Monday, November 26, 2012

Holden Caulfield is Here to Stay (Whether You Like it or Not)

I finally got around to reading this article about Mary O'Connell's plan to feature Holden Caulfield in her book, and I just wanted to say I totally understand Salinger's desire to control his intellectual property. He's far from the only author to control his work so tightly. I don't agree with O'Connell's decision to feature Holden Caulfield in a novel. Why not write Catcher in the Rye fanfiction? We quickly forget that it's only recently when it became desirable to write "original" stories (but let's be real, there are no new stories). For a long time, people just wanted to read more stories about the same characters (see the popularity of the Greek myths with their recurring characters). Every time a popular, influential work was published, authors tried to write something similar. She doesn't need to call him Holden Caulfield, just write a similar character. John Green's Looking for Alaska owes a huge debt to Holden, but he doesn't actually drop Holden in his story as a character, because he doesn't need to nor should he. If you need to drop in famous characters to make your story interesting, perhaps you should go work on your skills as a writer before you try to publish something.

I agree with John Green when he said: "I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification with. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make your brain go ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaarr." If characters are likeable, that's great, but ultimately, I want to read about interesting characters, and the fact that this article has been written and people are still talking about this character and this novel mean that they're interesting. There are plenty of stories right now that people are obsessed with (*cough* 50 Shades of Grey) but time will tell which ones we still read in school and write essays about and discuss with our friends.

I think the students who comment, "I can’t really feel bad for this rich kid with a weekend free in New York City" miss the point of the story. Holden is dealing with the grief of his brother's death, and the fact that his family has money doesn't solve his problems. Money doesn't keep the people you love from dying. Money doesn't provide you with support when you are grieving. Money can buy you companionship but it can't buy you true friendship or love. I could go on about Catcher in the Rye, but I'll stop here by saying that I like the novel, I think it's great, and I can guarantee we'll still be talking about it after another 60 years.

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