J.D. Salinger is dead. I just saw someone Tweet that they had powerful memories of the first time they read Catcher in the Rye.
I remember my second time better than my first time. The first time I think I stayed up quite late reading it – couldn’t sleep til I finished it. I believe it was some time in the summer between my Junior and Senior year. Maybe it was the year before. Doesn’t matter.
I vividly remember the second time I read it or sorta read it.
Senior Year AP English our last assignment was to read and review some book of our choice. We’d had plenty of notice. The choice of books was long, two columns on a page if I recall correctly. I chose Heart of Darkness because of all the great literary works on the list it had the fewest number of pages. But it turns out it wasn’t a very fun read. Who could have predicted? By that point I’d done my SATs, been accepted to the college of my choice, and I no longer had much patience for the trivial demands of secondary education.
The night before the assignment was due I panicked. I did need to graduate. And I probably also needed a reasonable grade in AP English or else I wouldn’t have been able to comp out of Freshman English in college (although I don’t think that occurred to me at the time). I couldn’t face Heart of Darkness. Couldn’t have finished it and written up the report in twelve remaining hours either.
To make matters worse, I received a panicked phone call from my friend Keli. She hadn’t read her book either.
Although neither of us still had the list of books in our possession, I remembered Catcher in the Rye was on the list and I had read that a year or two before (see at the beginning of the term I was still scholarly, elsewise I’d have picked something I’d already read from the start). I resolved that we would write our book reports together.
I no longer even had a copy of the book – and since I grew up in a town without a bookstore and in an age without Internet or e-readers – this was a problem. I called around and found someone with a copy. (Thank you John!)
We sat at Kentucky Friend Chicken and wrote the report paragraph by paragraph. Or rather, I wrote both reports – varying them only slightly.
We handed them in in the nick of time the next morning.
Of course, we were seriously chancing our luck turning in nearly identical papers. And to make matters worse, it turns out that Catcher in the Rye was not one of the books on the list.
It was a phony list anyway.