This is actually an interesting question and one that comes up on a regular basis. As a writer, and a life coach who served as a counselor to teenagers for most of my life, a book that someone reads over and over again indicates something they relate to in the book or something that resonates with them on a deeper level. For me, that book has always been The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
I’m a believer that certain books are best read at certain times of year. The Catcher in the Rye must be read in late December, preferably over Christmas break, when it is crisp and chilly, a few snowflakes in the air, but not yet in the throws of winter. In actuality, early winter and New York City are in themselves strong characters of the book. Since I no longer drink alcohol, being over 19 years sober, I now read mine with hot apple cider or coffee. Back in the day, I liked reading the tale outside with a flask of Southern Comfort or Jack Daniels and a pack of Marlboro Reds; some books bring out the necessity to become like the character in many ways.
Today, the book doesn’t resonate with me the same way that it did when I was younger. I think there is something about the desolation in Holden’s story that holds a kind of hope for angst youth, who in all reality, know they will grow up, grow out of their conditions and no longer be chasing desperation. At least, that was the case for me.
But I chased Holden down a darker rabbit hole and ended up in my own sanitarium. I think for awhile, I believed in his desperation and related to it on such a painful level, that when I went into treatment for drugs and alcohol, I also took the book. That was almost 19 years ago and it doesn’t hold nearly as much power over me today. I think it’s a wonderful book and I think of Holden like many think of old boarding school chums, after all, that’s what he was, right? More than likely, the book is really like a dusty trophy up on the mantle which reminds us of younger days but also makes us a little sad, so we prefer to not look at it at all, but we also don’t have the ability to remove it entirely.
When my mom was my age, I asked her why no longer listened to Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. She explained to me that those were songs of struggles in her youth and to listen to them just made her sad. At the time, I didn’t get it, but I do now. Much like The Catcher in the Rye, those folksy songs of liberation and self discovery reminded her of who she had been, but she had traded in those albums for CD’s of Bob Marley and Garbage, what she defined as “happy music”.
Still I bring out my tattered copy of The Catcher in the Rye every fall and think about Holden and wonder what happened to Phoebe in that rye field. Born in 1933, today Holden would be 81 years old…imagine that! I kind of like thinking of old Holden, thick white hair, still wearing that cap and sailing around the East coast. Although he appeared in other short stories, we never found out what happened to him after the sanitarium in California. Perhaps, he became one of the first great founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. Maybe he went and lived in Tahiti and wrote great spy novels under a pseudonym. That’s what I love about fiction; it keeps you guessing.
My book is coming out at the end of this month, and although I’m not fooling myself into thinking that it’s anything like The Catcher in the Rye, it would be nice if even one person was affected by it. I would love if someday, even one person talked with admiration about my character Danny Goldstein the way that people talk about Holden Caulfield. Perhaps they’ll even meet someday.
Stay tuned for the release of my book The Before Now and After Then July 29th 2014! It would really mean a lot to me if you’d add it to your Goodreads to-read shelf and go there to find out more and visit my author page! Thanks!
(Now go check out my book!!!!)