What’s the newest new Catcher in the Rye?
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
It’s fair to assume that any adolescent who’s read Catcher in the Rye compared themselves to Holden Caufield. If you need evidence, just ask anyone who read Salinger’s classic in their disaffected youth. It’s also fair to assume that any new novel about disaffected youth will be compared to Catcher. If you need evidence, head over to Atlantic.com where Maura Kelly asks “Must every new coming-of-age novel be the next Catcher in the Rye?”
Year after year, generation after generation, every time a good coming-of-age novel is written, someone somewhere compares it to Salinger’s tour de force. Why exactly is it that reviewers so often name-check the book about the aimless, ambling adventures of a kid who’s just been kicked out of Pencey Prep when discussing stories about growing up?
Recently, Ben Lytal’s novel Map of Tulsa was compared to Catcher as was Teddy Wayne’s The Love Song of Jonny Valentine. Both Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and Bret Easton Ellis’ Less than Zero were (incorrectly, says Kelly) called the MTV generation’s Catcher in the Rye. “Holden has become the ur-teenager, as much as Catcher has become the ur-bildungsroman,” says Kelly.
As it turns out, however, any evocation of Salinger’s classic by a reviewer may not be a suggestion that a new novel will be Catcher-like in voice or plot, but more a prediction that it will “touch this generation the way that The Catcher in the Rye touched its generation.”
Read the article here.
— Benjamin Samuel is the Co-Editor of Electric Literature. He’s on Twitter, which, by some definitions, makes him a goddamn phony.