I have finally done it. I’ve finally gotten around to reading this classic American novel of anarchy and teenage rebellion. I do wish that I had read it when I was 17, I feel like it would have shaped me much more than it has as a 20-something. The story of rebellious teen Holden Caulfield has become a clarion call for many, including American war veterans and would-be assassins. When he was arrested for the murder of John Lennon, Mark David Chapman handed police a copy of the book that he had bought that very day, and in it was written: To Holden Caulfield from Holden Caulfield: This is my statement. I didn’t find it the easiest book in the world to read, but as a technical literary work, I can appreciate the beauty and crafting that went into this book, particularly the fact that Salinger managed to crawl into the mind of a disillusioned 16 year old boy trying to come to terms with his brothers death from leukemia. Salinger richly deals with the themes of living in a broken world with no purpose, and I had a deep existential reading of the novel (existentialism was very prominent at the time it was written, just after World War Two). Although not much happens really, the book is a rich internal monologue from Holden’s perspective “about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas.” It’s short, and if classic literature is your thing, it is definitely worth a read, to be followed swiftly by Joanna Rakoff (I did it the wrong way around). I paired this book with an easy drinking Kanonkop Kadette Cape Blend, with notes of raspberries and mocha.
New York native Joanna Rakoff explores the existential theme of entering adulthood in this coming-of-age memoir.
Freshly out of university, Rakoff takes a job as a secretary at one of New York’s oldest literary agencies in the mid-90’s, only to discover it is the same agency which shot J.D. Salinger to fame.This simplistic story tells of her year working on a project for Salinger which never came to fruition, discovering his works for herself for the first time, grappling with what adulthood means, and leaving behind love for the sake of what she describes as “a little unhappy and constantly lonely” in the hopes of getting her own works published.
While nothing much happens in the story itself, this book is exquisitely written and makes for an easy read. Set against the backdrop of New York, its hard to resist being sucked into the world of literature that Rakoff paints, cleverly using Salinger to discuss the themes that she herself has wrestled with.
This well-constructed novel is definitely worth a read, whether you are familiar with Salinger’s work or not. I paired this with a rich and aromatic Italian wine, the Bardolino Zonin, a bordeaux-style blend which reflects the fruity and soft flavours of a pinot noir while being quite heavy on the alcohol side of things. This wine is as well-constructed as Rakoff’s novel.