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September 21, 2008

The Back Row Kings

(Note: I just finished reading J.D. Salinger's book The Catcher in the Rye. This was written in a deliberate attempt to imitate the style of writing that Salinger used in that book.)

Most people seem to work or go to school or do drugs. But if you aren't working or going to school or doing drugs, you have to do something and there's a lot of hours in the day to just do nothing, so I read a lot of books. It's hard though because most books are crummy and most authors are big phonies just trying to get their publishers off their backs. But sometimes you find a good one.

Mostly, I didn't want to read The Catcher in the Rye because people always talked about how it was one of those books you were supposed to read and I hate that. People are always telling you what you're supposed to read.

But I finally picked it up in my brother-in-law's library one summer. He's got one of those lousy houses that rich people have where you can never really know if anyone's home or anything. You wander around the different wings, calling out like an idiot to see if anyone's home at all.

Rich people are funny that way cause all they ever do is work from sunup to sundown and they can hardly even take a minute to stop and read a lousy book or something.

Rich people always have houses about as big as the Grand Hotel up on Mackinac Island and they're always adding onto them. They're never at home and there's always a bunch of drunk workers covered in tattoos and scars and drywall mud hiding beneath the Muscadine vines with hammers. They're being paid to work but no one's home to watch them so they just sleep all day.

I just try not to wake them cause you don't want to wake some illegal immigrant when he's on the clock and he's holding a Kaiser blade.

Rich people always have big houses with giant libraries with the books stacked so high you need a ladder to get them down to read. You really do need a ladder. But they never have time to read them cause they're working all the time and stuff.

I don't work so I have all the time in the world to read them, but you have to be careful because most books are crummy, of course. Especially the ones that are so high up you need to use the ladder to reach them. Those are the worst ones. They really are.

Usually, if you try to read a book, you can tell right away that the author is a complete phony and that he just wrote the book to get his publisher off his back or something.

Like I told you already, I didn't want to read The Catcher in the Rye because it was one of those books you were supposed to read and I hate that. I was sure it would be about the crummiest book in the world and there'd be some stupid moral worked into the ending so when you got through reading it, you'd think about it and be a better person and all. People are always trying to put their morals into you on the sly and I swear I just can't stand that.

But it was the only one I could reach without getting on the silly ladder in his library. Climbing a library ladder to read books is so queer that I can't even consider it. Even now it makes me think of that famous painting where there's an old man with curly white locks dressed all in black and he's standing on the top rung of the library ladder reading a book with the sun shining down on him like he's a g0dd@mned saint or something. That painting kills me.

The Catcher In The Rye was about the only book I could reach without the stupid ladder that wasn't about the Nazis or the Cold War or Richard Nixon or something.

So I started reading it and I liked it right away. You could tell that the author didn't write it just to get his publisher off his back or anything. He really knew what he was doing when he wrote it. It was just about the best book I'd ever read.

Most books are written by phonies and are complete crap. But some books you like right away and then you actually hate to read them because each page you read brings you closer to the end and you don't really want the book to end. Books like The Grapes of Wrath and On The Road and A Confederacy of Dunces are so good that it makes up for all the other crummy ones on the shelves about the Nazis and the Cold Ward and that crook Richard Nixon.

I read the book in like a day or two because, like I said, I don't work, so I've got lots of time on my hands and in my brother-in-law's house, there's never anyone to bother you because the house is so big there could be ten other people in it and you'd never know it. And if any of the workers ever try to actually do anything, I just send them outside to take a nap so they won't bother me.

Every page I turn brings me back to Monticello and New Orleans and Hattiesburg and Natchez. It's like Salinger was writing about my life. Just like he was looking over my shoulder for ten years or so, from 1980 - 1989. Or I don't know. Maybe that's only nine years. I can never remember whether you're supposed to count the first year and the last year too, or not. But it doesn't really matter anyway. You get the point.

I mean, it's not like I'm a freaking mathematician or anything. I'm just trying to tell you that the book really reminded me of my own childhood, particularly when I was in high school for four years and college for five years. Plus that summer I spent on the couch refusing to do anything except sleep for something crazy like 20 hours a day.

I don't know how old J.D. Salinger was when he wrote this novel and I'm not sure what all the symbolism meant or anything. To be honest, I don't even care. I'd rather not know. I don't need some Left Coast liberal or Upper West Side shrew to explain to me what Salinger really meant.

People are always telling you what a g0dd@mned book meant and I hate that. I'm fine with it being nothing more than a coming-of-age story. A young man's tirade against the world.

I remember when I read The Old Man and the Sea and I thought it was about an old man catching a fish. I was just a kid and it took me about the whole g0dd@mned summer to read it. It was a story about an old man that was down on his luck but, after about a thousand pages of trying, he finally caught a big stinking fish.

Then when I read the reviews about all the symbolism and all that crummy stuff, I hated those stupid people that wrote the reviews. They wanted me to feel like I'd missed the entire meaning of the book. But book reviewers are always doing that. Trying to make you feel stupid because you didn't see symbolism in something.

I like The Catcher in the Rye, but not for the reasons that the crummy book reviewers liked it. I like it because I can't read it without thinking about when I was kicked out of college. Or when I punched my roommate so hard he dropped out of college and never came back. Or when I was young and chasing girls all over the city at night.

I like the book because Holden Caulfield reminds me of the decade I spent with my kings in the back row, trying to make sense of a maddening world.

(Note: I just finished reading J.D. Salinger's book The Catcher in the Rye. This was written in a deliberate attempt to imitate the style of writing that Salinger used in that book.)

Posted by Rob Kiser on September 21, 2008 at 9:45 PM


Thats how I felt when I read that book. I wanted to look over my shoulder and see someone taking notes.

Posted by: SParker on September 23, 2008 at 5:48 AM

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