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Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Catcher in the Die


The 25th anniversary of John Lennon's murder brought his killer Mark Chapman back into the public gaze and with it, a fascinating sidebar to the killing. It was revealed afterwards that Chapman was obsessed with Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of J.D Salinger's seminal novel The Catcher in the Rye and indeed a copy of the novel was found by police amongst his possessions.

John Hinkley Jnr shot U.S President Ronald Reagan in March 1981 in a bid to impress actress Jodie Foster, whose character in the movie Taxi Driver he was fixated on. It turns out Hinckley was also a devoted fan of Salinger's novel.

The Catcher in the Rye is, of course, the definitive 'rights of passage' novel. You really cannot avoid it during your teens: it will either be forced on you in school or you find it yourself and read it over and over as you rant and rave against your parents, your teachers and all the phonies out there in the world. It's just fascinating the impact that this book has had on the public imagination. It really has something for everyone who feels like they are any way different or don't fit in in a given environment.

The notoriously weird Salinger insisted that the novel never have a fancy cover - he prefers all his works to have a blank white cover bearing just the title, indicating that these novels are really just canvases with a little paint on them that you mould into a design that reflects your own experiences, fears, desires. Who said that television and movies are the cause of violence and copycat killings in today's world?

2 comments:

Seán Kenny said...

I love the book, although I empathise less with Holden Caulfield now than I did when I was younger. I like this lyric,though:
'Guess what?
Your pain's been done
To perfection by everyone
And the first thing every killer reads is
'Catcher in the Rye'
(Clem Snide)
I like the way it pokes fun at the self-obssessed teenage angst thing.
Still a great novel, though.

Dave said...

Wait. No. But. Hang on. I don't...um...

I have to judge a book by its cover. It's what I do as an English graduate.

Incidentally that book was ruined for me by all those serial killer connections - I couldn't enjoy it as much as I should have, just because I was waiting for it to turn me into a bullet-spewing lunatic.