The ongoing impact of The Catcher in the Rye
A cartoon inspired by the book and a new exhibition of the author's letters show the work's influence
Last night, never-knowingly inoffensive cartoon South Park presented an episode based on what is arguably the most celebrated, if somewhat controversial, novel in American literature: The Catcher in the Rye, which sells 250,000 copies a year.
In the episode, the main characters are given the book to read, being informed that they are to be allowed it as part of a change in the rules, despite it containing offensive content.
"You're telling us that this book is filthy, inappropriate, and made a guy shoot the king of hippies? Can we please read it now!" - Eric Cartman
The 'king of hippies' Cartman derisively refers to is of course John Lennon, whose killer Mark Chapman was carrying a copy of the book at the time of the murder and claimed it would explain his outlook. Presumably Chapman identified with the alienation of the book's hero, Holden Caulfield.
In keeping with the character of the cartoon show, the boys are disappointed that the work isn't all that offensive, and feel they've been tricked into doing something educational.
The cartoon reference is the second in recent weeks to J D Salinger's legacy, as a New York museum has recently put letters written by the notoriously reclusive writer on show, following his death aged 91.
The letters are full of devotion for his two children and various kinds of humour - playful, pointed and self-deprecating - as well as confirming that he continued writing, despite not publishing anything during the last three decades of his life.
Of course none of these papers are available to own, so collectors who wish to get a little closer to Salinger will wish to know that a valuable and rare signed letter by the reclusive author is currently available.
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