Friday, 10 February 2012

Back to the Classics

Well, I've done it...picked up a copy of Catcher in the Rye this afternoon, so my other reading will have to be put to one side so I can read it before I see my student on Tuesday. He is in Sixteen's class, so is also studying it. It has, therefore, become imperative that I update my very hazy recollections of the book so we can have discussions that are rather less bluff on my part!

Chatting with an old high school friend today, I mentioned this blog and he said he'd read it if he got a special mention... So, I hereby mention you - but not by name, you know who you are - and I encourage you to contribute to the discussion on J.D. Salinger by letting me know your memories of Catcher in the Rye, since we'd have studied it together. I'm sure we were in the same English class - you can let me know that too!

Reading The Postmistress this morning with my breakfast, I was struck again by how much I enjoy coming back to a book (and please let it be so with Catcher...). As I mentioned in my last post, this is a new book that I've only read the once. My tendency with most new books is to read through them in one fell swoop - Twentysix said to me once, when he was in his teens that I "eat books" and he's probably not far off with that description. There's something about a new book that means I just have to get to the next page, and the next, and then next - and then all of a sudden, I'm on the last page and I've run out of story. I remember some books when I've forced myself to read more and more slowly, conscious that I'm nearingthe end and not wanting them to finish. I think it's why I get so frustrated with short stories. 

The bookshop this afternoon was a place of huge temptation. It's the first time I've been in there for ages - it was our small local one that I love. I was looking for a small gift for Dearly Beloved - it's his birthday tomorrow. The main gift is coming next week, but there has to be something to open on the day, so I was hunting through the various shops we have near to us waiting for that small, quirky, right thing to jump up and say 'I'm what you're looking for', and nothing did. So, I took me to the bookshop... I think I combed every last shelf. I was holding a mad little thing in my hands for ages - one of the small books they have all over the counter, you know - books with no categories, the nonsense books. This was a pocket sized colouring in book of Yves St Laurent fashion sketches, complete with swatches of the original fabrics printed on the pages for inspiration. Great fun, but not quite right. There was another colouring in book in the children's section that I contemplated for a mad moment - with drawings by Andy Warhol - this is a truly cool little bookshop! And then, in the art section I found it - or it found me - a delightful little book called David Hockney's Dog Days. It's just a little landscape format paperback, and didn't cost very much, but Dearly Beloved has this thing about miniature dachshunds - I don't know why, but there you go - and David Hockney had two dachshunds. The whole book is sketches and paintings he did of them. I don't think they were ever intended as serious paintings - there is a comment he makes that's in the introductory text to that end - rather that they were his dear and loved companions, and they were he drew and painted them.

All in all, not a bad day. Not much reading, a lot of writing - all the week's freelance work done - a good long walk this morning and some highly successful shopping. So now, with a clear conscience, I can go curl up with Catcher and feel virtuous even, since reading it is also work, given I need to have a more current familiarity with it to keep up with Sixteen and my student!


  1. I read 'catcher in the rye' once. I did it because I had to so that the bad event that surrounds this book doesn't control me. The bad event is the death of John Lennon. His murderer was reading it when the police arrived. Your words are good; perhaps you can tell me what you think of 'catcher in the rye'. Cheers Neal

    1. Neal - I forgot to alert you - I have a whole post on Catcher, with a discussion in the comments with Murph - you might like to go look if you haven't already found it...

  2. My memories aren't that strong. It was a quick read as I recall, and covered just the one day in Holden Caulfield's life. I recall that he had a sister called Phoebe, and that was the first time I'd ever seen that name, and he labelled everyone as 'phony'. It was a story of teenage rebellion, and one of many teenage protagonist novels that poor Mrs Thompson foisted up me - time that in retrospect was sadly wasted.

    I'll download an e-copy tonight and reacquaint myself with Holden, Phoebe, Coney Island and the gaggle of phonies. Will let you know what I think now that I'm grown up enough to appreciate it :-)

  3. P.S. I picked up a free copy of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" at a Youth Hostel in Scotland last year. I'm sure you'll recall that book too.

    POMJB was a book that I absolutely loathed as a teenager, but brief reconnaissance of the first couple of chapters came across this memorable bit.

    'Miss Brodie says prime is best' said Sandy.
    'Yes, but she never got married like our mothers and fathers.'
    'They don't have primes.' said Sandy.
    'They have sexual intercourse,' Jenny said.

    Maybe with a few saucy bits like that it is worth a second chance.

  4. Neal - thanks for your feedback. I'll keep you posted...

    Murph - watch for my next post re reflections on the book, and revisiting it in the company of another generation encountering it at the same age we were when we first read it. And, I've read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie many times since that first school reading - love it!