The man who wrote the first book that I ever violently hated died today, age 91.
I never hated any of the books I read as a kid, either because my critical faculties hadn’t fully developed yet, or because I did a great job picking out what I would like. Sure, I found some books boring or less than satisfying, but I never stopped reading anything due to severe dislike.
When I started reading “the classics” in middle and high school, I either skipped the books I thought I would hate or read the Cliffs Notes. Again, some books left me cold, but my shriveled, dark heart was never inspired to start emanating the bile for which I would become known.
Then, came the summer I had to read “Catcher in the Rye” for a high school English class. First of all, an assignment over the summer? Are you fucking kidding me? But, stupidly, I read it anyway – probably because so many people told me I would love it.
I don’t talk to those people anymore.
Holy Hinckley, did I hate “Catcher in the Rye.” I hated Holden Caulfield, I hated the world he inhabited, I hated his whining, I hated every time he used the word “phonies,” I hated the style in which the book was written, I hated the minor characters. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
The next time I want to experience a troubled young man’s journey into cynicism, I’ll watch Igby Goes Down.
To this day, I think “Catcher in the Rye” is the most overrated piece of hokum in the American literary canon. But the larger point is that I hated it then. It flipped a switch in me, like turning Smeagol into Gollum. I didn’t just never want to read it again; I wanted to explain to everyone I had ever or never met why I hated it, and why they were wrong for liking it.
And now here I am, writing this blog.
So, thank you, Mr. Salinger, I guess, for leading me to where I am today.