Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The SPITWAD Chronicles - I'm not as well-read as you might think

There are some fantastic modern American authors. There are also prolific American authors, whose books keep showing up at the checkout at Target. I don't read those, since I don't have a thing for chick-lit (or Chiclets - what's the point?). But the classic 'modern American author', if I can be allowed the oxymoron, is rare to find.

The down-side to having my Sony reader, if there is one, is that I don't go to book stores and browse anymore. While I still find great authors accidentally, bumping against their work when I seek out those that I know, it's rare.

And in the sudden demise of Jerome David Salinger last week, it suddenly, after nearly 39 years of NOT reading Catcher in the Rye, means I must now seek it out. Being that I haven't been a teenager for nearly 20 years, and seeing as I was far from the typical teen back then, will it's angst and sexual charge be lost on me? I can hope not. I can also hope I won't be let down by the hype. Was it a classic because it was so controversial and frequently banned, rather than due to the prosaic stylings of Mr. Salinger himself? I read Rushdie, and love Rushdie, but have never touched The Satanic Verses, since even the author will admit it isn't his best work. (Yes, I know Rushdie is Indian, not American. Still an author.) I can hope I'll enjoy it, given that I recall enjoying a Salinger short story in high school, and though it runs slightly into a Mamet play I read in college, I can cite most of the details.

Understandably, given as Salinger stopped publishing in 1965, and all but disappeared from the public eye some time in the 80's, I believed him to be dead. Catcher was published when Salinger was 32, and with rare exception, I like to believe that successful authors aren't published until later in life.

(This delusion allows me to delay finishing my own great American masterpiece. Procrastination works much better when you can justify it.)

Updike? Dead. Asimov? Dead. Steinbeck? Dead. Vonnegut? Sadly, dead, though the gifts he's left us carry on. Daniel Keyes? NOT dead.

So there's that.


Bev said...

Catcher in the Rye remains one of my favorite books of all time, and I read it before I knew there even was hype about it. My husband loves it so much that he teaches it year after year to the same brand of bored high school students that inspired the character of Holden Caulfield in the first place. Despite certain changes in our vernacular, it still really holds up today.


Favorite line: "All morons hate it when you call them a moron."

calicobebop said...

Heinlein is dead too. :( And I'm afraid George RR Martin is heading south. He needs to finish before he croaks!

My two cents.

Sarah J. Bradley said...

Ahem, tread lightly on Chick lit, my friend! LOL! "Catcher" is a good book, though I've always thought the bru ha ha over it has always been overrated. It's a book, it's got words it in.

BTW, Stephen King, alive, still American, and writing some of the very best work in his life! Forget "Fire Starter" and pick up "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon."

And, Joyce Carol Oates (I'm ducking for cover from my chick lit friends) also alive, also American, and some of her work is nothing short of brilliant. "We were the Mulvaneys" "Them," "Bellefluer."

Just my two cents! (And Elliott...your unfinished novel rocks the PANTS OFF any of the titles I mentioned, so please, please, please finish it!

Elliott said...

I didn't tread on chick-lit, I just don't read it. And I simply never picked up King, though there's no shortage of it in our home.

And now I have to go figure out why Joyce Carol Oates would offend the chick-lit set.

Nej said...

I thought Salinger was already dead...until I read about his death recently. I've never read "The Rye"...but it's on my list. I need to start reading a classic now and again. We weren't forced to do it nearly at all in high school. Although, in high school, I probably wouldn't have gotten much out of it.

tracey said...

I've read a lot of American Lit - prescribed in college & picked up as i randomly choose from "hot picks" at our local library. i've never touched a nicholas sparks - i'd rather read steinbeck - most chick lit makes me itch.
i read peyton place last year - one of those "everybody references" books but i'd never read it before.
i've never read 'catcher' but it's on my list.
right now, i'm re-reading my favorite book by a canadian author - 'who has seen the wind' by wo mitchell. add it to your list - you won't be sorry.

tracey said...

i realize my writing in that last comment would indicate i am completely illiterate, but i am typing without my glasses & hopped up on cold medicine. sorry.

dogimo said...

Good point on Rushdie - not an American. But I think all great authors are American, in some sense - because they all aspire to our high ideals.

I think we have to give them at least some credit on that. We can afford to be at least a little magnanimous.

I've also been thinking of checking out Catcher In The Rye. I have never read it either.

gaf85 said...

So Elliott,
I think you'll still be able to gain something by reading Salinger even this late in life, maybe just from a different time perspective in your life. I really enjoyed some of the same books you have mentioned so when it comes to reading we may have some commonality. I have no rules though about what I read, I read anything and everything but some of my favorite authors include, Heinlein,Clarke,Irving,Updike,Maugham,Kerovac,Franzen Roth, Palahniuk,McMurtry, and yes Joyce Carol Oates!

Be nice and share!

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