Sunday, June 21, 2009

Crotchety Catchers in the Rye

Nobody wants to hear about the failure of American fathers on this day of greeting cards and long-distance phone calls, but J.D. Salinger is still around suing people to protect Holden Caulfield and remind generations how they felt let down by parents who were "phonies."

Holden lives in the American imagination as the adolescent who kept picturing "all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around--nobody big, I mean--except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff--I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them."

In his rescue fantasy, parents were unable or unwilling to save their kids from going over the crazy cliff called grownup life. Now another writer wants to appropriate Salinger's alter ego and show "the precocious and self-satisfied 16-year-old Holden" as "a 76-year-old version of himself fraught with indecision and insecurity.”

The copyright laws will likely uphold the efforts of Salinger, now 90, to protect his creation and save us all the indignity of having our noses rubbed in the reality of not living up to adolescent dreams and having turned out to be "phonies" just like the parents we disdained back then.

A more generous estimate on this sentimental day might be that we all tried to be catchers in the rye but that our arms were just not long enough.

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