Holden Caulfield Talks Back
In honor of the passing of J. D. Salinger, we polish off this old gem. Enjoy.
Then they go on and say I was so obsessed with my koan that I even put it to taxicab drivers, on account of they're the ones that always seem to know everything about everything. I admit that I sort of brought up the topic with a coupla cab drivers, but jeez, when you're sitting in a cab you gotta talk about something. You can't just sit there like some sort of stuckup snob pretending the driver isn't even a person.
That's the heights of rudeness. And yeah, I was pretty depressed when I got around to checking out the scene at the old lagoon at 3 a.m. in the morning. That's supposed to stand for the dark night of my Great Death when I've hit a dead end with my koan, but who wouldn't be depressed when you think that you're going to die of pneumonia and start imagining all the dopey relatives that are going to show up at your funeral?
Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crary cliff What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the edge of the cliff-I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be.
You wouldn't believe what they say about this one. I'm supposed to be some sort of bodhisattva, for Chrissake. Just because you want to help people without a whole lot of ego getting in the way doesn't mean you have to be some sort of bodhisattva, you know. And then they talk about what they call my Japanese Zen values, and like how I admire how sincere the drummer in the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra is when he plays his old drum, or how I liked that scrawny kid James Castle, who committed suicide rather than take back what he said. Jeez. Can't a guy just like the few good people around without having to have some reason every time?
The worst part, though, is what they say about the business at the end. You know, where I get so happy watching Phoebe-she's my sister-riding around on the carousel in Central Park. That was my favorite part-the only part that made any sense, in a way-so of course they have to go screw it all up. They say that's my satori, would you believe it? That just happened, for Chrissake. I swear, can't things just sort of happen without having any meaning, for crying out loud?
There's more, but it's so depressing I don't even want to talk about it. All I can say is, don't believe a word of what those crazy bastards say. If you're looking for a Secret Zenbo, try old Buddy Glass. He really knows how to chuck that Zen bull around with the best of them. Like in Seymour, An Introduction. The only good part of the whole book-the only part you really care about, I mean-is what Seymour said when his parents were all mad at his kid brother for giving away his new bike to some total stranger. That's the only thing you really want to know, because it's so perfect and all, but that's the one thing old Buddy won't tell. At first I didn't understand, because I thought he was just trying to be coy about it, but now I do. Now I understand. If you put something down on paper, even if it's all perfect just as it is, everybody who reads it thinks that it belongs to them and they can twist it all up any old way they like.
So I've learned my lesson. If you have anything that really means a lot to you, don't go writing it down. Maybe you can write around it, like, but don't go writing it down. Nobody I know ever knows enough to leave anything alone.