­cue grill.

When Salinger died last month, The Catcher in the Rye was her­alded as the ul­ti­mate de­pic­tion of mod­ern teenage angst. But while Catcher is widely taught, do 21st-cen­tury teenagers still re­late to the book’s moody nar­ra­tor Holden Caulfield? Or has Catcher, first pub­lished in 1951, be­come just an­other clas­sic shoved down kids’ throats? Pas­sions rage on both sides. “I’m a re­ally big fan,” said Zoe, of San Marino, Calif. “My copy is to­tally bat­tered and old. Holden is such a cool kid. I think he’s my favourite fic­tional char­ac­ter.” She trea­sures her dad’s red hunt­ing cap be­cause Holden has one just like it.

On the other side of the de­bate, Becky says she “could never find the teenage re­bel­lion that was sup­posed to be in the book.” But she came up with her own form of re­bel­lion by de­stroy­ing it in a YouTube video called “I Hate Catcher in the Rye.”

“I re­al­ize Holden was sup­posed to be a teenager, but he al­ways seemed like a grumpy old man,” said Becky, who made the video at home in San Luis Obispo, Calif., the sum­mer be­fore start­ing col­lege at Mount Holyoke in South Hadley, Mass.

Li Gold­berg, a fresh­man at Bard Col­lege at Si­mon’s Rock in Great Bar­ring­ton, Mass., says when she read Catcher, she could hear Holden’s “voice and felt him as a friend. I un­der­stood his phi- los­o­phy on phoneys and why he was act­ing the way he was.”

Li re­called stand­ing up for Holden in her high school English class af­ter an­other stu­dent dis­missed him as an “emo.” (Note to un­in­formed peo­ple over 40: Ur­ban­Dic­tionary.com de­fines “emo” as an angsty teenager.)

“ That was a lively class,” said Daniel Lewis, Li’s teacher at Lin­coln-Sud­bury High School in Lin­coln, Mass., where Catcher is taught to ninth-graders. “It was great that there was that en­ergy and con­nect­ing with the book.”

Lewis says that while teenagers still re­late to Holden on a vis­ceral, emo­tional level, read­ing Catcher can be a chal­lenge.

“It does feel dated and I’m sur­prised it works as well as it does,” Lewis said. “It’s hard for a 14-or 15-year-old to put them­selves in a post-World War II mind­set. The lan­guage is dif­fer­ent. Holden’s voice sounds re­ally au­then­tic, re­ally vivid, but it’s not how a teenager sounds to­day. There’s a lot of am­bi­gu­ity, and you’re not quite sure how to read this per­son.” Lewis says teens read­ing

Catcher to­day need a glossary for words like “crumby,” “corny” and “the grippe.” And they need help un­der­stand­ing that when Holden says his brother is “pros­ti­tut­ing” him­self in Hol­ly­wood, he means that fig­u­ra­tively.

“But if you can get past that, you can start to feel re­ally pro­tec­tive of the guy,” Lewis said. He said teens also still re­late to Holden’s “deep dis­trust of the adult world” and his “to hell with the world” at­ti­tude and “ lack of con­nec­tion to his par­ents.”

But Jen­nifer Bogut, who teaches high school English at Mon­trose Academy in Moscow, Idaho, says she’d “rather face root canal work” than “in­flict” Holden Caulfield on any­one.

“If peo­ple hadn’t been so up in arms over the lan­guage and con­tent, it wouldn’t have be­come the cult clas­sic that has caused high school stu­dents to have to read it over the last sev­eral decades,” she said. (Among other things, Holden de­scribes him­self as a “sex ma­niac” and is up­set about graf­fiti that con­tains ob­scen­i­ties.)

Rachel Mat­tos, a se­nior at Saint Joseph’s Uni­ver­sity in Philadel­phia, says the book re­tains its shock value. “I just re­mem­ber be­ing a ner­vous 14year-old in my first high school English class, star­tled by my teacher read­ing curse words out loud,” she said. Over­all, though, she said the book “didn’t re­ally speak to me” even though it’s sup­posed to be about “that teenage thing of not fit­ting in.”

Corin War­den, who teaches at a Toronto high school, thinks

Catcher will fade from read­ing lists as the boomers who grew up with it re­tire. “ That gen­er­a­tion is leav­ing, and there’s got to be some­thing that has been writ­ten since that speaks as elo­quently to teenagers as Catcher in the Rye once did,” he said.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

Zoe Miller, 16, of San Marino, Calif., holds a dog-eared copy of one of her favourite books, The Catcher in the Rye. The book, whose au­thor, J.D. Salinger, died Jan. 27, is widely taught in high schools.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.