The Permanence of Holden Caulfield’s Youth and the Fleeting of My Own

This is where — if you are the kind of person that thinks that books should be read with their authors in mind — it becomes relevant that JD Salinger saw more combat during World War II than almost any other American. The ‘Great American War Novels’ of that generation (Catch 22, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Naked and The Dead) were all written by men who saw far less of war’s horror than JD Salinger did. He was on Utah Beach on D-Day, at the Battle of the Bulge and he was one of the first Americans to enter a liberated concentration camp. And yet, Salinger returned home and wrote, not about war but, about Holden Caulfield bumming around New York City. So, you can say that the stakes aren’t high in this novel, but as Salinger well knew, the cruel and phony world of adults doesn’t just treat people like Holden Caulfield poorly, it kills them.

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