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"I remember her as a plain-looking girl, narrow as a stick, shy, prudish, wouldn't want to show an inch of skin from chin to ankles when about," said our unreliable narrator.
The ensuing discussion on 'unreliable narrators' includes reflections on the writing strategy found in "Gone Girl," a recent NY Times best selling novel by Gillian Flynn. The novel has been variously described by the critics as a literary mystery novel; a frightening portrait of psychopathy in a failing marriage; a love story wrapped in a mystery--suspenseful, funny, and chilling, sometimes all at once. As each turn in the plot begins to dawn on a reader, sluicing through remaining chapters is like downing successive boilermakers lined up on the dark, mahogany bar steadying his elbows. Reading up to the point of revelation, the chapters alternate between the husband, Nick, who narrates in first person and gives a chronological progression of the story line from the day his wife, Amy, has disappeared, and the diary entries of Amy during the earlier time period leading up to her disappearance. It is essentially the story of a failing marriage. Nick has lost his job as a writer for a magazine publisher in NY, is unable to get another job, and has burned through his savings. He decides to return to his midwestern hometown to help his twin sister care for their cancer-stricken mother, and maybe get another career start. He borrows money from Amy, drawing down her trust fund, and partners with his sister to open a bar in town. To keep up his credentials as a writer, he also teaches a journalism class at the local community college. From Amy's diary entries we notice she is unrelentingly optimistic and supportive of Nick, even as he seems to decline into a narcissistic, self-centered and immature man. Why Amy, an attractive daughter of a wealthy family, well educated, and clever, should remain so supportive of Nick seems a mystery to us. (spoiler alert: it's a good read, so if you enjoy a good mystery, get the book and read it before returning to the writing crafts discussion). Suddenly, Nick's narrative startles the reader: during a police investigation of his wife's disappearance, he admits to having an affair with one of his young students. At this point, if the reader has limited patience with mundane, modern romance plots, he's hoping Nick will quickly be convicted and hopefully executed for 'disappearing' his wife. We suspect Nick has proven himself to be an unreliable narrator about what was going on. However we notice we're only half-through the book, so we decide to continue a bit to see if the author has any other surprises (it should be said all the author's surprises are well earned and fit her plot). Abruptly, Amy's diary entries end, and she begins narrating what has been occurring to her since the day of her disappearance. The diary, discovered by police investigators as she had planned, was prevaricated by Amy to point suspicion toward Nick. She is actually in hiding now while the police investigation into the disappearance draws tighter around Nick. Amy is revealed to the reader as a psychotically unreliable narrator, and further story events are stunning. Even more stunning is the story denouement, as Amy checkmates Nick into continuing their marriage, and on her terms. Nick's example of an unreliable narrator lies in his omission of key information that would have led us to form a different view of his character, up until he makes the disclosure of infidelity. This is one of the more common signs of unreliable narrators, where the narrator hides essential truths, mainly through evasion, omission, and obfuscation, without ever overtly lying. Other common types include contradicting oneself, or explicitly lying to other characters. Holden Caulfield, in Catcher in the Rye, signals his unreliable narrator's role with various instances of evasion, obfuscation, and lying. In his case, it all seems to work agreeably well in the story as the bravado of a sensitive, confused youth, facing entry into an adult world. Nick Carraway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, occasionally falls into a role of unreliable narrator as he reports events he couldn't have known about, and obfuscates with intentional fantasy. Another memorable story of an unreliable narrator was in I am the Cheese, by Robert Cormier. It is a very dark and discomforting novel in which we think we're accompanying a boy, Adam, riding his bicycle from Massachusetts to Vermont to visit his father there in a hospital. The family had been in a witness protection program as a result of his father being a whistle-blower on some sort of government corruption scheme. A subsequent auto accident involving the family killed the mother and injured Adam and his father. During his bicycle trip Adam meets with various spooky events and people, and a sort of deja vue atmosphere prevails along the way; he oddly recalls seeing some of the places before. When he gets to the hospital and is being interviewed there by a doctor, we realize Adam has some sort of psychiatric condition and is actually himself a patient there, as are some of the people he has reported meeting on his trip. In fact, the entire bicycle trip has been occurring on the hospital grounds. However, none of these unreliable narrators come even close to the psychopathic performance of Amy as an unreliable narrator in Gone Girl.
In So Long, Holden at Slate, Jessica Roake argues that Catcher in the Rye is dated and of little interest to contemporary students and suggests a replacement. I'm totally with her assessment of Catcher in the Rye, but, then, I've never liked it. Where I break with her is in the need to replace it in high school classrooms with another so-called "coming of age" novel. With all the literature out there--YA and adult--why is it so urgent that schools hunt for a novel to replace one Roake describes as expressing the "fundamental teenage anguish" "that in life, phonies abound and beauty is a fragile, horrible thing we will forever chase and lose."
First off, I would argue that the fundamental teenage anguish is struggling to accept the passage of time and life and determining how they will live the life and time that they have in a way that will provide meaning and some kind of happiness for them. The last couple of generations have grown up on TV. They learned about phonies at Mom's knee. "...beauty is a fragile, horrible thing we will forever chase and lose?" That's a very particular life view that I don't think is necessarily universal.
I can't make any pretense of knowing what adolescents need to read or enjoy reading. But I do think coming-of-age novels, which tend to be ones, in my experience, that have as their theme introducing young characters to the adult world of death, sex, and general misery, are something adult readers embrace. It's as if the coming-of-age novel is a gateway to the adult world, a world that is oh, so important because of death, sex, and general misery. This is the real world and childhood and adolescence is some kind of fantasy that the young must pass out of to become adults, adulthood being what really matters. Young people may not be so enamored of that concept.
God knows, I am all too aware of the death and general misery aspects of adulthood. (Notice how I'm being coy about sex?) But let's get over ourselves and move on.
I would also like to point out that when essayists write about Catcher in the Rye and the universal experience of reading and loving it, they are talking about a subgroup of the population that experienced a particular college prep sort of education. Not everyone over the age of 40 has read Catcher in the Rye. Not even close. I would argue that there are a lot of people who haven't even heard of it.
Hey, in the world I grew up in, rye was just something people drank.
When I first became interested in children’s literature I decided that it would be a good idea to teach myself about all the old greats of the picture book world. A good idea, but self-teaching is inherently limited. As such, I’ve missed a lot of folks. For example, until now “Saul Bass” meant nothing to me. Yet after reading the Ward Jenkins post on the Rizzoli reprint of Henri’s Walk to Paris, that is one book I would love to get my sticky digits on. Just gorgeous stuff.
I’ve noticed a couple of folks around the country working to make literary loving hip in the mind of the average consumer with varying degrees of success. One project that has interested me, though, is this Litpunch idea the Twin Cities are engaged in. Basically you get a card, you attend fun free literary events, and if you get your card punched twelve times you get a $15 gift card to a bookstore. I do wish the libraries were involved in some manner but it’s a great notion. Imagine if they did the same thing with children’s literature! I await that happening someday.
This is impressive! Want a fabulous list of in-print books set on every continent of the world? And would you like such a list to also include activities and recipes and the like? Then I think it’s time to take a trip to Read Around the World. It’ll do your old heart good. Promise.
Speaking of recipes, you know that fabulous book Press Here by Herve Tullet? Well, would you fancy trying a mess of Press Here cookies? Children’s Books for Grown-Ups has got the goods. It’s part of a regular “Bookish Bites” series. I’m seriously looking forward to how Natasha will tackle that upcoming Moomin birthday cake. There but for the grace of parental challenges go I . . .
Once in a while at Hark, A Vagrant, Ms. Kate Beaton will reinterpret variousEdwardGoreycovers. Here’s one she may have missed. It appeared recently on the 50 Watt blog and features a Gorey spider. Have you ever seen a Gorey spider? Did you know that you were missing out? That your life contained a gigantic Gorey-spider shaped void?
After 1951, if a person wanted to be a rebel she could just read the book. Later there would be other things to read—Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. But J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was the first best seller to imagine a striking shift in the meaning of alienation in the postwar period, a sense that something besides Europe still needed saving.
Howe explained in the announcement: “I’d always intended to relaunch One Book, One Twitter … It has a new name—1book140—but what hasn’t changed is the global, participatory nature of the affair: The crowd is still in charge.”
Twitter readers will choose the book to read in the online book club. You can still vote on the following titles: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, The Keep by Jennifer Egan, Snow by Orhan Pamuk, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, and Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead. Reading will commence on June 1st.
33-year-old J.D. Salinger tried to run away with a married woman at a Harper’s Magazine party in 1952, one writer explained in a new essay. According to a Paris Review essay by Blair Fuller, Salinger privately proposed to her sister, Jill Fox, asking her to leave everything behind and start a new life New Hampshire.
Fox refused, but confessed after the party: “I was smitten with Jerry [Salinger] that evening, but I wondered what he and I would be saying to one another around Hartford.” Hartford is the halfway point between Cornish and New York City.
Jill’s husband Joe Fox would become a Random House editor, working with authors like Truman Capote and Philip Roth. If given the chance, what author would you run away with?
Publisher’s Weekly has more details: “Colting has agreed not to publish or otherwise distribute the book, e-book, or any other editions of 60 Years Later in the U.S. or Canada until The Catcher in the Rye enters the public domain. Notably, however, Colting is free to sell the book in other international territories without fear of interference.”
The article reports that Colting cannot include “Coming Through the Rye” as part of the book title. In addition, the author cannot refer to Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, or his legal battles in the book.
At the Pelham Library, we have been reminiscing about the Blizzard of '77, during this 30 year anniversary of the event. I was amused to find this article by a friend in the Welland Tribune which mentions two of the most banned and challenged books of all time. With the permission of the editor, the story appears in full. Photo: Erno Rossi, author of White Death reads over stories from 30 years ago.
The Blizzard of '77 by Brian DiMartile
Ah! The blizzard of 77! I remember it well. Who doesn't? After finishing teaching, I stopped to shop at the Pen Centre, not really comprehending the total effects that this storm would bring. Warnings spread like an avalanche that the 406 to Welland was closed; that one would be crazy to even attempt to make it home.
Lo and behold, I bumped into my Aunt Lorraine and three other Wellanders. All of us wanted to get home and decided to pile into my large Lincoln thinking that it had a better chance of ploughing through the drifts than any of their lighter weight vehicles.
As we started south, I felt quite nervous but confident enough that we could make it until we went further. Cars were piled everywhere and no life was in sight. Blowing snow whipped around us as we zigzagged in darkness from lane to lane, trying to avoid the abandoned vehicles. We knew that we were in trouble when we confronted a graveyard of giant ploughs left stranded at the corner of Highway 20.
To make matters worse, one woman in the back seat with my aunt was moaning and screaming that we were all going to die. She had no rosary and wished that she had not changed purses that day. As she wailed in competition with the wind, my aunt tried to calm her.
Her screams were not welcomed by anyone since all of us thought that there could be an element of truth at the foundation of her fear. At her wits end, my aunt reached through the darkness for a book on the back shelf; shoved it in the lady¹s hand and screamed, "Here¹s a Bible. Pray for us!" The woman clutched the book to her bosom. She felt safer now as she began reciting the Lord¹s Prayer at least a hundred times.
We made it as far as the old Sportsman Motel at Turners Corners and spent the night there. That Bible and her prayers had helped us find sanctuary according to her. It wasn't until the dawn of the next day that she realized that she had been praying with one of my literature texts not the Bible.
We all had a chuckle and thanked God for hearing her prayers - even if it seemed blasphemous to have been using one of the most controversial and banned books in North America -- THE CATCHER IN THE RYE
Accordian Guy offers a look at the many covers that have been used on Catcher in the Rye, a book that finds itself challenged often. According to the ALA, J. D. Salinger remains one of the top banned authors for 2000 - 2005.
August 11th 2009 by Vintage Paperback, 320 pages 0307473120 (isbn13: 9780307473127)
From the publisher:
Beautiful, wild, funny, and lost, Katie Kampenfelt is taking a year off before college to find her passion. Ambitious in her own way, Katie intends to do more than just smoke weed with her boyfriend, Rory, and work at the bookstore. She plans to seduce Dan, a thirty-two-year-old film professor.
It seems like a great idea, an awesome book along the lines of If I Stay or Wintergirls. Just watch the trailer:
The publisher continues:
Katie chronicles her adventures in an anonymous blog, telling strangers her innermost desires, shames, and thrills. But when Dan stops taking her calls, when her alcoholic father suffers a terrible fall, and when she finds herself drawn into a dangerous new relationship, Katie’s fearless narrative begins to crack, and dark pieces of her past emerge.
Sexually frank, often heartbreaking, and bursting with devilish humor, Undiscovered Gyrl is an extraordinarily accomplished novel of identity, voyeurism, and deceit.
Vintage itself has mounted a "huge, strange online campaign" fueled by social networking as its marketing strategy, complete with its own little army of grassroots publicists.
The biggest problem I have with this whole hoopla is that, while undiscovered gyrl is being marketed as a YA book, it's really an exercise in postmodern reflection that should only be undertaken with discussion and analysis.
In a book group or an English class or with a friend over coffee.
If you like (and understand) J.D. Salinger, this is the book for you. Allison Burnett definitely seems to be the next Salinger.
I do not at all care for Salinger.
Though it will not be released until August 11, undiscovered gyrl has already caused a buzz in entertainment news because of the alleged reports last summer that Miley Cyrus will play the protagonist - even in the nude (Cyrus denies it as an internet rumor) in the movie version (something I've difficulty conceptualizing. The movie, not Miley.)
Some bloggers (like Melissa) love undiscovered gyrl, some hate it (Holly is one), some find it disturbing (like Kelly does). Some aren't sure. Reviews can be submitted by site users at the original undiscovered gyrl site.
However, I can find few who have really analyzed it. I'm not ready to do so here because so few people have read it yet. But I will say that if you need a topic for a paper, the societal perceptions Burnett invokes by using the word "gyrl" is a good place to start. And that I'm absolutely astonished at the number of people who say they can "relate to Katie."
So much more about the novel makes sense, knowing that. It shouldn't, I understand. An author's genitalia have nothing to do with plot and structure and style. But what I perceived as poor characterization instead is explained by gyrl's publicist, as intentional to a
novel [that] keeps readers guessing as to the identity of its narrator by “putting traditional point of view on its head and playing around with the major identity issues of our age.”
It's the whole point. Burnett is a precipient interpreter of postmodern life. To stop at the surface story is to miss the entire point of undiscovered gyrl.
Bottom line? I didn't care for this book, and I can't get it out of my head. I can't even say that about Catcher in the Rye, which so failed to elicit response from me that I forgot it pretty quickly. I might decide I like undiscovered gyrl (though I doubt it.) I need someone with whom I can marinate on it.
So here's the contest:
When I post this article on the undiscovered gyrl site, I'll be eligible for two additional ARCs of the book. Help me circulate this post and get chances to receive one of them. I will pass one ARC on to the person who can generate the most traffic to my siteand one to the person who submits the best reason I'd want to discuss this book with him or her. Shameless plugging? Yes, but I also really, truly think this is a book whose true nature needs to be known. Think of it as me keeping Starbucks in business, since you'll be headed there for delicious intellectual chats over the enigma that is undiscovered gyrl.
CONTEST DETAILS You're responsible for letting me know if someone sent you here, if you share this on any social network, or if you beat it out in smoke signals; and/or for convincing me you are the right discussion partner for this novel. Leave comments or email me at aerinblogs AT aol DOT com.
Taylor Swift wins album of the year (at the Grammys and the honor of being the youngest artist to do so. Probably makes the criticism of her off-key performance a little easier to shake off. Plus Stephen Colbert flaunts his brand new iPad. Indie... Read the rest of this post
Yes, good for the soul, and good for the blog—perhaps!I have nothing to confess personally about J.D. Salinger. I know he’s not doinga lot of writing right now, but I have been waiting for some new stories by him—storiesthat he agreed could be published after his death. I wish the lawyers involved would get theiracts together. I am looking forward to those stories.
But I do want to take some time here to applaud Salingerfor what he did for me when I was 16-years-old. It changed my life.
I confess that I wasn’t always a book lover. Thebook that changed my life was Catcher inthe Rye. I couldn’t believe how authentic J. D. Salinger was as a writer.And I read Catcher at the perfect age, the same age as Holden. I wanted to be like Salingeras a writer, and never be a phony. He really turned me on to reading and writing.
Now that I enjoyed literature Ialso wanted to teach. I did happily teach for thirty-three years. And, now andthen, I actually dream at night about finding my class and teaching again. ThenI wake up sad in the morning with noclass and no official teaching responsibilities.
Nevertheless, I try to get into classes and dopoetry performances as much as I can. But it’s challenging to work around theI-got-to-teach-for-the-test teachers. They need to realize that teaching about“Egypt” isn’t as important as making poetry connections and establishingrapport with kids that are hungry for words that shed life on their ownexistence on Planet Earth.
At the end of my “Tribute” section on my Web site, Ihave a poem written by a former student, Jay Perrin, that is priceless. What asuperb gift from a student on the last day of school! You will find the poem byfollowing this site…
Confession is goodfor the soul, and good for the blog—perhaps! I have nothing to confesspersonally about J.D. Salinger. I know he’s not doing a lot of writing rightnow, but I have been waiting for some new stories by him—stories that he agreedcould be published after his death. I wish the lawyers involved would gettheir acts together. I am looking forward to those stories.
But I dowant to take some time here to applaud Salinger for what he did for me when Iwas 16-years-old. It changed my life.
I confessthat I wasn’t always a book lover. The book that changed my life was Catcher inthe Rye. I couldn’t believe how authentic J. D. Salinger was as a writer. And IreadCatcherat the perfect age, thesame age as Holden. I wanted to be like Salinger as a writer, and never be aphony. He really turned me on to reading and writing.
0 Comments on Confession Is Good For The Soul or Blog as of 1/1/1900
Sarah Collins Honenberger’s prize-winning fiction has appeared in Antietam Review, New Millenium, South Lit, The Hook and other literary journals. She is the author of two books in addition to Catcher, Caught: White Lies and Waltzing Cowboys, a 2009 nominee for the Library of Virginia Fiction Award. Additionally, her essay, “Gathering Rosebuds: A Manifesto for Working Women,” was included in a 1998 Oprah Book Club segment. She divides her time between Orange, VA and a river house in Tappahannock, the setting for Catcher, Caught. Tragically, after penning the story of Daniel Landon’s battle with an aggressive cancer. Now in remission, she is currently working on her fourth novel.
About the book:
Catcher, Caught tells the story of Daniel Solstice Landon, a 15-year-old high school student diagnosed with leukemia, as he struggles to find his place in the world while staring down his own mortality in the wake of a recent leukemia diagnosis. A reading of Catcher in the Rye, causes Daniel to question the intentions and authority of those around him. Tired of his cramped surroundings and hippie parents’ alternative approaches to his treatment, he follows the footsteps of Holden Caulfield to New York City in search of the same eternal truths, only to discover the importance of home when death looms.
My take on the book:
Sarah Collins Honenberger presents readers with a story based on today’s headlines. 15-year-old Daniel Landon is a few months into being diagnosed with leukemia and struggling to make sense of a world he knows he’s not long for. With parents who are reeling from trying to make sense of this tragic diagnosis and friends not sure how to treat their dying classmate, Daniel looks to Holden Caufield and a recent reading of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye for some semblance of meaning.
Honenberger captivated me with Daniel’s voice and I couldn’t put the book down. I think she brilliantly takes on the question of what is the best way to deal with your own impending mortality. As a teen trapped between the world of adults and childhood, Daniel is often left with no say in his own treatment and no choices about how to live his remaining days. Daniel’s parents spurn traditional treatments for alternative means and eventually get charged with abuse and neglect. It’s hard for us not to judge Daniel’s parents, but it’s also hard to believe their actions are tantamount to abuse and neglect. No clear answers are given and Daniel often is caught in the middle and gets frustrated at his lack of voice about matters relating to him.
I disagree with other reviewers who stated that besides Daniel, there is a lack of development in the other characters. What they’re missing is the story is told from Daniel’s 1st person point-of-view. It’s easy to miss this which is a