This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Think Happy Thoughts or Why It's Good I'm Mentally Stable or Why I dislike Catcher in the Rye

Rather than scream, gripe, cry, and plot murderously the gory and horrific deaths of anyone who's worked for Illinois Tollway Policy System EVER, I'm going to focus briefly on a chance encounter with a lovely person.

She has a blog, which I linked to from her Ok Cupid profile. She writes smart and laughing entries with titles like "Things Other People Love That I Don't" which I'll excerpt from here, in order to loosen the vibrating knot of RAGE in my belly and return to my regularly scheduled work.

from "Things Other People Love That I Don't"
1. The Catcher In the Rye.

Recipe for an Instant 9th Grade English Class Classic:

• 1 Protagonist - white. male. young. preferably not much fat.
• 1 heaping cup of awkward male (hetero)sexuality.
• (optional) 1 tsp. of heavily-diluted anti-racist or feminist analysis (NOT BOTH. TOO MUCH FLAVOR MAY RESULT) to off-set that bland hetero white dude taste.
• 1/2 cup of crazy. Distant relationship with parents. stupid, spur-of-the-moment decisions. silly illegal activity. frat boy shenanigans. doesn't matter.
• 3 cups of opposition to authority.
• infinite cans of beer

1. Marinate protagonist in awkward sexuality & beer all night long. Should be smooth, soft, and pliable by morning.
2. Slowly, gently knead in the crazy with your bare hands & firmly pound in the opposition to authority with a blunt object.
3. Boil, boil, boil until you're left with a shapeless mass the size and consistency of an elephant stool. Sprinkle on the analysis as an afterthought, if desired.

Can be chewed up, painfully digested, and shit out into 200+ pages of unadulterated poo-poo in which nothing much happens.
Ages poorly, yet the expiration date is seemingly non-existent - makes enough for thousands of 9th grade English students to consume for decades to come.

Exactly why a story about a spoiled, wealthy prep school kid who doesn't do much in particular beyond fuck up resonates so deeply with other people is unknown to me. Holden Caulfield is worse than unlikeable - he's uninteresting. If a nasty character is nasty in an interesting way, I'll want to keep reading, if only to see what awful thing (s)he's going to do next.
Whenever I bother re-reading Catcher and try to latch onto his character, though, I'm left with that same frustrating throb in my temple that I get when I gaze hungrily into a refrigerator empty of anything but a carton of curdled milk and a bottle of ketchup. I feel deprived.
I remember taking Catcher in the Rye from my 8th grade teacher's bookshelf before a spring break road trip to Georgia. Beyond having heard that it was a.) "A great American Classic" and b.) banned in many schools I knew nothing about the book. Reason "b" was enough to compel me, and when I found that there were swear words, in print, for me to read clandestinely from the backseat of Mom & Dad's sedan that was enough. I finished the whole book sometime in the 14 hours it takes to drive to Atlanta and I remember the feeling I had when I finished it distinctly.
We were perhaps 2 - 3 hours from my Aunt's house. I was laying across the back seat, the way only an only child can do on familial road trips, and the sun had me wrapped in a warm bake. I closed the book, inhaled and exhaled deeply with my eyes closed and thought, "This? This is it? Why is this a classic? I feel like I just read a 200 page, not even funny, whiny, Seinfeld episode."
Her rumination on the deprived feeling the reader is frequently left with upon closing the last page of that book is more clever and thought out than mine was those 13 years ago, but our mutual disdain for the "meandering jumbles" of Holden's "attempts" at introspection pleases me.

After the morning I've had with the fucks from the tollway, pleasing me is pretty much ALL I'm about right now. So, thanks serendipitous OkC user. SRSLY.


ammie said...

Haha, wonderful! Have you read "30 is the new 13" yet? My friend Erica loves it.
And I hope your mood improves :)

ShanaRose said...

Thanks Ammie! A run on the good old treadmill did the trick, I'm feeling pretty fine now :) That blog looks AWESOME! I'll be inspired, I'm sure.

ammie said...

Hahahaha, I've been talking to her recently too! Oh, okcupid...