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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rest in Peace Holden--Review of Catcher in the Rye

It seems a lot of high schools are no longer using A Catcher in the Rye in their curriculum.You cannot be an American writer and not come to grips with "A Catcher in the Rye." The quintessential first person coming of age changed the bar for all writers when it's laconic wise guy narrator took the field and offended our sensibilities. He hated everyone and most of all himself. From then on whenever a first person novel came out with attitude the comparison to Holden Caulfield was inevitable.When my first novel Ripples appeared United Press International compared it to a Catcher in the Rye. I was ecstatic, then I noticed how many first novels were compared to this rock of contemporary literature.

If one had a first person narrator that threw off on institutions and people then there was a good chance this comparison would sneak in. Still, any writer who has read A Catcher in the Rye knows that there can be no real comparison to this novel because it really was a one of a kind.On the outside Holden seems offensive enough, but it is self knowledge that gets in the way of just another snotty spoiled rich kid. He wants sanity and he wants meaning, but in the world of 1950s New York between the hookers and the bars and his absent parents he can find only loneliness.

There in lies Holden's urban parable...the cold world of the young urban sophisticate looking for the answers. He after all only wants to be the Catcher in the Rye and catch the children. And of course the person he really wants to catch is himself. Rest in peace Holden.

William Hazelgrove's latest novel, Rocket Man, is due out in the fall

Books by William Hazelgrove