J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

KERRY MCSWEENEY

Salinger Revisited

For anyone who was a literate North-American adolescent during the 1950s, it is probably difficult, even after fifteen or twenty years, to go beyond a personal estimate and/or historical estimate of the fiction of J. D. Salinger and attempt a 'real' estimate. The task will be especially difficult for those who were in those days uncritical enthusiasts of Nine Stories, The Catcher in the Rye and the Glass stories; for a retrospective distaste and embarrassment over one's youthful intensities, idealisings and over-simplifications may well make for a prejudiced reading.

The possibility of overreaction on my part may be indicated by a catalogue of the Salingeresque items—tokens of sensitivity, emblems of non‐ aggression, touchstones of selflessness—that fell out of my copy of Catcher when I recently opened it for the first time in a decade and a half: (a) a transcript of a poem by the then Brother Antonius, which begins

Annul in me my manhood, Lord, and make
Me woman-sexed and weak,
If by that total transformation
I might know Thee more;

(b) another of a Bob Dylan song, which begins with

____________________
From Critical Quarterly 20, no. 1 (Spring 1978). © 1978 Manchester University Press.

-51-

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