These Goddam Books

February 2, 2010

I’ve always believed that The Catcher in the Rye is the one book that I will take to my coffin, to the grave, six feet below earth, for when they finally bury me because I adore every word printed on that skimpy looking book. But from the time that I first read it in college until that period in my fascinating employee life when I was both uncaring for the future and often starving, because I got eliminated from certain institutions because of certain unpleasant things I’ve said,  because of my very hit or miss (mostly miss) Holden affectations, which please believe me when I say they’re not fully understood or intended when I was executing said accidental affectations, I think I may have already decided that liking Catcher in the Rye is a little off-putting for someone like me who really likes the book. So for merely liking it the way I do, I hate myself a little. I mean to say that if I were someone else who loves the book and I hear or read about a guy whose claim to social fame, if there is such a thing, or even if such a thing matters, is liking a book as allegedly notorious as The Catcher in the Rye, I would either hate him for that reason alone or I would think him so personality-depraved that he needs a a book that’s dripping with personality to create one for him. And I never want to be in a constant flurry of hate and personality-chasing. So I, lover of that book, don’t want to begrudge anyone for liking the same book that I love unconditionally. And so at some point in the not so recent past, I ceased rereading Catcher in the Rye. Not because I stopped liking it (I seemed to have really developed a relationship with it already as my affections for it swing back and forth between liking it and loving it) but because maybe, at certain times, I feel like I’m digging much into it, and as the John Lennon homicide and the Jake Gyllenhaal character in The Good Girl would tell you, it’s not very good.

And so I’ve been rereading that other Salinger book. Franny & Zooey largely diverts my attention away from myself and onto something else, specifically to my sister who I wanted so much to be Franny-like. I don’t know when exactly I started being so identifyey with book characters but I rue the day it began. In my warped little mind, I’m Zooey and little sister is Franny, minus the heated and very literary exchange or the looks. I’d hate to elaborate because I’d hate to one day find out that she’s found out about me telling these, but if you’re dying to know, the short of it is that I want her to stay in school but that she prefers Jesus over anything else now. It’s a mismatch, my perceived parallels, but there’s that relevance I’m so convinced about and I can’t get rid of them.

Franny & Zooey is now something I can’t not read periodically because if I don’t feel like reading anything but feel like I have to, it’s the one that I instantly think of because it’s so mobile. If people see you carrying it around, they won’t automatically label you pretentious because it’s the less popular JD Salinger book. Actually, no one probably ever cares that a stranger is carrying a book at all. Some of us just happens to think a little too highly of their reading and book carrying habits. One thing I do with it is that I constantly highlight passages in it, I might as well crayola the whole book. Since I’m at a loss for words most of the time at any significant or meaningless time, or that I’m simply bobo, when I encounter something that zings, my first instinct is to contextualize. And if you’re not careful with this book and you think you get the meaning of a certain passage that you instantly decide you admire for whatever reason, have a good retraction at the ready because somebody might point out that Franny is raging against something more than insufferable dogmatic English Department professors and boyfriends who substitute an A-grade thesis for penis.

I read Catcher in the Rye in college and it was the perfect time to read it because college is the time when, for no particular reason, your own college feels like Pencey Prep and your college friend is a dead ringer for Ackley, attributes which should have been lost on me because I didn’t hate Dapitan and I had a nice, unannoying male friend. Contrary to oft-quoted critical literary claims, Holden Caulfield has redeeming values. He loves his sister Phoebe, the precocious innocent little girl, the causer of some of the book’s more emotionally poignant parts. Cringe all we want, but Holden then was just so alive for me. Back in that age in college, I thought I really knew what he was talking about even though I really didn’t. And if I had been more literal-minded then, I would have dropped the business subjects, maybe fail them all in purpose, ace just literature and award myself for truly embodying what it takes to be Holden Caulfield. But I could not have done so. I passed Economics and Accounting and everything went fine. I got a job I’m okay with (at least now), and I can’t imagine not having those medical benefits, paid vacation leaves, the christmas hampers and the cozy desk and the swivel chair. The benefits are, as Queen of the Phonies Sally Hayes would tell you, just marvelous. They’re grand.

Catcher in the Rye was important to me as an Impressionable College Boy, a stature that roughly translates to a phase of praising to high heavens pieces of literature that one happens to stumble into that strike a chord. And I never thought that there would come a day when I’d be heavily dramatizing that, what once was an insufferable fanaticism to Holden Caulfield itself, just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I’m thinking that maybe I could not have survived this life, that’s so precious and so full of wonderful, amazing things according to most people who are not phonies, had I continued devouring Catcher in the Rye. In the first place I would have surely been accused of affecting an aura of detachment and all the corny things that goes with it and I could not have tolerated that. So after maybe reading it 57 times,  I realize that it’s probably a good thing that my attention’s been diverted away from that book. I can’t forever be reading it. I’m Pinoy and I can’t always be using 50s slang, much less American teenage slang and be forever deluded that I’m getting away with that kind of language and angst. It will get corny and phony. For sure, I will read it again and again but just not as much. I will however forever adore JD Salinger and all the meanings he would not give in this lifetime or the next.


13 Responses to “These Goddam Books”

  1. Manech Says:


    My Salinger was Rilke. His poem “You Who Never Arrived” became something like a chant, a prayer I recite whenever depressed.

    I haven’t read Salinger though. Maybe it’s high time that I do.

  2. pat Says:

    Catcher in the Rye worked like that for me too. I’d read it when depressed so I’ll be less depressed.

    You want to trade anti-depressants? hehe

  3. Bryan Says:

    goosebumps! my new copy is sitting next to me. just bought it 16 hrs ago. the lady from the national bookstore said that it is the last one on stock. now i feel bad i gave away the old one.

    pat, laro tayo fencing…in memory of JD.

  4. pat Says:

    OA naman ng last stock. I can’t fence. I don’t have equipment. Hehe.

  5. Momel Says:

    I’m not saying this because he’s recently dead, but I just finished reading that Catcher book. Crap book got me so hooked, I wanted to finish it as fast as I can manage just to know what in the world will happen to this dick Holden. Imagine my chagrin to find out the phony-hating Holden got himself institutionalized at the end. No offense, but goddam, I hated how the book ended.

  6. pat Says:

    I don’t see the ending that way. It’s a very open ending, IMO. Or I’m too dense to realize that that’s how it’s supposed to be interpreted. Tingin ko lang mejo academic masyado yung ganung interpretation. But that’s just me. 🙂

  7. jayclops Says:

    I re-read the Catcher in the Rye after Christmas 09. I was reading it for 2, 3 days before New Year, then last month, while reading newspaper on a plane, I saw this news item on his death. I think the person sitting next to me was kinda jolted in his seat when I gasped. Reading it during the holidays made me depressed (again) but somehow saw how fitting it was as I always find myself depressed during those times.

  8. pat Says:

    What a depressing thing to do on a holiday! But then again, the story itself takes place around December time, so it’s fitting.

  9. Manech Says:

    I’d love that.

    The thing is, though, you can find that poem online. And I already have that book.

    Any other suggestions?

  10. pat Says:

    You can try The Virgin Suicides or American Psycho. But I’m guessing they’re not the type you’re looking for. 🙂

  11. Manech Says:

    Done with The Virgin Suicides. I’ll try American Psycho. 🙂

    Have you seen the poem?

  12. pat Says:

    Would you be offended if I said it’s a nice poem because I’m sure that it’s more than just a ‘nice poem’ for you just as Catcher is more than just a nice novel for me.

  13. […] the obvious. If you’ve built your fame around a work of art that is as indifference-proof as The Catcher in the Rye and decided to shut the world out whether directly or indirectly as a result of that very fame, you […]

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