I just read The Catcher in the Rye, again, for the millionth time. There is a certain charm, and honesty, in Holden Caulfied that you have to appreciate. Unfettered by the fear of being “politically correct”, he calls it like he sees it. Granted, much of the slang is very dated but it is still an extraordinary insight into an adolescent’s struggle to form his own identity.
There is one particular part that always speaks to me. It seems that anyone who embraces writing will encounter a similar situation, at one point or another. Holden’s friend/roommate, Stradlater, tries to weasel a favor out of him and asks Holden to write a composition. After the obligatory compliment about Holden being a “hotshot in English”, he proceeds to negate the compliment by saying, “don’t stick all the commas and stuff in the right places.” This is where I totally agree with the young Mr. Caulfield. When people imply that the only reason they can’t write is because they, like Stradlater, don’t know where to put the commas, it is insulting. Or to directly quote Holden, “That’s something else that gives me a royal pain”. Granted, that was a bigger issue in Salinger’s day, especially since there was no such thing as Spell-check, but there is more to writing than inserting punctuation in the right place.In certain social situations, I am tempted to avoid telling people that I am a writer. It never fails…someone insists on telling me that they could be a writer, too. Well, if they were a better speller and if they knew where to put the commas, that is. My only comfort is that those same people are telling Michelin Star chefs that, if they didn’t burn food, they could run a world famous restaurant or, if they didn’t fail out of college, they could be a famous heart surgeon. Perhaps mediocrity is the worst nightmare of all…. Sleep well.