So I read that JD Salinger is dead at 91.
It seems strange to call him one of my literary heroes based on one novel – and a short novel at that – but what a novel. I think I first tried reading it when I was 18 – a year older than Holden Caulfield, but then he was always a bit precocious, so it came at a perfect time in my life.
I never finished it before it had to go back to the library, but in 2008 I took it out while travelling round the US. In New York and on cramped commuter jets I read this incredible, piercing tale of a guy confused and shaken up by the world, a brain too big to contain, a young man teetering on the brink of astounding success or crippling failure. I don’t think I’d be a writer today without having read Catcher in the Rye.
The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket. Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you.
I figured I could get a job at a filling station somewhere, putting gas and oil in people’s cars. I didn’t care what kind of job it was, though. Just so people didn’t know me and I didn’t know anybody. I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes. That way I wouldn’t have to have any goddam stupid useless conversations with anybody.
That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “Fuck you” right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say “Holden Caulfield” on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say “Fuck you.” I’m positive, in fact.