“The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move…. …Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you’d be so much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that, exactly. You’d just be different, that’s all. You’d have an overcoat on this time. Or the kid that was your partner in line last time had got scarlet fever and you’d have a new partner. Or you’d have a substitute taking the class instead of Miss Aigletinger. Or you’d have heard your mother and father having a terrific fight in the bathroom. Or you’d just passed by one of those puddles in the street with gasoline rainbows in them. I mean, you’d be different in some way – I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.”
Jerome David Salinger is an American novelist and short story writer. I ‘discovered’ him and read everything he had written when I was in my late teens. He’s still one of my favorite authors. He has a gift for dialogue and almost always writes about young people with a vision about things that captures their most secret judgments about the world. I hadn’t known that between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and teenage angst. The novel’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield has become a symbol for adolescent rebellion and defiance.
Salinger served with the 4th Infantry Division in the Second World War and was stationed at Tiverton, Devon in March 1944 for special counter-intelligence training, an experience which inspired For Esmé with Love and Squalor. He survived the war with his faculties intact and in 1946 returned to the US to make his living as a writer. I’ve been to Tiverton. The tea rooms where he had his conversation with Esmé are long gone, but it was pretty cool to be in a place that one of my favorite authors had been in.
“What really knocks me out is a book that,when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much though.”
— Holden Caulfield … JD Salinger
— The Catcher in the Rye