The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
My favorite quote: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
Notable characters: Holden Caulfield, the caustic teen; Ward Stradlater, his dorm roommate; Robert Ackley, his dorm neighbor; D.B., Holden’s brother, the screenwriter; Phoebe, his little sister; Mr. Antolini, English teacher and controversial head-patter; Allie, Holden’s deceased brother
Most memorable scene: The (ignored) composition that Holden wrote about his dead brother’s baseball glove — and the memory of Holden lashing out over his brother’s death
Greatest strengths: The voice is impeccable and never falters
Standout achievements: Its ability to place you in the scene
Fun Facts: Despite its position and popularity in American literature (and the multitude of directors and production companies who have tried securing the rights) The Catcher in the Rye has never been made into a movie
What it taught me about writing: That humanity — even if you’re writing about monsters — is everything.
How it inspired my own work: I liked this book so much I made it into the favorite book of one of my characters — Father Vincent Scarlotti in the Crimson Cove series, who carries a battered copy of this book with him wherever he travels.
Additional thoughts: I’m always astounded by how controversial and polarizing this book is. Some love it, some hate it, and there doesn’t seem to be much in-between. It’s been analyzed to death, and is, in my opinion, somehow both unduly praised and unreasonably criticized. I read it before being subjected to all the contention and adoration surrounding it, and to me, it’s a simple story about a young man trying to understand what it means to be an adult. To me, it’s about someone desperately seeking a human connection at an age when human connection seems impossible. Despite all the dissension and debate, I fucking love it.
Haunt me: alistaircross.com