Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield’s Voice Resonates

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Holden Caulfield’s voice as the protagonist in Catcher in the Rye is the masterful creation of J.D. Salinger, a man who often wanted to be left alone.

The words of the 17-year-old New Yorker take readers on a journey that feels so real we can all get lost in his world. Having flunked out of a boarding school for boys, Holden is isolated by depression, a distrust of shallow people, and vulgar language. He is more sensitive than he admits, still mourns the death of his brother Allie, and adores his younger sister Phoebe. He has not found a fit in four private schools.

The book’s first sentence sets the tone for Holden Caulfield’s story:

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Salinger’s most famous book, set in the 1950s, was written for adults, but it remains a favorite of youth, selling hundreds of thousands of copies a year. Its popular use in high schools has gotten teachers in trouble for its themes of morality, violence, sex, underage drinking, mental health.

Most of us had a Holden Caulfield in us. Ferris Bueller did. Many of us still do.

Five decades after I first read Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield’s words make me laugh, make me sad, make me want to tell him to be kinder to himself. And, sometimes, to others.

I can still learn a thing or two from Holden Caulfield–and I’m not just saying that.

 

Come Trippin’ With Me on the Trails of Europe

Sue and I at Land’s End, England, after a trek like no other.

Our fall 2019 trek on England’s South West Coast Path left us wanting more. While we (and our backpacks) await our chance to find our next adventure, Sue walks the hills around our home in Ashland, Oregon, and I bicycle on nearby quiet roads and bike paths.

Then I work on my second book, to be published (I hope) by the end of 2020. Here is a sneak preview (working title is Trippin’ Through My Sixties):

A guy (that’s me) retiring at age 60 revives the rebellious rumblings of his teen years in the 1960s. He and his wife set out to make their post-working years an adventure by moving out of state, making new friends, and walking the long-distance trails of Europe. There are four parts: Scotland’s West Highland Way, the Alps’ Tour du Mont Blanc, Italy’s Way of St. Francis, and England’s South West Coast Path. Each trek challenged us with more adventure than we thought possible.

My first book, Camino Sunrise, an adventure memoir about our first trek, continues to find new readers in several countries. I am so grateful for its success and for the many readers who send emails or write reviews.

Send along a note (See Contact in the Menu) if you want to be among the first to know when the new book is out. Meanwhile, my best wishes for your good health.

Bicycling Crusader Follows the Silk Road

She climbed to a peak of academia as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University and later as a scientist/graduate student at MIT. She dreamed of walking on Mars.

But for Kate Harris, work inside science laboratories could not satisfy her need to discover, so she and her best friend Mel set out to get lost in the world of exploration–for a year, bicycling the Silk Road of Marco Polo from Turkey to Tibet.

Thousands of miles, at altitudes higher than 17,000 feet, over every kind of terrain you can imagine, and through blazing heat and freezing snow. They eluded and tricked menacing military and police, adapted to cultures as different as they could be, and traversed geography as foreign to them as Mars. They found human compassion in many places, including Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, Tibet, and Nepal as locals took them into their homes to save them from another night in their tent.

In Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road, Harris eloquently and humorously weaves history, science, and compelling anecdotes from her adventure that left my jaw hanging open.

As I have learned while walking the long-distance trails of Europe, the borders of cultures, countries and languages are lost when you step outside the comforts of everyday life and push yourself to, or even beyond, your limits. On the Silk Road, Kate Harris went well beyond the limits of most humans and her book made me want to load up my backpack and leave my borders behind.

(Click on the cover if you want to see the book on Amazon.)

Walden: Thoreau’s Classic Book About Life

As I read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: Life in the Woods, I had a thought that could seem corny.

“You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

The 19th century philosopher/author told readers that the mundane details of everyday life can prevent us from seeing the big picture and, unless we take a step back, we can miss what is most important.

Thoreau stepped back by living alone in a tiny cabin on a pond in Massachusetts for two years. His thoughts about his experience fill the classic book.

His writing style may confuse you at times, but his nuggets of wisdom will make the effort worthwhile. You can read it cover to cover, or randomly open to a page, where you are likely to find thoughts about life and society worth pondering.

It may leave you searching for your own way to step back. (Click on the cover if you want to check it out on Amazon…the Kindle version is just 60 cents.)