Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Did You Hear the Voice of Holden Caulfield?

I have read Cather in the Rye twice in my lifetime. Both times I missed what others seem to have to have found. When I was in college, the book was a rage read. I did not like it. Thinking I was too immature or just an inexperienced reader, I read it as a mature woman. Both times, the book left me wondering what all the thrill was about.

Last winter I saw J. D. Salinger on a PBS documentary. He was rather interesting as a man, although being a recluse is a little at odds for a writer. I thought maybe I would checkout his work again sometime. I expect that someday after his death the old manuscripts he wrote and then locked in a vault will be printed soon.

This winter I saw the movie Labor Day at the theater. With actors Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet, the movie was an interest-holding tale even though the story wasn’t overly astounding; I thought the ending tacked on a bit. However, it was taken from a novel and I was interested enough to sit through credits to see the name Joyce Maynard. Something about the name seemed familiar, but I could not retrieve info from my mental file cabinet.

So I looked her up on the internet and saw she had been in a short relationship with Salinger when she was 18…and he was 53.  When she was 44, she wrote a memoir-tell all-about her life. I remember when the book came out and I dismissed it thinking she was another person trying to make a buck off the name of a famous author. However, now after seeing Labor Day, I wanted to know about her own writing.

Joyce Maynard came from a talented and intelligent set of parents who were very unique. Her growing up years were formative and somewhat odd. She was a very successful writer herself by eighteen. Then she fell into a relationship with J. D. Salinger that was…well, downright weird. The man was a couple of levels beyond peculiar. Here were two dysfunctional people who found each other resulting in Maynard’s throwing away her Yale scholarship!

Despite finding myself irritated with both Maynard’s and Salinger’s behavior, I kept reading. I will admit to being interested in how such talented people could wreck their own lives. It always interests me how some people can break the rules and still sit on a pedestal too. But in the middle of the book, there was a turn as this young girl began to develop into a stronger woman. It became very interesting to see how Maynard developed, overcame flaws, and reached a sound maturity. She made a wonderful mother herself.

While I have gained no desire to read more of J.D. Salinger, I do want to find more of Maynard’s work. In looking at her lists of novels, I see I have already read her book, The Good Daughters. I remember it as a very good read, an unusual plot, although in places, needing a serious suspension of disbelief. She has a brand new novel out, The Usual Rules. I think I am going to give that book a shot!

It is always interesting to see how writers produce their works. It does seem that gifted people often pay the price of some kind of dysfunction for their gift like alcoholism, depression, mental issues. Then again maybe there are no true “normal” people!  J



Elephant's Child said...

Someone gave me a fridge magnet which reads 'the only normal people are those you don't know very well'. Which has some truth to it.
Just the same, some writers (and artists more generally) seem to go out of their way to lead lives filled with chaos. How they manage to create anything in it is beyond me.
I did know about Joyce Maynard - and her relationship with Salinger and you have inspired me to track some of her work down. Thank you.

Sioux's Page said...

Claudia--I've started a biography ("Mockingbird") on Harper Lee, and I already hate her. She wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird" in only 2 1/2 years.

I am jealous. To write such a classic, in such a short time, slays me.

Linda O'Connell said...

Catcher in the Rye was a banned book when I was in school. Last month I obtained a copy, finally read... half of it, and put it down for good. What was all the hoopla?

Lynn said...

Not too long ago, I read Catcher in the Rye as I have a t-shirt with the cover of the book and was embarrassed when people would say, "oh great book" or something of that sort, knowing I had not read it. Now that I read it, I'm no longer going to wear the t-shirt (except for cleaning) because I wondered what all the hype was about too???