Friday, February 5, 2010

Why Re-read "The Catcher in the Rye"

We all recently bid a sad, final farewell to one of our great writers. Here's my small tribute to Mr. Salinger:

I devoured J.D. Salinger’s first-person narrative “The Catcher in the Rye” when I was about my granddaughter’s age. My daughter read it when she too was around 15 or 16. A great age to be introduced to that icon of teenage rebellion, Holden Caulfield, while also experiencing a master writer’s creative style.

My granddaughter's reading of the 1951 novel inspired her mother to give it re-read. My daughter told me how she not only gained a new appreciation for the book, but it also created an opportunity to discuss its topics with her teenager.

So nothing would do but that I trek to the library and check out one of the worn copies lining the shelf, the one with the least amount of tape holding it together.

What a treat! How wonderfully the book has aged. It is truly timeless. The characters, the dialogue, the issues as relevant today as they were when the book was first published.

And the joy didn’t stop there. Re-reading that book at this point in life has manifested benefits in other ways:
• I appreciate that my granddaughter, my daughter and I shared the experience.
• I know I am still basically that same girl who first read those pages.
• I am grateful to authors who write books worth reading again and again.
• I am reminded that as we mature, we gain new insight and perspective.

Perhaps some books should be re-read every decade. Interestingly enough, I read that a number of people feel guilty reading a book a second time. A waste time. They believe one should always be reading something new. Exploring the unknown!

I would argue I explored the unknown. I’d never read “The Catcher in the Rye” with +2.50 readers. I’d never read the classic after becoming a mother or being divorced or losing both of my parents.

And a waste of time? Did I mention the discussion with my “girls”?

So, if anyone thinks re-reading a book is frittering away precious hours, well, perhaps they should give me back my hunting hat.