Growing up with J D Salinger

The death of J D Salinger this week gave me an excuse for digging out my old copy of The Catcher in the Rye. It’s a few years since I last looked at it but, along with Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, it’s probably the novel I’ve re-read the most. Indeed for several years it became a bit of a ritual to read it on my way home for Christmas, in homage to Holden Caulfield’s narrative.

As I’ve got older, I’ve increasingly warmed to Mr. Antolini – Holden’s highball-swigging ex-English teacher. Debate over his homosexuality often overshadows his empathetic relationship with Holden, epitomised by his eloquent words on the painful transition to adulthood and the values of scholarship and learning:

“Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them – if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”


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