The Catcher in the Rye
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Catcher in the Rye is a novel by J. D. Salinger. First published in the United States in 1951, the novel remains controversial to this day for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and teenage angst; it was the thirteenth most frequently challenged book of the 1990s according to the American Library Association.
The novel has become one of the most famous literary works of the 20th century, and a common part of high school curricula in many English-speaking countries, such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Australia. Around 250,000 copies are sold each year, with total sales of more than 60 million.
The novel's protagonist, Holden Caulfield, has become an icon for teenage alienation and fear. Written in the first person, The Catcher in the Rye follows Holden's experiences in New York City in the days following his expulsion from school. The novel featured an early use of fuck you in print.
In 1960 a teacher was fired for assigning the novel in class. He was later reinstated. Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States. In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States. According to the American Library Association, The Catcher in the Rye was the tenth most frequently challenged book from 1990–1999. It was one of the ten most challenged books in 2005, and has been off the list since 2006. and "goddam", with more general reasons including sexual references, blasphemy, undermining of family values and moral codes, Holden's being a poor role model, encouragement of rebellion, and promotion of drinking, smoking, lying, and promiscuity. Often, the challengers have been unfamiliar with the plot itself. Shelley Keller-Gage, a high school teacher who faced objections after assigning the novel in her class, noted that the challengers "are being just like Holden ... They are trying to be catchers in the rye." A reverse effect has been that this incident caused people to put themselves on the waiting list to borrow the novel, when there were none before.
Mark David Chapman's shooting of John Lennon, John Hinckley, Jr.'s assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, Robert John Bardo's shooting of Rebecca Schaeffer and other murders have also been associated with the novel.
References to The Catcher in the Rye in media and popular culture are numerous. Works inspired by The Catcher in the Rye have been said to form their own genre.Dr. Sarah Graham assessed works influenced by The Catcher in the Rye to include the novels Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and Judith Guest's Ordinary People. Graham also includes the films The Graduate, Dead Poets Society, Tadpole, Igby Goes Down, and Donnie Darko, and music by Green Day, Third Eye Blind and The Offspring. In the decade following its publication, there were more than 70 essays on the novel printed in American and British magazines.
The influence of The Catcher in the Rye can be seen in the films of director Wes Anderson, most notably in his debut film Bottle Rocket. In an early scene the protagonist Anthony goes to visit his precocious sister Grace at her elementary school, shortly after checking himself out of a mental health facility. Both the topic and tone of their conversation mimics the discussions of Holden and Phoebe. In addition to pleading with Anthony to come home and stay with the family, Grace makes insightful observations on her brother's character flaws, as Phoebe does during the talk in D.B.'s room. Although only grade-school age Grace, like Phoebe, is mature beyond her years and acts as the voice of reason. In another parallel of the book, Grace interacts briefly with a friend called Bernice, also the name of a friend mentioned by Phoebe in her diary.
A sequel for The Catcher in the Rye has been written by John David California. Entitled 60 Years Later Coming Through the Rye and published by Windupbird Publishing, it is a stand-alone story with Caulfield 60 years later when he is 76-year-old resident of a nursing home.
In 2009, Salinger successfully sued to stop the U.S. publication of a novel that presents Holden Caulfield as an old man. The novel's author, Fredrik Colting, commented, "call me an ignorant Swede, but the last thing I thought possible in the U.S. was that you banned books". The issue is complicated by the nature of Colting's book, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, which has been compared to fan fiction. Although commonly not authorized by writers, no legal action is usually taken against fan fiction since it is rarely published commercially and thus involves no profit. Colting, however, has published his book commercially. Unauthorized fan fiction on The Catcher in the Rye has existed on the Internet for years without any legal action taken by Salinger.