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19 May 2008

Book Review: "Salinger: A Biography" by Paul Alexander

I still cannot recall the chain of events that lead me to this book. I was at the library looking for something fun to read, and it is what I came out with.

I first read Catcher in the Rye at 15, a sophomore in high school. We had been presented with a list of books that had been banned from libraries at some point or other. Being alphabetically near the top and inside of my "thickness threshold", Catcher was my selection.

As most authority-bucking 15 year-old boys would, I naturally identified with Holden Caulfield. I felt his pain--the world, occupied by phonies, was out to get me.

Anyway, it was a good book then. I enjoyed it, but the literary points sailed over my head. I reread the book two years ago. The 15ish years that have passed since then (my adulthood) have served to distill the book into a few essentials that I will not get into now. Besides, that book has been analyzed and over-analyzed for the last 50-plus years. I wouldn't be adding much to mounds of what have already been said.

After reading the biography (it was decent and informative, by the way), I find that I don't get Salinger as a person. And I don't know which side of the camp I am on--did he fall off the edge, or is he really that private?

Does it even matter? Sure, the idea of one of the 20th century's greatest writers having 50 years of unpublished work holed away somewhere is pretty neat. And the real ideals behind Salinger's reclusion may be fascinating. But what does it matter if the sum of it is that we have nothing to read? So the man writes!

All told, I don't care. There are plenty of good books out there to read--I'll never read them all. If another Salinger book ever does come out, chances are that I will make time for it. If not, then big deal--lots of other books will fall into my lap.