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Tag Archives: american literature

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Hey guys! So I still suck at playing catch up with the 30-day writing challenge. But I had a really good birthday! My sister came over just as I was wrapping up yesterday’s post. By the time she left I was pretty tired and it was a “watch Netflix in bed with leftover ice cream birthday cake” kind of night lol.

But anyway, I left off on day 6 of the challenge.Day 6 is to write about someone who fascinates me and why. This is another easy one: J.D. Salinger.

For those of you who don’t know, J.D. Salinger is the famous author of the classic novel from the 1960’s, Catcher in the Rye. He also wrote several famous short stories and Franny and Zooey.

I’ve written about my love/obsession for The Catcher in the Rye in the past when I discussed how I’ve read the book over 4 different times and each time I pick up on something I missed the first time. However, I never touched much on my obsession with Salinger as a whole and why I’m so fascinated by him.

I’ve read just about every biography of Salinger there is to read. I’ve watched the movie that was released and available on Netflix. I was extremely upset when Salinger died in 2010. I’ve been trying to track down a copy of his Valley Forge yearbook for years. But why? What is it that makes Salinger so interesting to me?

There’s really two things about Salinger that fascinate me the most: 1. The man is a total and complete legend, and 2. He is incredibly mysterious.

There is no denying the fact that Salinger was an incredibly talented writer. All of his writings were fantastic, but especially Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield was such a relatable character to pretty much everyone for a variety of reasons. I don’t think there is any literary character quite like Holden. He is a bit of a jerk, yet likable all at once and I think everyone can see a little bit of themselves in Holden. And so many people have gotten in trouble because of Holden…who isn’t even a real person. He’s left quite the impact on many individuals for better or for worst, like John Lennon’s now-famous killer.

There’s no denying the fact that Catcher in the Rye made Salinger famous. How could it not? It was banned from many high schools, it was used as a testimony in John Lennon’s killer’s case, and despite the controversy, it was a classic that to this day STILL  frequently tops the charts for the best novels written of all time.

But Salinger didn’t want any of that at all. He always said he regretted writing Catcher in the Rye. He hated being famous. He didn’t release hardly any of his writings after the success of Catcher. He didn’t do many (if any) media appearances. He hardly left his house. When people tried to visit him, he was rude and nasty to them. Why? Why is that? What left Salinger so troubled?

Maybe it was something directly connected to Holden Caulfield. Maybe Salinger WAS Holden Caulfield. Many historians and literary scholars seemed to believe so. But even if that was the case, it didn’t trouble Salinger enough to quit writing about Holden. After his death, it has been confirmed that while he stopped publishing his work, Salinger still had many many works in progress, some of which were complete and ready for print, stored away in his vault. Some of these include more stories featuring the character America loves to hate…the one and only Holden Caulfield.

His unpublished works are supposed to be published on a schedule that I believe runs until 2020. The first ones should’ve been released a year ago I believe, but I haven’t yet heard of anything new being released. I’ve been keeping careful watch on it though. I can’t wait to see what kinds of new adventures Holden will go on. I also can’t wait to see what new things I may end up discovering about Holden’s dark, mysterious, troubled, quiet, and above all else, fascinating creator.

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I loved Philip Roth’s The Counterlife. It was one of those rare books that could make me feel a multitude of emotions and it took me by surprise. It is rare that books truly take me by surprise and have unexpected twists in the plots. This book did everything.

In the beginning this book offended me. I was outraged by the raw, raunchiness of it. I hated the character of Henry. He disgusted me. I hated the way he left his family to have an affair. I hated the way he risked his life to have a dangerous and unnecessary heart surgery just so he wouldn’t be impotent anymore so that he could continue his sexual affair with his dental assistant. I hate how immoral he was. I hated the way the book seemed so raw and sexual as well. I’ll admit I may be a bit biased in thinking that as my initial reaction though. I read this book as part of required reading for Dr. Jesse Zuba’s The American Novel class. The first week we began reading this book I was chosen to lead the class in discussion about it. The chapter, Basel, discussed Henry’s sex life (or lack thereof) in detail, making for a rather awkward class discussion, to say the least.

The second chapter, Judea amused me and broadened my way of thinking. I found it interesting the way that Henry decided to go to Judea after his surgery to try to recreate himself into an overly zealous Jew, abandoning everything in life just for his religion and for a chance to connect with his born heritage. I liked the arguments about identity and the questions raised. Does our ancestry or heritage really matter? How do we identify ourselves? Is our identity in our blood or is it in our lifestyle? I never really gave this much thought, but Roth makes an interesting point. Yes, I have Irish, Scottish and Germany blood — but is this really part of my identity? I’m proud of my heritage, but I’m not sure I’d say I identify with it. My identity is that of an American. America is all I’ve ever known. I’ve never been to Scotland, Ireland, or Germany. I can’t begin to tell you anything about it because I’ve never had any experiences with it.

Gloucestershire  served as the climax of the novel and the point where I realized just how much of a gem this novel truly is. In this chapter we learn that everything we were previously set up to believe was all a lie. We were never reading about Henry’s life at all, but rather, Nathan’s life fictionalized to be Henry’s. We were reading the first few chapters of Nathan’s novel. Suddenly Nathan didn’t seem as innocent or revolutionary to me anymore. I HATED him. How dare he write such things about all of his family members! I was outraged! But then I thought to myself — he is a writer. This is what writers do — they write fiction. They make things up. But was what he was doing ethical? Was it right?

I am a writer, just like Nathan. When I read about the way that Nathan disguised his own life in his writing by pretending these things happened to others in his life, I began to question the ethics of writing. Would I have done the same thing? It’s hard to say. Mostly everything I write, whether fiction or non-fiction, has been influenced by people I know in real life. I have written fiction stories with real people doing extreme things. I have written fiction stories based on real life events that were exaggerated  just like Nathan did. Although I am outraged and offended by Nathan, I realize there’s many times that I’ve done very similar, if not the same, things as Nathan. Nathan is just the typical writer using his writing as a way to express himself and maybe say things he wasn’t to say but doesn’t know how to. With writing a person can wear a mask. They can change life and cater it to be exactly as they see it or want to see it. Looking back, although at first I was initially offended by it, maybe this isn’t such a problem afterall. Writing is creative. It allows us to make ourselves and those around us into anything we want them to be. The danger doesn’t lie in writing, but rather, life when it comes to role playing and identity creation. When we try to be or make others into things that they are not in real life, that’s a real problem. It’s best to just let those things stay in fictional worlds in the written word.

The Counterlife gets a full five star rating from me for raising interesting questions about life and ethics that I have not previously considered, taking me by surprise in ways I never could have imagined, and helping me to re-examine and re-evaluate my own life. Not many books have as much power as this one does, making this one a true stand-out gem.



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