Rye Humor

“Rebel In The Rye,” a new movie charting the development of JD Salinger and his writing of the classic prep-school angst novel, “Catcher In The Rye,” will open in September. Alas early reviews, presumably based on the festival circuit, are not good.

There is much debate about whether “Catcher In The Rye” and its smart-alecky protagonist still resonates with young people. I’d managed to avoid it during school and only picked it up after founding Ivy Style. Strongly disliked it.

Is being a rebel still even cool? What is there to rebel against today, save for the concept of rebellion itself? — CC

37 Comments on "Rye Humor"

  1. Since there are actors involved (as is so often the case in films) a better title might have been “Ham On Rye”.

  2. M. Houghton | July 26, 2017 at 11:50 am |

    “Is being a rebel still even cool? What is there to rebel against today, save for the concept of rebellion itself?”

    I thought rebels rebelled to protest social injustice, not to be cool.
    That being the case, there is lots to rebel against today.

  3. Well there’s a movie from the same era as “Catcher In The Rye” called “Rebel Without a Cause.” It’s about a rebel who has no cause.

    Also from the same era is the famous Marlon Brando exchange in “The Wild One.”

    Whatcha rebelling against Johnny?

    Whatcha got?

  4. I read “Catcher in the Rye” when I was in college forty years ago.. I always thought Holden was spot on with the tribulations of life., and things that happened to him could happen to all young men.

    The Ward Stradlaters, always cool, even though he shaved with a crumby razor, and Ackley, kid, even his future wife will call him Ackley, illustrate characters I’ve known.

    The little sister devoted to Holden, could be the sister of someone I knew in the past. As Spencer told him, “Life is a game.” Holden reflects life as a game if you’re one of the hot shots. Not a hot shot, no game.

    Can’t argue with Holden or Salinger.

    I suspect the movie will be a flop.

    With society the way it has changed, who knows if young people can relate to the book or the movie.

  5. Brandon Williams | July 26, 2017 at 12:30 pm |

    Long time reader/follower, first time commenting. #1, I am curious as to why you didn’t like the book. #2, Your view of rebellion is interesting to me in the sense that I feel it is intrinsic to American culture. Every historical figure that we culturally extol is a rebel in some form or another. Everyone who has changed the course of history, science, law, medicine, is a “rebel.” Moreover, rebellion is quite clear in pale corpses of sub cultures that the vampire squid of dominant culture has sucked dry.

    I would appreciate some insight to your view.

    Hell, To be a well dressed man today is a conscious act of rebellion.

  6. Blair Spenser | July 26, 2017 at 1:01 pm |

    If you want to understand true rebels, read Albert Camus’ “The Rebel” published in the same year (1951) as Salinger’s “Catcher”.

    For Camus, the true rebel is in revolt against the absurdity of oppression, cruelty, and suffering. The rebel says no to slavery and tyranny for the sake of others, and affirms his solidarity with other human beings. For the true rebel, oppression and injustice represent the violation of limits; the rebel seeks to create a freedom that respects the rights of all, rather than approving the mindless destruction of societies and individuals.

  7. Mitchell S. | July 26, 2017 at 1:12 pm |

    I would argue that most of the readers of Ivy Style are rebels. To be a follower of ivy style in 2017 is definitely rebellious. Men have never dressed so badly than today. It is becoming more difficult to tell apart millionaires and college students from the homeless. Just the act of donning a necktie is a major insurrection against the status quo of American men.

    Fight the power!

  8. “Justice” or “Injustice” are words that are so overused today to the point that they no longer have meaning. Dostoevsky is a writer who was able to portray the rebel in an essential and human way that is timeless for readers of any generation (and it has nothing whatsoever to do with justice).

  9. I preferred “Portnoy’s Complaint”. Then again, Roth was always ahead of Salinger in my estimations. Maybe if Salinger had written more. Who knows.

  10. There’s plenty against which to rebel. The list is long.

    CC, what about the book did you “strongly” dislike? What inspired you to “avoid” it all those many years?

  11. SE, I hesitated when typing “avoid” as it sounds a bit too active. If it was assigned in high school, I didn’t read it, being a very lazy student (and not a serious reader until 20). Although I was an English major, I don’t recall it being a part of any of my classes, though with electives I focused entirely on the 19th century.

    Boyer and I emailed this morning and here’s what I wrote to him:

    It’s quite possible it just wasn’t my cup of tea, or I didn’t get it. But I found Holden to have a lack of self-consciousness, especially about the whole concept of people being a “phony.” It struck me that the phony was him, but that this wasn’t brought out as a theme.

    When I brushed up on it this morning, I saw that critics point out that Holden doesn’t have a character arc of change.

    Many years later, in ’64 when the whole phony thing was well established, the screenwriters of “Ride The Wild Surf” wrote it as a subplot for the character played by Fabian. Of course the point, that his love interest makes at the end, is that his hatred of phonies masks the fact that he feels he is one.

    If I had to pick a novel from that era that I’d love to revisit, having read it for the second time 8-10 years ago, is Nabokov’s “Lolita.” He had passage after passage of virtuoso prose that made my jaw drop.

  12. I’m rebelling against wearing shoes without socks. That’s about as much as I care about these days. ;o)

    I’m not sure I ever read Catcher in the Rye (I don’t remember it if I did so it wouldn’t have left a lasting impression in any event) but I remember John Hinckley was supposed to be carrying a copy when he murdered John Lennon.

  13. Enjoyment of Catcher In The Rye seems to depend largely on the age of the reader. The closer to adolescence the better in my experience. That said, I re-read it recently and, while a different experience, I still enjoyed it.

  14. BTW apparently Hinckley was indeed carrying the book, but he shot Reagan. Mark David Chapman, Lennon’s killer, was also reportedly carrying the same book. There’s many a conspiracy theory regarding that fact…

  15. Mitchell S. | July 26, 2017 at 6:01 pm |

    Holden Caufield, the protagonist in “The Catcher in the Rye” wears a red deer-stalker cap throughout the novel. He says it is a “people-hunting” hat, so it is not surprising that the book is popular among assassins.

  16. CC

    I believe that one must be familiar with Robert Burns poem Coming Through The Rye to really begin to understand Salinger’s book.

  17. I enjoyed NIne Stories a lot more.

  18. OCBD

    Have you read “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour” ?

  19. Alec B Beaumont | July 27, 2017 at 12:12 am |

    As the backbone for the original recipes for cocktails with such Trad names as the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan, one can’t go wrong with Rye.

  20. I enjoyed the trailer for Rebel more than I enjoyed Catcher.
    Looking forward to the film for period clothing and décor as well as for Kevin Spacey’s character.

  21. Khaki Chinos | July 27, 2017 at 12:33 am |

    Nobody has mentioned the Brooks Bros reference in “Catcher in the Rye” yet:

    “I hate living in New York and all. Taxicabs, and Madison avenue buses, with the drivers and all always yelling at you to get out at the rear door, and being introduced to phony guys that call the Lunts angels, and going up and down in elevators when you just want to go outside, and guys fitting your pants all the time at Brooks, and people always–”

  22. Dutch Uncle | July 27, 2017 at 12:41 am |

    For the youngsters among us:
    The Lunts: Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were among the greatest, most successful Broadway stars of all time.

  23. Gibson Gardens | July 27, 2017 at 7:39 am |

    Catcher in the Rye
    Portnoy’s Complaint.
    A Confederacy of Dunces.

    All essential reading, especially for rebels who cannot possibly have a cause and fret about corrected grain and collar roll.

  24. Agree with DCG: “Catcher” is the definitive book for your sophomore year of high school; the typical 15yo reader identifies with Caufield, and the first-person narrative awakens (or stokes) the cynicism/angst that younger teens are known for.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard it referred to as great literature, because it really isn’t. But reading it is certainly a right of passage for American students.

  25. H.Korn,

    I have. I enjoyed it as well.

  26. David Miller | July 27, 2017 at 9:29 am |

    “the typical 15yo reader identifies with Caufield”
    I was forced to read it at 15 and thought Caufield an idiot.Sadly the prose wasn’t good enough to make up for the irritating characters.

  27. @DavidMiller: not every 15yo identifies, of course; and all the mid-Century lingo bogs it down too, probably even more so now than when I read it in the 80s.

    My sophomore English class was: Catcher, Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, and then a play called ‘Equus’ about a kid who stabs out the eyes of a bunch of race-horses.

  28. @David Miller

    I read it on my own at 14 (1964) and agreed with you. I re-read it at 37, after I’d gotten sober, and concluded that Holden was a textbook, by-the-numbers teen alcoholic.

    I don’t know what Salinger’s own experiences were, but he nailed it.


    Franny and Zoe, in my opinion, was Salinger’s best. Only teenagers should read Catcher in the Rye.


  30. Gibson Gardens | July 27, 2017 at 2:20 pm |

    Catcher is actually an adult novel. Teenage, alienated sensibility, needs distance to be understood.

    For ‘rebel ‘ literature that resonates with youth, look to the British ‘Skinhead’ series that I expect aroused our friends on FNB’s Talk Ivy.

  31. Anonymous | July 27, 2017 at 6:26 pm |

    Agree with DCG and Paul above that the Catcher in the Rye is great literature for teenagers. I even did a term paper on all of Salinger’s works in high school.

    As I got older, I tend to agree with the Pulitzer prize winning critic Jonathan Yardley who points out how “mawkish” and manipulative Salinger’s prose could be (the white hair, the dead younger brother’s poem filled baseball mitt, etc.).


  32. Yardley’s appraisal of the book is both brutal and odd. He seems, as many critics who haven’t enjoyed great success as a novelist do, almost angry. Resentful?

    If he’s right about how “manipulative” certain turns of phrase are, then he’s wrong in his omission of this important fact: Salinger intended it. It was by design. If Yardley has convinced himself that Salinger’s style was accidental (Poor J.D., if only he had known that nobody says “ya know”!), then he’s far more to be pitied than the object of his annoyance. Very few critics gain (earn) the sort of success they crave, yet we grant them all manner license to shred people who, uh, actually, well uh… finished a novel. And saw it published.

    Another working theory about Salinger is that he used Catcher to say everything he wanted to say about life in this marvelously strange and often disappointing world (and perhaps about youthful innocence lost to war), and, well, that was that. Does the same wisdom apply to Harper Lee? Maybe.

  33. Would take this more seriously if the author of article could spell “Catcher” correctly.

  34. Thank you for pointing out my one-letter-wrong typo. I volunteered with kids today, and you said you’d take an article more seriously if it didn’t have a typo. I’d say one of us has a shot at heaven!

  35. Heaven? Don’t build your hopes up. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

  36. Gibson Gardens | July 30, 2017 at 6:28 am |


    There is a difference between a typo and a spelling error.

  37. I agree with Paul and DCG, Salinger’s book should (must?) be read at a certain age to have the impact he intends. I read it in sophomore English class and it had a great impact on me. I’m tempted to get another copy and read it now and see if it still communicates the same message it did to me back then.

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