Whether high school represents the pinnacle of your life or the most dismal part, the English curriculum likely showcased some of the finest the literary cannon has to offer. From classics to contemporary, reading lists stayed packed with renowned works and authors. Reading for the classroom always feels differently than reading for pleasure, so with a little bit of distance and no essays to write, it’s time to take another look at the books you read in high school. With no further ado I introduce you to the newest Foghorn Scene column: Books to Rediscover.
Last week classic 20th century American novelist and short story writer Jerome David (J.D.) Salinger passed away. Often dismal and unresolved, his most famous works assail the superficial and unscrupulous nature of structures and systems.
Franny and Zooey, published in 1961, started as short stories in “The New Yorker.” Split into two parts, it tells the story of a sister (Franny) and brother (Zooey) from the Glass family commonly used in Salinger’s works. In part one Franny grows discontent with her seemingly artificial and shallow world and attempts use of prayer as a remedy leading her to a nervous breakdown. Zooey works to alleviate her suffering.
The most famous works from Nine Stories are “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “For Esme – with Love & Squalor.” “Bananafish” introduces a member of the Glass family for the first time in Salinger’s work. It tells the story of a husband and wife, Seymour and Muriel, on their second honeymoon. Both figures are quirky and strange – Seymour insists that he has a tattoo, though he doesn’t, and out of fear of others seeing it he wears a bathrobe on the beach. In “For Esme,” a deployed army sergeant forms a relationship with a young girl over tea as she tells him about her family, hopes and dreams. This connection provides him with the necessary friendship to alleviate some of the suffering of war.
The Catcher in the Rye, likely Salinger’s most famous novel, tells the story of angsty protagonist/antihero Holden Caulfield. Away at Pency Prep he feels disgruntled with all the “phony” boys around them. After he fails out of school he leaves for New York City. He spends three days in the city, much of them spent intoxicated. He has a coming of age experience with a prostitute named Sunny (ultimately he just wants to talk and she becomes aggravated), visits his little sister Phoebe (the only person in his family and life he has a meaningful relationship with) and evaluates his world. “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”