The thing about re-reading books you first encountered decades ago is to feel the winds of change in your life. When I first read J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, I was a high school student looking forward to leaving Cleveland to go to college. The book was a revelation to me, and re-reading it at this late stage in my life shows me sitting on the porch of our house at 3989 East 176th Street, turning the pages and marveling at a book written for kids like me. It’s a good feeling: I accept that 16-year-old kid. He was all right.
Following is a quote that pretty much describes my feeling at re-reading The Catcher in the Rye:
The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket. Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you’d be so much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that exactly. You’d just be different, that’s all. You’d have an overcoat on this time. Or that kid that was your partner in line last time had got scarlet fever and you’d have a new partner. Or you’d have a substitute taking the class, instead of Miss Aigletinger. Or you’d heard your mother and father having a terrific fight in the bathroom. Or you’d just passed by one of those puddles in the street with gasoline rainbows in them. I mean you’d be different in some way – I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.
Well, unlike Holden, I am in fact much older; but that’s okay. Better, in fact, than the alternative.