Thursday, February 4, 2010

They're all a bunch of phoneys

J. D. Salinger's dead. So it goes. Yeah, yeah, I know that's Vonnegut, but I think it only appropriate. Firstly, I must apologize to the poor, angry old man who only wanted to be left alone. Salinger wouldn't want me to write this blog post, even though it is to commiserate, to bemoan the fact that all he wanted was to be left alone and look, just look, how people are not doing that. That's the catch-22 of this situation, I suppose. I can't comment, can't chide others without doing exactly what I am chiding for. Conundrum.

What I am most fascinated by in the aftermath of J.D. Salinger's death is the reworking of Holden Caulfield into some kind of hero, into some kind of role model. As something, anything, other than a lonely, sad, messed up kid who just needed someone to listen to him. Caulfield has been quoted, has been almost deified, into a symbol for...for exactly what, I am not sure. For angst. For loneliness. For wanderlust. For disillusionment. For the emo kids. For the high-schoolers who blog-post pictures of beautiful, heart-breaking people and places.

If you think about it, Holden Caulfield's "words of wisdom" are not words of wisdom. Of course they aren't. They never were meant to be. Salinger never meant them to be, and I think he would be horrified to see that they have been taken as such. But in a cynical way, his fierce diatribes against society and against all the phoneys, demonstrate and exemplify and resonate with real life. The emphasis, quite clearly, is on "in a cynical way".

For it is, in all actuality, true that when you tell people anything, you start missing everybody. The problem with Holden Caulfield is that he was unable--because he was a poor, confused, messed up kid--to see the beauty in that missing. He didn't see, as, perhaps, Salinger wanted his readers to see, that it would be worse to never tell anybody anything than it would be to start missing everybody once you did. So yes. Cynically speaking, don't ever tell anybody anything. You are sure to start missing everybody. But those moments of telling, those moments of closeness and of togetherness and love, are worth all the following moments of missing. They have to be.


jc said...

Holden is insecure, but insightful. He's troubled by things beyond his peers so he's alienated, and I think he likes it. He has a capacity to see beyond himself & love(think of his little sister) but he's so self absorbed!
He's kills me. It really does. Most importantly, he can spot a phony.
For all of that, I am so very fond of Holden Caulfield.

Chelsea said...

This is why I don't read books.