Recently my mailbox received a recommendation for Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. The recommendation had with it the usual commentary on Catcher which is, admittedly his most famous work. It said ‘no one reads catcher anymore’ and if Salinger was wishing for obscurity he certainly got it. L Depressing that thought. I’ve held the entire oeuvre of Salinger in high esteem for some years now. Despite its tendency to high drama, my vote goes to ‘Raise High the Roof beam, Carpenters’. Or maybe its because I love the imagery of the Sappho verse from which the title comes and its thanks to this book that I discovered it.
The quality of the best books is not just that one remembers reading them… one remembers where and when, and how did you get the book. In post-grad, some years ago, I set myself up as one of the ‘custodians’ of the book club which I then proceeded to use as my own personal library for the duration of my stay. Salinger was one of the reads from there. I’d been avoiding the book for some years. I’d heard of it a million times as an answer to the ‘what was the book carried by John Lennon’s assassin’ question at sundry quizzes and that didn’t seem like the best recommendation to go out there and pick up the book.
Partway through second term at b-school, I finally checked this book out of the club. There was an econ paper the next day and there were a couple of folks who’d come in to do ‘combined studies’. Yours truly was expected to join at some point, except I had just started Catcher. For the next 3 hours while the rest of the gang droned on about production functions and the like, I followed the fortunes of M. Holden and when I looked up at the end of it, the world looked different. The people going on about Cobb-Douglas seemed silly. I wanted to shake them and say ‘Don’t you see. This is not life.’ Today I have no answer to what life IS about, and I probably didn’t then either, but for a few minutes there I thought I knew.