Reflections, mostly about a chequered teaching career: Part Five + Salinger

No mistaking the voice.

"Hey Ackley," I said, in sort of a whisper so Stradlater couldn’t hear me through the shower curtains.

Ackley didn’t hear me, though.

"Hey, Ackley!"

He still didn’t hear me. He slept like a rock.

"Hey, Ackley!"

He heard that, all right.

"What the hell’s the matter with you?" he said. "I was asleep, for Chrissake."

"Listen. What’s the routine of joining a monastery?" I asked him. I was sort of toying with the idea of joining one. "Do you have to be a Catholic and all?"

"Certainly you have to be a Catholic. You bastard, did you wake me up just to ask me a dumb ques-"

"Aah, go back to sleep. I’m not going to join one anyway. The kind of luck I have, I’d probably join one with all the wrong kind of monks in it. All stupid bastards. Or just bastards."

So J D Salinger has gone. I rather like a comment by Matthew da Silva on Facebook.

@Meredith – Isn’t it weird … I read Catcher as an adolescent and other books in my twenties … So that’s almost 30 years ago … But I still hold fond memories of the guy … Shows how ‘faithful’ fiction can make us, I guess … The narratives of youth remain when everything else drops away … We are enamoured of our younger selves.

I missed out as I didn’t read Catcher in the Rye in my adolescence, but it still resonated when I was in my twenties, and amazingly still shocked back then.

In Wollongong sometime between 1975 and 1980 I was delegated by my Head of English who passed on to me a task he had been given by the Regional Director: to defend before the Illawarra branch of the Parents and Citizens the choice of “nasty” literature – like Catcher in the Rye – for HSC Study.  Fred Nile had been banging on about it at the time. My honour was a dubious one, the end of a chain of passing the buck.

So I went armed with a host of Biblical and classical references, rather like this 2005 post.

OK, let’s really get into those good books and get rid of this 21st century crap, eh! For laughs, we should start with Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale, for the fart jokes and the hilarious red-hot poker up the bum scene. Always goes well, that does. And the General Prologue before that, of course:

For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;
And shame it is, if a prest take keep,
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.

The principal complainant was at the meeting. Turns out it wasn’t a moral issue with him; rather he objected to the slang and bad grammar because they would corrupt his child’s English.

“So,” I asked, “You want your child to read Shakespeare?”

“Of course.”

“Aren’t you worried your child will start speaking in blank verse and Elizabethan English?”

He got the point. It turned out to be a rather pleasant evening.

Back to Catcher in the Rye.

Have you seen the shrinklit version?

Angst angst angst swear curse swear crazy crazy angst swear curse, society sucks, and I’m a stupid jerk.

Unfair, of course.