EDITOR: To dismiss "The Catcher in the Rye" as "crap" is to misread a novel that speaks to today's teens as strongly as it did when first published. Teresa Mariani ("Give teens better books than 'Catcher in the Rye,' " Close to Home, Sunday) falls into the trap of judging a book by its cover.
Holden Caulfield, the protagonist, is far from a "shallow jerk." He cares deeply about his fellow humans. A teen trying to find his way in life, he is appalled at the hypocrisy and injustice he encounters on his journey of self-discovery. Huck Finn underwent a similar coming-of-age experience. It's a discovery young people have struggled with since, probably, forever, one perhaps Mariani missed.
Holden, trying to hold on to the innocence of youth, ultimately recognizes that he cannot change the world. Witness his understanding of the futility of attempting to erase every graffito"F" word. Witness also Holden's undying love for people, even those who wrong him. "He wasn't too bad a guy," he says, or "You had to feel sorry for her." Yes, love thy fellow man.
At the book's conclusion, Holden says, "That's all I'm going to say." He has said it all. It is through such literature that we come to understand ourselves.
Reading for teens
EDITOR: In the main, I thought Teresa Mariani's thoughts seemed right. It's time to kick Holden Caulfield to the curb, and J.D. Salinger, too. I just can't shake the fact that what I read when I was young so influenced me in some very negative ways. "Lord of the Flies" made me suspicious of the world. And yet I am now a mediator, and if I trace the roots of what led me here, it was reading "Franny and Zooey."
I would like to add Elizabeth Strout's books to Mariani's suggestions for teen reading. "Amy and Isabelle" would seem like a teen-aged girls crucible. Strout is a Pulitzer Prize winner.