December 31, 2018

"It's no longer tenable to imagine that the anxieties of a white heterosexual young man expelled from an expensive prep school capture the spirit of our era."

"Today's snarky young anti-hero instead looks like Norris, the black French Canadian boy who moves to Texas in Ben Philippe's forthcoming young-adult novel, 'The Field Guide to the North American Teenager.'"

From "Is 'Catcher in the Rye' still relevant on Salinger's 100th birthday?" (SF Gate). The 100th birthday is tomorrow, New Year's Day.

42 comments:

rhhardin said...

"It's no longer tenable to imagine that the anxieties of a white heterosexual young man expelled from an expensive prep school capture the spirit of our era."

I hesitate to say that I don't disagree with you.

Ann Althouse said...

Funny use of the word "imagine." You can imagine anything.

Ann Althouse said...

It's easy if you try.

Rob said...

It’s true. What captures the spirit of our era is a gender-bending asylum seeker having a hissy fit because the immigration officer won’t use hx’s chosen pronoun.

Eleanor said...

England no longer has poor houses, but it's still relevant to read Dickens as a way to begin a discussion on how to deal with poverty. If the only relevant things are happening in the here and now, we've become a very shallow society.

campy said...

ten·a·ble
[ˈtenəb(ə)l]
ADJECTIVE

able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection.

You can imagine anything, but can you defend it against the SJW thugs?

gilbar said...

"It's no longer tenable to imagine that the anxieties of a white heterosexual young man expelled from an expensive prep school capture the spirit of our era."

If we assume that the man was expelled because of a post hoc rape accusation; with No evidence and No witnesses... It would PERFECTLY capture the spirit of our era
{of course, that would be a different book}

Unknown said...

"The spirit of our era". Whatever that is, it probably does not make for great literature.

Ann Althouse said...

"You can imagine anything, but can you defend it against the SJW thugs?"

The imagining is done inside your own head. If you can imagine anything, it is a thought held in your head. That makes it tenable. To imagine.

They should have said something like: It's no longer a tenable argument that...

gilbar said...

Our Beloved Professor Ann Althouse said...
Funny use of the word "imagine." You can imagine anything.

Respectfully, Doctor (do law professors have PhD's?) in today's Brave New World, only acceptable topics can be dreamt about; Unauthorized Dreams are not just doubleplusungood, they are Crimethink

<sarc?

Gahrie said...

It's no longer tenable to imagine that the anxieties of a white heterosexual young man expelled from an expensive prep school capture the spirit of our era.

Actually I'd say it's pretty much spot on. I bet Matt Boermeester agrees.

johnhenry100 said...

Was Catcher in the Rye ever relevant?

Or was it just a book forced on kids because the education establishment thought kids should think it was relevant?

John Henry

Lawrence Person said...

Piss off, SJW! I insist upon hating Holden Caulfield because he's a whiny little git, not because of his color and sex.

Bunch of phonies...

mccullough said...

Phony is a good term to describe the SJWs.

FIDO said...

You will miss Western Culture when it is gone.

Marcus said...

I could never finish the book. Thank God it was ONE of several choices in my assignment list back in my freshman year of high school. I don't remember what other book I chose, but after I scanned the first two chapters of it, I put it back on its shelf in the library. Terrible, uninteresting story about a whiner.
YMMV.

THEOLDMAN

P.S. "Imagine" is John Lennon's most overrated song. The lyrics are pablum.

tcrosse said...

"The spirit of our era".

I got your Zeitgeist right here.

Birches said...

Oh brother. I don't think many identified with a prep school kid back then either. Of course, our Mandarin class has decided Catcher in the Rye is no longer relevant. Whatever. They don't understand how real people without a trust fund or private school tuition live.

Fernandistein said...

You can imagine anything.

And you can be wrong.

Imagine
2 : suppose, guess
I imagine it will rain

Kevin said...

forthcoming young-adult novel

So it’s not even out yet.

William said...

I read the article. The author didn't cut any breaks for Salinger. Salinger had some truly ghastly conmbat experiences during WWII. His eccentricities probably had more to do with PTSD than artistic temperament. Salinger wasn't the sort to handle D-Day and the liberation of concentration camps with all his faculties intact, but he managed and deserves our sympathy.

William said...

Holden Caulfield's very name is a homage to David Copperfield who was born with a caul, i.e. a veil covering his face. The next Holden Caulfield will find some way of integrating Holden's turns and counterturns into his dance while explicitly denying that he is doing so.

Henry said...

In my house, snarky young anti-heroes tend to be anime characters.

Weirdly, a lot of anime plots revolve around prep schools.

William said...

Didn't Harry Potter go to some super exclusive prep school where he had trouble fitting in?

narciso said...

In junior high, they had us read Robert Cormier the chocolate war, like rye but with less imagination

robother said...

At least J.D. Salinger was spared the final indignity of seeing his imagery declared untenable in the New York Times. Sic Transit Gloria.

Two-eyed Jack said...

I disliked "Catcher" in 10th grade and have never bothered to reread it.
Jr High and High School assigned reading are heavy on "problem novels" that supposedly teach something useful about adolescence or the unfairness of the world. Typically something that English teachers think will be good for the kids. I cannot remember any assigned reading involving adventure.

Bill Peschel said...

Remember the rumors that he had a batch of novels written before he died? I guess he didn't.

Ambrose said...

How do we know for certain that Holden was a white, heterosexual male?

Char Char Binks said...

It's okay. Nobody reads novels anymore unless they're assigned for a class.

Sam L. said...

I've never found "Catcher" relevant. Or interesting enough to read it.

rcocean said...

I never got the whole Salinger thing. I not only couldn't identify with a rich, prep kid in NYC, I couldn't identify with ANYTHING about him.

Maybe you needed to be a young boomer. John Lennon's assassin read it about 100 times.

rcocean said...

I heard a couple NPR chicks talking about "Philip" and how marginal he was in the #metoo movement.

It took me a while to figure out who they were discussing. Then the light bulb went on:

Philip Roth.

Anyway, the upshot was while "Philip" showed women in a bad light, he wasn't "misogynistic" because he showed the Jews in a Bad light too. So, that was the sorta logic.

The Cracker Emcee Rampant said...

“ Blogger Char Char Binks said...
It's okay. Nobody reads novels anymore unless they're assigned for a class.”

Certainly not teenagers. Not enough of them, anyway. The rising generation will have no iconic novels.

Bunkypotatohead said...

Outside of his immediate family, no one will ever care what some black French Canadian ever did.

DavidUW97 said...

A novel about a teenage loser for teenage losers.
Which was pretty much the title of my essay on this garbage book in high school.
My teacher (beta male loser) was deeply offended.

Gospace said...

johnhenry100 said...
Was Catcher in the Rye ever relevant?

Or was it just a book forced on kids because the education establishment thought kids should think it was relevant?

John Henry


A1: No
A2: Yes

That, A Long Day's Journey Into Night, and Death of a Salesman, three all time favorite assignments by English teachers are enough to turn anyone off to reading for fun. Luckily I had discovered Asimov, Heilein, Clarke, and many other GOOD writers before being forced to suffer the dreck English teachers thought people should read.

As for my kids, one 2nd grade teacher told us the Harry Potter books were too advanced and difficult for our daughter who was happily reading them. Our reply: "Why isn't the rest of the class able to read them?" I didn't read any of them until the final book was in the house. We were at the bookstores at midnight on release dates after book 1.

rcocean said...

A Long Day's journey into Night and most of O'Neill should NEVER be given to HS students.

You need to be a sophisticated drama goer to appreciate O'Neill. And I mean "Sophisticated" in that (a) you like dramas and (B) seen quite a few of them. Not "Hey, I know a lot about life" or "Superior".

Death of a Salesman - like most of Arthur Miller - is crap.

rcocean said...

If all a HS student knows of novels and literature is crap like Salinger or "The Crucible" or "Watership Down"

They might as well skip teaching novels and plays.

William said...

The difference between movie stars and great actors is mirrored in literature. Steve McQueen was a great movie star, and John Gielgud was a great actor. Whose movies do you want to rewatch, no whose mannerisms did you try to emulate?....... J.D. Salinger, Kurt Vonnegut and Philip Roth don't have the greatest critical reputations but they connected with their readers in a way that more accomplished writers can only envy. If you read and loved them when young, they gave you an attitude, a way of looking at things that helped you feign an understanding of life. Nobody ever survived adolescence by reading Henry James or Thomas Pynchon.

Robert Cook said...

I read CATCHER IN THE RYE when I found an old paperback copy at my grandparents’ house. (I was in my 20s). I quite liked it. It was nothing at all what I expected it to be. It was quite funny. As to it’s iconic status, I suspect it has to do with context: it was published in the 50s, and it was told from the point of view of a child of privilege casting bitter aspersions on the hypocrisy and “phoniness” of the adults in his world, an implicit criticism of the stifling, predominant conformist culture of triumphal American post-WWII culture. To many who felt alienated from the homogenous culture of that era, this was as appealing as was the raucous clamor of rock ‘n roll, a joyous “fuck you” to a Perry Como world.

Today, Salinger’s book still appeals to alienated young people.

rcocean said...

"an implicit criticism of the stifling, predominant conformist culture of triumphal American post-WWII culture. To many who felt alienated from the homogenous culture of that era, this was as appealing as was the raucous clamor of rock ‘n roll, a joyous “fuck you” to a Perry Como world."

Yeah, and all those "rebels" are the SJW Censors and "Enforcers" of today's stifling Liberal/left conformity.

And so it goes...