Thursday, December 09, 2010

"I'm afraid of people who like 'Catcher in the Rye.'"

The Song: "William Holden Caulfield," Too Much Joy. Words & music by Too Much Joy (Jay Blumenfeld, Tim Quirk, Sandy Smallens, Tommy Vinton). Track 3 of Cereal Killers, 1991.
How/when acquired: Purchased cassette, 1992
Listen/read here.

People he'd despise say I feel like that guy
I don't want to grow up 'cause I don't want to die
When I'm 31, and keep living on
For 50 more years

I don't like Catcher in the Rye, and never did. Somehow I was never the right age for it. I loved Nine Stories, and "Seymour: An Introduction" changed the way I understood myself, but I always wanted to give Holden Caulfield a good smack upside the head.

Still, if you follow the link above you'll read Tim Quirk's thoughts about the book and the song, and I can't disagree with any of that. The dramatic revelations of adolescence can be summed up in three basic truths:
1. The world is not as it seems.
2. The world is not as it's "supposed" to be.
3. Adults know this and have decided, for one reason or another, not to do anything about it; therefore, becoming an adult is about finding your own compromise with Truths 1 and 2.

Two weeks after my 15th birthday, a man who liked Catcher in the Rye reminded all of us of these hard truths when he shot John Lennon. He had a copy of the book with him, and said the book inspired him. I've blamed the book ever since, even though the book could not possibly have been the reason why. There is no reason why. These things never have a "why."

On the morning of December 9, 1980, my mother turned on my bedroom light, the way she always did, and said, "John Lennon was killed last night. Someone shot him." She'd been crying. She'd met him a couple of times; as an executive secretary for Capitol Records, she'd taken Cynthia Lennon shopping during their visit to New York in 1964. (Mrs. Lennon bought a pair of gloves.) They were the same age; John Lennon was seven months older than Mom. I was too young and too self-absorbed, at 15, to understand how hard his death must have hit her.

All day yesterday I thought it was weird that the 8th was the anniversary being marked, when it wasn't until the 9th that most of us woke up to a world without John Lennon.


Anonymous said...

The full line merits quoting, both on its own merits and in the spirit of your musings:

I'm afraid of people who like "Catcher in the Rye"
Yeah, I like it too
But someone tell me why
People I despise say,
"I feel like that guy"?

Great post, Clair.

-- Ed

Karen Olson said...

I was studying for my journalism final exam when I heard about John Lennon. Needless to say, the studying didn't go very well after that, as a bunch of us got together and played Beatles albums over and over.

Anonymous said...

I opened the door to my apartment and the morning paper (tri-folded) was laying on the doormat in such a way that John Lennon's face was staring up at me. I could read the headline but I said out loud to my then wife... "He's dead". I was right of course, but there is a part of me that can't believe it to this day.

Richard B.