Thursday, January 28, 2010

R.I.P. J.D. Salinger

During my sophomore year of high school, I read The Catcher in the Rye. Not only was it a good book as far as composition and all that, but it truly captured depression in literary form for the first time (that I had seen, anyways).

I've struggled with anxiety for the last five or six years, and I've bounced around a fair amount of medications. One of them REALLY put me into a funk for a while, and I guess that I finally realized that kids that were actually clinically depressed weren't just being pussies. I got off of that medication pretty quickly, and I soon got back to normal life.

I've only encountered a few works of art that I felt really embodied what it feels like to be down. One of them is the rapper Kid Cudi... there are also some good movies out there about mental disorders and the darkest reaches of the human mind, like Pi or Apocalypse Now. Catcher in the Rye did a better job than any song or movie or book that I've come across at portraying someone who truly has no ambition, no joy, no hope. Holden Caulfield (the main character) is a bitter, negative, cynical kid that we can all relate to at one time or another. He fails out of his prep school and rides a train to New York City. From there he wanders around in a drunken stupor... for God's sake, the kid rents out a prostitute just to talk to someone. He's got some real issues.

The reason I'm writing about this book is because the author, the man who created Holden and one of the best novels of the 20th century, died yesterday at age 91. J.D. Salinger published the simple story of Caulfield in 1951 and achieved immediate success. He was a recluse that did not want media attention, and both he and his former wife experienced depression; at one point in the 50's, his wife designed a plan to kill herself, Salinger, and their infant child on a trip. She ran away instead.

Salinger also was drafted into World War II and fought with the U.S. Army at D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. It was during this time that he arranged to meet up with legendary writer Ernest Hemingway in Paris, who was a war correspondent at the time. Hemingway of course committed suicide in 1961 and suffered from a fair amount of mental illness himself. I would give anything to sit in on his and Salinger's conversation in 1946.

Respect and rest in peace to J.D. Salinger... his work has inspired and entertained millions for the last 60+ years.

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