22 Jun 2009

Holden Caulfield in Worse Trouble Than Ever

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The Times reports that the Holden Caulfield alienation franchise is currently under attack by brand infringement.

(Last Wednesday,) a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order forbidding publication in the United States of “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye,” a takeoff on — J. D. Salinger’s lawyers say rip-off of — “The Catcher in the Rye,” written by a young Swedish writer styling himself J. D. California.

Until the judge makes her final ruling, Mr. Salinger’s fans will be spared the prospect of encountering Holden Caulfield, the ultimate alienated teenager, as a lonely old codger who escapes from a retirement home and his beloved younger sister, Phoebe, as a drug addict sinking into dementia.

But, matters are far worse than that: poor Holden’s 1950s vocabulary and teenage preoccupations have grown out-of-date, and nobody even feels sorry for him any more.

Holden may have bigger problems than the insults of irreverent parodists and other “phonies,” as Holden would put it. Even as Mr. Salinger, who is 90 and in ailing health, seeks to keep control of his most famous creation, there are signs that Holden may be losing his grip on the kids.

“The Catcher in the Rye,” published in 1951, is still a staple of the high school curriculum, beloved by many teachers who read and reread it in their own youth. The trouble is today’s teenagers. Teachers say young readers just don’t like Holden as much as they used to. What once seemed like courageous truth-telling now strikes many of them as “weird,” “whiny” and “immature.”

The alienated teenager has lost much of his novelty, said Ariel Levenson, an English teacher at the Dalton School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Holden’s home turf. She added that even the students who liked the book tend to find the language — “phony,” “her hands were lousy with rocks,” the relentless “goddams” — grating and dated.

“Holden Caulfield is supposed to be this paradigmatic teenager we can all relate to, but we don’t really speak this way or talk about these things,” Ms. Levenson said, summarizing a typical response. At the public charter school where she used to teach, she said, “I had a lot of students comment, ‘I can’t really feel bad for this rich kid with a weekend free in New York City.’ ”

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One Feedback on "Holden Caulfield in Worse Trouble Than Ever"

Brendan Ryan

It is amazing that J.D. Salinger’s character, Holden Caulfield is causing legal disturbance after concerning “The Catcher In The Rye” and its copywritten status. It just goes to show why film producers are skeptical to cast it as a movie, the answer is because the book is under protection by the people who have the original rights to the book. Thank you.

Brendan Ryan

The Brendan Ryan Company
Houston, Texas



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