When I heard today that J.D. Salinger died, I was saddened like much of the rest of the world.Â I remember the first time I read The Catcher in the Rye. I’ll admit that I first read it because I wanted to know — what was the big deal? What kind of novel could inspire so many people to murder others? Those must be some really powerful words, right?
Well, it was a really great book, an interesting book, a book with a main character that an outsider and a loner like myself could identify with in some ways, a book that, at the time it was written, challenged what books were written about and how they were written. I could understand the shock value if I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who lived “back then.” Those were some pretty strong words. But I certainly didn’t feel like killing anyone. Not the first time I read it, nor the second or third or fourth…I didn’t get it. I still don’t.
There was no doubt though that J.D. Salinger had a way with words. The thing that always struck me about The Catcher in the Rye was that not many authors capture inner dialogue quite so well. There is something different about the way we talk out loud from the tone of the discourse that takes place in our heads. I know, because I talk to myself a lot.
Regardless of why this and Salinger’s other books are special and important, I think the thing that makes him so great is that his writing is not just valuable for academic purposes, but it is important to a lot of people for very different and personal reasons. Maybe that’s the most important quality of a good piece of writing — it can speak to anyone who reads it. It is personal to everyone. In my book (pun intended), that makes J.D. Salinger a writer who changes the world, and I hope he is remembered as such for some time to come.