Today on Birds and Books, writer Joan Lipinsky Cochran shares her thoughts on why J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is her literary inspiration. I didn't read the book until I was an adult. At the time I was teaching adolescents, and Salinger's story provided me a greater insight as to what my students were experiencing emotionally. It also brought back memories from when I was that age. Understanding adolescence is difficult; writing about it is challenging. Read what Joan has to say about how Salinger and his writing helped her develop her characters and the subtleties of their relationships.
Catching Up with J.D.
A few years ago,
a fellow writer told me he’d read Catcher
in the Rye three times and hated it every time. I don’t remember his
reasoning but I do understand his compulsion to reread the book. I’ve read J.D.
Salinger’s opus of alienation and teenage angst five times, most recently to
try to understand what my teenage sons were experiencing during those years
when they barely spoke to me. Neither would agree to read the book when I asked—it’s no longer required high
school reading as it was when I was a student—but I suspect they’ve picked it
up and leafed through it.
The magic of Catcher
in the Rye is that it captures such
genuine emotions—emotions shared by every American kid who must come to
terms with the disillusioning reality that parents aren’t the heroes we expect them
to be and adults don’t always act maturely. J.D. Salinger—in this book and his other writing—has driven
me to work harder to capture my characters emotions in a genuine way so that
readers can experience these moments in the same visceral manner. Studying his work also has helped me express
what’s unsaid in relationships, especially among family members.
Finally, I admire Salinger’s spare writing style, his quirky
characters and his ability to write with the kind of natural rhythm that makes
his work sound like he produced each story easily and in a single sitting. I
also admire his ability (I don’t know if it’s lack of ego or stubbornness or
what, though I daresay his biographers have theories) to turn his back on the world and write for himself. All writers do this, I think, but when
we come out of our zones I think we tend to be aware of the reader or editor
looking over our shoulder and, perhaps, judging us even more harshly than we
Joan Lipinsky Cochran
is the author of Still Missing Beulah: Stories of Blacks and Jews in Mid-Century Miami
on Amazon) a collection of award-winning short stories and historical accounts
of black and Jewish relations during the civil rights era. She is a journalist,
fiction writer and adjunct professor whose work has appeared in Family Circle, The Philadelphia Inquirer,
The Sun Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post
and Florida Living
, among other publications. Her unpublished novel, The Yiddish Gangster’s Daughter
, was a
Claymore Award and Amazon Novel Breakthrough Award finalist.
A native of Miami, she lives in Boca
Raton with her handsome husband, ungrateful cat and a yard full of rotting
She can be
reached at http://www.joanlipinskycochran.com/
No Jews. No Coloreds. No Dogs.
It's the 1950s and Miami
businessman Tootsie Plotnik counts his Bahamian mistress and his black business
associates among his dearest friends. But he also refers to his African
American employees using the derogatory Yiddish term, schvartz, and comes within inches of murdering an unarmed black teenager.
Using linked short stories and
brief historical accounts, Still Missing
Beulah takes the reader into the heart and mind of an aging Jewish
businessman whose prejudices are challenged by the black people who enter his
life. Written in the same vein as The
Help, this collection documents the struggles Jews and blacks faced during
an era when both groups experienced rampant discrimination and signs prohibiting Jews and blacks
in hotels and clubs were as pervasive as palm trees and mosquitoes.
Labels: #CatcherintheRye #Salinger #inspiration #teenagers #JoanLipinskyCochram #