Read an article in the New York Times about the current generation not getting A Catcher In The Rye. “Why doesn’t he quit whining and take his Prozac,” some fifteen year old whined in a classroom discussion. The writer surmised Holden was dated and not relevant to our mega teen culture and that his disaffection might not happen today. Please. The new generation should be so lucky with their teenage suicide and obesity. Take your Prozac Holden? Well of course they said that because that’s how they deal with their problems. Take your Prozac pacifier and stay on course baby. Holden seems pretty well adjusted with his booze and cigarettes about now.
The real problem with this type of thinking is that Salinger’s book is about the very conformist reaction this generation is having. The main says stop whining or what a loser this prep school guy is, or get a job, take your Prozac, just shut up. Similar reactions are always voiced by the main on any novel presenting an antihero. On the Road, Catcher in the Rye, Revolutionary Road, Bright Lights Big City–these novels all present an alternative view of the main. People generally react negatively to these type of novels–that means the novels are doing exactly what they intended to do.
My last novel has met with similar criticism. I hear the groans now…so that’s why he is writing this. Not true. But Rocket Man is about a forty six year old man who loses his mind in one week in suburbia. The reviews have been many and there was a whole cadre of twenty somethings on Library Thing and other sites who said and I quote; ‘why doesn’t Dale Hammer get a life and quit whining…he should be bitch slapped.” In this way some readers just didn’t get it or these readers will never get it because they are on the other side of the road.
Teens are marketed too like never before, but their loneliness their angst, their suicides, their drugs, their pot, their alcohol, their overdoses, child pregnancies, drunk driving deaths, show us that corporate advertising campaigns are little substitute for interpersonal angst. Twittering and texting and Facebooking will not save anyone from an existential crisis and teen suicides prove the fact.
So to those who find Holden a bore or a whiner or a loser then I say give the book another read and this time look beneath the surface. When you read Hemingway’s Big Two Hearted River the first time you will see a story about a man going camping. Yeah so, big deal. Then when you read it again, maybe years later after you have just lost your best friend in a car wreck or your dad died or you came back from Iraq zonked out of your mind from a suicide bomber that blew your buddy into a red paste–you see a man going camping and looking for meaning again in a world that has none.
Oh my God–you mean what is happening on the surface isn’t the message? You bet your Prozakian Ritalin twittering whining soul it’s not. Read on.
Forthcoming novel Rocket Man . The story of a man trying to hold onto his home.