“The Catcher in the Rye”, In Many Forms

“Classic” cover of “The Catcher in the Rye”

If you were a teenager in the 1980s and went to a high school that required you to wear a uniform (I did), you should find the following passage familiar:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They’re quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They’re nice and all, — I’m not saying that — but they’re also touchy as hell. Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come down here and take it easy.

That’s Holden Caulfield narrating the opening lines to J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye. The book rode a wave of popularity at the time, even among teens who wouldn’t be caught dead reading a book in their spare time (probably the same non-readers who would years later be responsible for Generation X’s amazing sales). It might have been the fact that it’s one of the better books to cover coming-of-age angst. Perhaps it was the frisson that came with reading a book that many schools and libraries had banned. It certainly got a boost in popularity from Mark David Chapman — he’s the guy who shot John Lennon — who was obsessed with the book.

Cover of the “New York Post”, December 12, 1980 — with the “John Lennon got shot” story

The distinctive yellow-text-on-red-background version shown at the top of this article was what the cover of the paperback edition looked like then. If you pick up the paperback edition these days, you’re more likely to get one with the rather unremarkable cover shown below:

“70’s” cover of “The Catcher in the Rye”

Penguin publishes editions with slightly better covers. Here’s one that looks like a lot of Addison-Wesley computer science textbooks from the 1990s:

Penguin books cover of “The Catcher in the Rye”

Here’s another one. For some reason, the Gill Sans (a.k.a. “that British typeface”) paired with the title’s faux-hand-printed typeface reminds me a lot of The Secret Diaries of Adrian Mole book series (which should also be considered part of a good “adolescent angst” book collection):

Another Penguin books cover of “The Catcher in the Rye”

Here’s the dust cover for an earlier edition. It features a painting of the “carousel scene” near the end of the story:

Dust jacket for an old hardcover edition of “The Catcher in the Rye”

The “carousel scene” is the climax of the story, so it’s found its way onto more than one cover. Here’s a cover featuring a more abstract rendition of the scene:

“Horse” cover of “The Catcher in the Rye”

I found these covers via Google. The Catcher in the Rye is considered to be a 20th century classic, and it’s amusing to think of a classic as having been published with “pulp” covers:

“Pulp” cover of “The Catcher in the Rye”

Variant of the “Pulp” cover of “The Catcher in the Rye”

The book has been translated into a number of languages, including Russian:

Cover for the Russian edition of “The Catcher in the Rye”

Here’s the cover for the York Notes set of study notes for The Catcher in the Rye. Although the cover depicts Manhattan, where most of the story takes place, it depicts a Manhattan that exists 50 years after the story:

York Notes for “The Catcher in the Rye”

And finally, here’s a cover that a design student created for a book cover exercise. The “Holden moping in Central Park” photos made me laugh:

Design exercise cover for “The Catcher in the Rye”

15 replies on ““The Catcher in the Rye”, In Many Forms”

Funny you should mention those two books… I don’t think I read anything between reading Catcher in the Rye sometime in high school and reading a Coupland book in university. And I went to a private high school avec uniforms.

No uniforms at my school, and no Catcher in the Rye, either. I didn’t read it until I was 25 – which is a terrible age to read it. Hated it with a deep and abiding passion. I couldn’t deal with Holden’s emo wankfest.

Garnigal, I had the same reaction, and yet I read it in a non-uniformed 11-th grade class. I couldn’t stand him then, and reading the opening paragraph now instantly reminded me why. I NEVER got the attraction. *shrug*

Hard to believe anybody in high school actually liked it. Way, way too emo for me even in angsty early teen-hood. Informed the teacher I would gladly accept a zero on the assignment in exchange for not having to pollute my brain with such overwrought nonsense.

i just finished reading it. 9th grade. it drove me crazy. the beginning was okay but by the and of the book all i could think about was going into the book and giving him some anti-depressants. i’m a so called emo and i’m nothing like holden.

I read the book in 10th grade and i never thought of it as emo. In my opinion, the book is amazingggggggggggg. 🙂

I personally loved it, I dont know what you guys are talking about! yeah he was depressed and hated everything, but he didnt MEAN to hate everything he just did. I dont know I had a good connection with Holden, though Im not a scenekid or emo or whatever they are called.

Jerome David Salinger ~ January 1, 1919 ~ January 27, 2010
W.I.P. (Write in Peace) J.D.

Boy, when you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.

~ J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 20

CITR is a lot deeper than it’s superficial appearance. It’s not only “Holdens emo wankfest.” It’s a deep, intricate look into the great mind of a person who has trouble expressing himself. Imagine a backwoods redneck trying to write his thoughts in poetry. He woudlnt get very far trying to do so. IF you read between the lines, you’ll find that there is a lot more to CITR than Holden saying “goddam” and complaining about everything. Try reading some professional critics’ essays, and you will get some very enlightening insight into Holden Caulfield’s expansive mind.

I love how people make grand assumptions that no one else likes something because they don’t like it. I don’t like Ariana Grande’s music, but that doesn’t mean no one likes it, even if it is awful. People are so full of themselves that they think what they prefer is what everyone prefers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *