Sunday, July 5, 2009

60 years later: coming through the rye


So.....Fredrik Colting, under the pen name J.D. California, wrote this book about an elderly Mr. C (holden) who wanders around nyc and meets a Salingeresque character. his book is out in england, but not here, and publishing has been blocked for now.

there have been some reactions -- this one pissed me off the most.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/bal-ae.bk.read05jul05,0,1992671.story

But her ruling doesn't address a larger issue: Is Catcher still relevant?

Last fall, Oberlin professor Anne Trubek argued that the book is past its prime. "I think that most American teenagers will find it rather tame and sort of laughable the things that were once considered so controversial," she said on National Public Radio. Certainly, today's teens shouldn't be fed a steady diet of books featuring angst-ridden white prep-school boys - A Separate Peace; Good Times, Bad Times - as I was. There are too many newer authors such as Junot Diaz and Toni Morrison who can offer a broader look at the world.
Wow, Anne trubek? Who the fuck are you? I never took classes with you or heard of you...yes the book is still fucking relevant. I read it when i was approx. 11 or 12. i was with a small group of boys at one's house and found it on a table. i picked it up. I started to read it. I was hooked, engrossed, gripped, sizzled, slashed, thrown about, immediately (for historical purposes, it was J. berman's house. I asked to borrow the small white book. stuffed it in my pocket. brought it home) read the whole thing, and was never the same -- the book is brilliant, gleaming, beautiful like almost nothing else written on the page. I re-read it once, but I don't need to reread it these days, because I still remember it all so vividly -- its all still in my mind, almost every page, every event, fresh -- and plus, let me add that Trubek's final comment about junot diaz and toni morrison is what the old fools (http://chronicle.com/) whine about when they criticize our postmodernist era. Not to be racist or offensive, but if the attitude is: don't read the old white writers, read the new latino and black ones -- i mean, that is an extremely unhelpful attitude to have.

I'll bet my bottom dollar that Trubek, like every money-hungry souless sellout, was making incendiary comments to make her name. Great work, we're proud of you. Anyways.

2.
Here is what made me support California/Colting's book.

“I am pretty blown away by the judge’s decision,” Mr. Colting said in an e-mail message after the ruling. “Call me an ignorant Swede, but the last thing I thought possible in the U.S. was that you banned books.”
That's nytimes.com.
We discussed this at work -- surprising how many times catcher in the rye and salinger have come up in office conversations. or is it just me noticing it more or starting them more? but i basically said that I now support the book. i was told by R--- that its a ripoff, a way of making money; like taking huckleberry finn and making him 60 years old to make money. like anyone can just take a character and expect that that will make them money.

the truth is that clearly colting is not trying to make money off this book. he i would guess like me became obsessed with salinger; the hiding, the non-publishing, the insanity.

as i've written before (or thought), salinger's fame may have made him become a recluse. the utilization of his book by madmen and murderers, mark david chapman in particular, probably justified it, and horrified him.
salinger is just another example of william carlos williams' rule, america's pure products go crazy. (michael jackson. kurt cobain. elvis, etc)



3.
Let's crack the egg open even more. What's beautiful is that the judge's decision was made public on the net -- and that it includes not only a summary of the novel, but excerpts.
It explains similarities to catcher. the brother D.B., sister phoebe, dead brother allie, mother with nervous spells. former roommate stradlater appears apparently. Mr. C almost has sex but doesn't, like holden with prostitute. Apparently Mr. C meets "Salinger' for 40 pages, but I have no information about those scenes.

---anyways, for the sake of information dissemination, here is what is available from the book:

I could listen to kids screaming and laughing all day. I close my eyes and picture them running after eac other. So much energy...

I think about the park. I can actually feel the park in my veins. I bet even my blood is green. Suddenly, without thinking, my legs push the bench away and I find myself standing up . . . . At the very same moment I stand up the screaming is cut off and I open my eyes wide and see something in the corner, a red little dot, and all I have time to do is lift my arms up with my palms facing the sky.

A red bundle lands in my arms with a soft thud . . . . Something in my chest moves and as the leaf falls from my face a tiny little face looks up at me, he looks more surprised than scared, and before everything becomes black I get a look at his straw blond hair I see that he only ahs two big front teeth.

I'm in a field. It's a gray day and only the very tips of the grasses move from side to side with the wind . . . . Only when I begin to run do I know that's what I'm supposed to do. The rye is shoulder high and it parts to let me through . . . . There's only the sky and the rye. Up there the sky, and to either side the golden brown rye.

I lean forward and keep running . . . I hear the long stalks break under my feet and I hear the wind move and through the sun brown vines, almost like a whisper. I know I shall keep running. It's very important and I will know when to stop. The field has a sweet earthy smell and I hear the 'ritsch ratsch' of the rye against my body, ... there's an ending where there's an ending. I will just keep running, I have to.

I'm not tired. I breathe hard and I hear my heart beat but I'm not tired. I keep running . . . . All I see is honey golden rye and the gray sky. Then the rye ends.

It's so sudden. One moment it's a wall all around me and the next it's gone . . . There's no more field, just wide open space. I'm falling forever, tumbling through empty space and I don't know what's up and what's down.

There's a hollow thud when I land . . . my arms are outstretched and my face is old . . . and when I look up I see myself holding myself.

[a few pages later, end of the novel, Mr. C reunites with his son.]

I take my son's hand and look him straight in the eyes ... It's a pretty hard life, you know. Sometimes you end up feeling crummy no matter what, but you can never give into that cruminess. Never ever.

He has D.B.'s eyes and he looks at me. I feel my son's pulse mix with mine and we're in no hurry to be anywhere else. So I inhale deeply and take it from the beginning.

Did I ever tell you about the catcher in the rye?




I don't think that this looks like the best book ever. But it's a book that meditates on a cultural text (an international one, as well), and on the greatest living writer, and tries to make something new out of it. The issue of its originality is moot, isn't it? Wouldn't that be what Borges would say? He tried to make something new; his only mistake was he should have tailored it to slip around American copyright law -- a few changes, spice here, salt there, etc.

further reading
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/02/books/02salinger.html?scp=2&sq=salinger&st=cse



2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Apparently, the guy tried to defend himself by saying it's a "parody." Is it a good legal move? Who cares, because he's just going to infuriate Salinger more, and also alienate any CitR fans (like me), who don't think a "parody" of CitR is useful, necessary, or otherwise contributes. If the guy's intention is actually to "revisit" the original, recontextualize it, etc., then it might be worth reading.

Either way, saying "I didn't think you banned books in the US" can be interpreted two ways (neither very favorable for the author): either he really thinks the lawsuit is a kind of book-banning, in which case he needs to learn about copyright law (which he shd, since he's a writer), or he's being disingenuous, which serves no purpose other than to make him look petty.

That said, this brings to mind the way Albee won't let productions of his plays deviate from the originals at all, like putting on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf with four male actors playing homosexuals. The mentality that "I created it; therefore it's MINE!" might explain why Albee will never really live up to WAoVW again--it belies a kind of creative insecurity.

Alexander J said...

Who is this coward sullying the good name of Mr. Albee?

Newhouse, you fuck, you're back. This is a beautiful piece; I am with you on the two crucial points of this Zubek character being a fictional entity created by Oberlin's creative writing department and the Swede's point about america banning books (copyright law and censorship are two different issues altogether though). Check out this piece on Pynchon, where a remarkably similar discussion arises between the canon and multiculturalism.