Salinger Re-Re-Reconsidered

Proving perhaps that writers do in fact matter, at least to other writers, many writers are asking whether the late J. D. Salinger’s works, especially Catcher in the Rye, mean much to today’s young people. One of many opinion roundups is here, where one observer says things have simply changed too much for 21st Century kids to relate to Holden Caulfield. Key quote from Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation:

The world now is so much more dangerous, the temptations so much darker than anything Holden could have encountered, that kids are either L7-square or they’re just messed up. The chance to be a tiny bit wild and crazy in the teenybopper tradition is not part of what we know.

So assuming it’s the good kids who are reading “Catcher in the Rye” in ninth grade English class, they are bound to be stumped by Holden’s mismanaged troubles because theirs are so masterfully managed. They are medicated out of adolescence before they even have a chance to experience teenage angst, because their overprotective parents are desperately frightened of where all that friction might lead. (Perhaps with good reason: a kid gone wrong today could actually end up in a terrorist sleeper cell, which was not a possibility even a decade ago.)


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