In Sunday's New York Times, "Get a Life, Holden Caulfield" looks at whether Catcher in the Rye is no longer connecting with its audience.
"Even as Mr. Salinger, who is 90 and in ailing health, seeks to keep control of his most famous creation, there are signs that Holden may be losing his grip on the kids.
“The Catcher in the Rye,” published in 1951, is still a staple of the high school curriculum, beloved by many teachers who read and reread it in their own youth. The trouble is today’s teenagers. Teachers say young readers just don’t like Holden as much as they used to. What once seemed like courageous truth-telling now strikes many of them as “weird,” “whiny” and “immature.”
...But Holden won over the young, especially the 1960s generation who saw themselves in the disaffected preppy, according to the cultural critic Morris Dickstein. “The skepticism, the belief in the purity of the soul against the tawdry, trashy culture plays very well in the counterculture and post-counterculture generation,” said Mr. Dickstein, who teaches at the Graduate Center of the University of the City of New York. Today, “I wouldn’t say we have a more gullible youth culture, but it may be more of a joining or togetherness culture.”
The culture is also more competitive. These days, teenagers seem more interested in getting into Harvard than in flunking out of Pencey Prep. Young people, with their compulsive text-messaging and hyperactive pop culture metabolism, are more enchanted by wide-eyed, quidditch-playing Harry Potter of Hogwarts than by the smirking manager of Pencey’s fencing team (who was lame enough to lose the team’s equipment on the subway, after all). Today’s pop culture heroes, it seems, are the nerds who conquer the world — like Harry — not the beautiful losers who reject it."
...Some critics say that if Holden is less popular these days, the fault lies with our own impatience with the idea of a lifelong quest for identity and meaning that Holden represents."
Read Get a Life, Holden Caulfied here.
Thoughts? Has Holden lost his anti-hero status in this generation? Did you find him whiny and/or immature or did you connect with his voice and quest for identity?
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