A recent article by author David Mamet mentioned J.D. Salinger and F. Scott Fitzgerald in the same breath and stated that "…generations of schoolchildren have had their interest in reading destroyed by The Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye"

Destroyed?! Wow. As a sophomore in high school, I found Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye' transformative! That book first said to me that you COULD color outside the lines. That you DIDN"T have to write in established forms to get your point across. That you could smack your reader with language and ideas that actual people encounter. It most certainly didn't destroy my interest in reading or in writing! Salinger, like Fitzgerald before him and Hunter S. Thompson after, are the type of author that every generation needs to keep the pot stirred.

Mamet's piece was focused on extolling female authors whose writing was outside of the perceived 'feminine' experience: war, politics, slavery, history and other topics often (he says) relegated to men. That's all well and good, no one's a more avid proponent of women authors than I am, but, like so much in this 'us vs. them' climate today, I don't know that it's necessary to dis the men while praising the women. To give him credit, Mamet began his piece noting that the endless dialogs about race, gender and other plights have become restrictive in modern writing, but then he proceeds to open one of those dialogs.

As much as I loved 'Catcher' and all of Salinger's books, I wouldn't re-read any of them now. I've never been one to watch movies or read books a second time; there are always so many others out there to be explored! A couple of years ago, there was some conversation going on which prompted me to make an exception and pull an old favorite off the shelf to clarify a point to myself. What a sad event. I was probably in my late 20's when I first read Jan de Hartog's 'The Peaceable Kingdom' and felt it so deeply that it's always been with me. In re-reading it, I was puzzled at why it had touched me and it felt like losing an old friend. While I won't revisit any more of the old books on my shelf, I won't get rid of them, either. They represent my evolution from callow youth to confused elder and I enjoy their presence as I would a warm hug from a valued mentor.

We've probably all read a book that impresses us so much that we quickly gather several more of that author's books anticipating an orgy of satisfaction. And then they stink! That is SO disappointing. Those and many of the other books that evoke a 'Meh' response are the ones that go to the thrift store; one's man's treasure and all that. But the books and authors who open new horizons for us are among life's true gifts and we can treasure what they gave us even as we grow beyond their message.

(3) comments

che guevara

Good stuff Leslie , good stuff . I thoroughly enjoyed your editorial because of it's cogency with my own sentiments and life experiences as regards books - " old books " specifically . In my library I too have old books that I had read some 40 plus years ago , and which were gingerly packed into the back of an old Chevrolet almost 30 years ago when I moved out here to Arizona . Periodically throughout the year , I dust a select few of these treasures off and re - re - re - read them , gleaning something new time and again from them . In my opinion , living can only broaden one's spectrum of understanding and knowledge , thereby making previously read books a renewed experience in learning , and signifying that newer books we choose to encounter are indeed the beginning of yet another journey towards understanding . The writings of Hemingway , Tolstoy , Hesse , and the poetry of Neruda are among the " valued mentors " who have guided me through many a dark period and who have posthumously assisted in my personal evolution . Words can be powerful medicine when used smartly , and those who can write / cast a spell which remains medicinal long after their departure from this forlorn planet are the truest of adepts ( that's why we call it " spelling " ) . Finally , Leslie , this editorial was refreshing in that it was non - political and non - controversial , and a welcome relief from the political brawling that seems to have dominated this blog site . It is nice to know that there are still a few of us sentimental book worms around .

beanblossom

Every 4 or 5 years I read my grandmother's favorite book, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". I read it first as a ten-year-old child sitting on my grandmother's porch while visiting my cousins in a hot and muggy (no A/C then) Indiana summer. I identified with the young girl who dearly loved school. My grandmother's father had forbidden her to go past the eighth grade in spite of her winning a scholarship to Indiana State Normal School. I understood my grandmother's longing for education. When I was a young mother I read it again, but this time I identified with the mother's struggle to support her family after the death of her husband. The character resonated with me after my divorce raising children on my own. I also could see how my grandmother's first husband had left her with a small bot to raise. Then I loved the story when the main character fell in love with an Irish cop who loved her too. I too married a good man who loved my children. The book has been my favorite for 60 years and I have never tired of reading it. Yes, some books are one time reads but others stay forever. I enjoyed your article.

Marc-V-Ridenour

I have never read “When A Tree Grows In Brooklyn”, but I am also an inveterate bookworm. I, too, love to read. Quite often I got b*tched at in school for reading everything but my textbooks—which were, and probably still are, the most boring I have ever had to read[thumbup][thumbup]

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