Bodhisattva In The Rye

Holden Caulfield Talks BackP. B. Law

In honor of the passing of J. D. Salinger, we polish off this old gem. Enjoy.


Asha Greer

The new edition of the college textbook The Buddhist Religion (Wadsworth Publishing), by Richard Robinson and Willard Johnson (due out this fall), cites. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye as an example of Buddhist influences on modern American literature. P B. Law, a writer living near San Diego, imagines Holden Caulfield's reaction. Illustrations by Asha Greer

IF YOU REALLY want to know the truth, I wasn't going to write anything more about all that crazy stuff that happened the week after I got kicked out of Pencey. It was bad enough after D. B.—he's my brother, in case you don't remember—talked me into letting them publish the book and all. First off, these crazy literary critics got hold of it and kept talking about what a dumb book it was and what an unoriginal moron I was to say the things I was trying to say. As if, like, you were lying in the street run over by a car and you'd have to be tenibly original about how you were bleeding on the pavement if you wanted these guys to even look at you. That was bad enough.

Then these hot-shot academic types got their hands on it. That was even worse. They kept finding all this deep meaning every time I swore to God or felt under my Coat for my secret wound. That was enough to make me swear off writing forever.

But now I've found Out that some madman has put my name in this stupid textbook on Buddhism, saying that I was some kind of secret Zen master leaving all these suave little clues about koans and satori all over the book, and I dunno, I just couldn't let it pass. I mean, it's one thing when literary types write about you, and you let on that you didn't read it, because nobody expects anybody to read that garbage anyhow. Bu t if somebody says you're a Zen master and you just keep quiet, it's like you're doing some kind of Zen thing and playing along with them. I've read a little about these Zen guys and they seem pretty sharp. How would they feel if they heard that some jerk like me was being called a Zen master like them? Old Linchi probably wouldn't say anything. He was pretty cool, but God, Dogen, I don't think he'd go for it at all. And, like, even though they wouldn't say anything, that would make it even worse, if you know what I mean. So I felt I had to stop playing deaf and dumb and set the record straight.

Asha GreerLike that business about the ducks in Central Park You know, the part where I say,

I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be fozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go. I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away. I'm lucky, though. I mean I could shoot the old bull to old Spencer and think about those ducks at the same time. It's funny. You don't have to think too hard when you talk to a teacher.

They made it out like I'm giving some super subtle little hint here that the duck thing is my own personal koan, that secretly I'm meditating on it all the time and, like, I'm leaving Pencey because I haven't yet found anyone worthy to be my true master and all. For Chrissake, you'd think everybody would know that you can have a million things running through your head when you're shooting the bull with someone like old Spence. But, no, they have to go make me out like some super modest secret meditator. Holden Z. Caulfield, Secret Zenbo. Give me a break.

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YogiPanda's picture

Thank you :)

matthewgindin's picture

Together with PB Law's other pieces re-working Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland that is. Will there be something more from PB Law soon?

Philip Ryan's picture

We understand P. B. Law now has his own website, buddhisthumor.org, where his unorthodox Bodhi Tree brings forth the occasional piece of bittersweet fruit.

ClarkStrand's picture

I remember "discovering" this guy when I was at Tricycle. As I recall, he kept complaining that there was so little funny stuff in the magazine. So I said, "If you're so hot for Buddhist humor, why don't you just write some yourself!" I mostly said it to get him off my back, but a few days later he sent me this piece. And that's where it started.

I might add that we were nervous as hell when we published a piece in the voice of Holden Caulfield, because Salinger was still alive at the time and was famously litiginous about such matters. And he was a subscriber, so there was every chance he'd actually read it! But if he disapproved of P.B. Law's spoof, he never said anything.

malindathompsoncyt@gmail.com's picture

Thanks for posting this, reading it made my day!

Quinn70's picture

"All I can say is, don't believe a word of what those crazy bastards say."

Words of wisdom. Great piece, great book!