Reading The Catcher in the Rye has become a rite of passage for young Americans, landing the book on bestseller lists (and banned book lists) each year, even though it was published a half century ago. What is it about J. D. Salinger and his body of work that has left such a lasting mark on American fiction? And who better to answer that question than the current generation of writers?
Here are fourteen of the most vital voices in the contemporary American fiction scene pulling no punches in response to a writer who continues to beguile, charm, fascinate, and frustrate generations of readers. Contributors Walter Kirn, Ren? Steinke, Charles D’Ambrosio, Emma Forrest, Aleksander Hemon, Lucinda Rosenfeld, Amy Sohn, John McNally, Karen E. Bender, Thomas Beller, Benjamin Anastas, Aimee Bender, Joel Stein, and Jane Mendelsohn turn themselves inside out as they discuss their personal reactions to reading Salinger classics–not only The Catcher in the Rye but also Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters, and the short stories–and explore, with begrudging gratitude, how Salinger helped to form the deepest reaches of their literary imaginations.
Fourteen writers reflect on the impact of J.D. Salinger's oeuvre on their lives and work in With Love and Squalor, edited by literary agent Kip Kotzen and Open City founding editor Thomas Beller (The Sleepover Artist). Walter Kirn recalls having Catcher in the Rye snatched from his hands and hurled across the college dining hall immediately after John Lennon's murder by Mark David Chapman; Chapman believed the book gave him permission for the killing. Emma Forrest describes her effort to become the kind of young person " `invented' in the fifties by the two J.D.s Salinger and James Dean" in order to deliver the goods to her newspaper editor. Lucinda Rosenfeld weighs Franny and Zooey's unimpressive rebellions against what she sees as the nearly perfect prose of their eponymous book.