Re: Catcher part II?!

Subject: Re: Catcher part II?!
From: Tim O'Connor (
Date: Wed Jan 02 2002 - 11:17:29 GMT

On Wed, Jan 02, 2002 at 10:23:37AM -0500, Jim Rovira wrote:

> I can't imagine what kind of an adult life Holden would have, at any rate,
> but I doubt it would look much different from many of the lives he sought
> to escape from. The sequel would probably either be a betrayal of the
> first novel's premise, or a representation of the failure of Holden,
> probably ending in his suicide (like Seymour). Either way, it would be a
> disappointment, I think.

This is a question shouted at JDS by Betty Eppes, who wrote about her
experience in Windsor in an essay published by the Paris Review called
(from what I recall) "What I Did on my Summer Vacation." As Salinger
was essentially fleeing her presence, she fairly shouted, "Will there
be a sequel to The Catcher in the Rye?" He appeared slightly baffled
by the question at first and then his answer was essentially along the
lines of, "No, of course not. Why would I write such a thing?"

Which is something that occurs to me. I think Holden is the opposite
of Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim (who has become "unstuck in time"), and is
quite clearly stuck like a fly in amber (or like a spooky Indian hunter
in a Museum of Natural History canoe that he so clearly idealizes),
stuck both in and of his time. He himself is frozen in his age and
period; on top of that, I believe it is impossible to envision him in
any period but that of the late 40s/early 50s. Somehow, I don't see
him grappling with a Palm Pilot or a cell phone or digital TV or a
laptop computer. I think he'd be more likely to resemble my aunt's
mother, who still has her vintage 1940s dial telephone and wouldn't
dream of upgrading to something newer. I think Holden would be like
that. God knows, he probably would have had a break with reality when
they tore down his beloved Penn Station!

One of my wishes for my lifetime is that there never be a case in
which the Salinger estate licenses someone to write a sequel, the way
the Mitchell estate authorized a sequel to Gone with the Wind.

Some books, like Catcher or To Kill a Mockingbird or The Great Gatsby, are
perfect as is, and need nothing more written to follow them or to
expand on their personae.

Another approach is a retelling of the same story from another perspective,
as John Gardner did when he wrote the story of Beowulf from Grendel's
point of view ... so perhaps several hundred years in the future, some
reader might see the story told from someone else's point of view.

But from whose? Phoebe's? That might be an intriguing perspective,
though it suffers from the same problem of any other character in the
novel, which is that nobody really experiences enough of Holden to present
us with a well-rounded alternative portrait. The other potential
candidates -- Stradlater, Ackley, Antolini, Jane, even D.B -- have an
even more limited view than Phoebe.

Maybe some madman, one day, will write a novel from the perspective of a
cab driver named Horwitz (are you listening, ex-cabbie Will Hochman?),
who, in the course of other adventures, picks up a young passenger who
quizzes him about the ducks in the park, and who nearly drives up onto
the sidewalk while answering the question about the ducks. I don't know,
though. Myself, I think I'd be apt to start fresh with a character of my
own invention, but that's *my* view of sequels and parallel universes and
other such re-tillings of someone else's garden.

I fear I've strayed from Bernd's original hypothesis, but of course we
specialize in digressions here, eh?* And when considering narratives,
I can't help letting my imagination run free.

(*That little inflection was for the benefit of our Canadian readers,
for whom we want, of course, to make this as welcome a place as possible.)

Cheers and happy new years,

--tim o'connor

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