By the time I read J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”, published in 1951; much of the mystique had waned; I met my share of “Holden Caulfield” wannnabes; testosterone oozing from every pore, using “phony” intelligence to avoid the regulations of structured academia; boasting of tortured souls, being misunderstood by the mundane masses; destined for mediocrity and a premature obituary.
Read the book, passed the test, never wasted another precious thought on “Holden” or his creator J.D. Salinger. As the years passed the book and its protagonist attained mythic renown; close to deification; even today, selling over two hundred thousand copies a year, it is biblical in scope and influence; used as the inspiration for two assassinations and one near miss (John Lennon, Rebecca Schaeffer, Ronald Reagan). I scurried to “Salinger” hoping to be enlightened, blinders burnished, as to how an author could be incessantly lionized, stalked, studied; a literary enigma, with cult-like, obsessive appeal.
Far more fascinating, is director Shane Salerno’s ten- year mission, crusade to portray the “Howard Hughes” of fiction; compulsively reading, writing; tracking, interviewing all the salient individuals in Salinger’s limited sphere; the “reclusive” aspects of J.D.’s existence were vastly exaggerated; his women lost their appeal when adolescence was replaced by adulthood, the result of a shattered heart, when eighteen-year-old Oona O’Neill, his magnificent obsession, married Charlie Chaplin. It is Salerno’s depiction of Salinger’s stint as a soldier in WWII that gifts limited legitimacy to the documentary; harrowing scenes of death, concentration camps and the temporary devastation of his psyche led to the gestation of “Holden” and informed Salinger for the remainder of his ninety-one years.
Unrelenting redundancy sabotages “Salinger”; writers, actors, women who knew and loved him, repeatedly parroting each other in praise and/or admonition; shedding minimal insight into the manic writer.
“Catcher in the Rye” (referencing Robert Burns (1759-96) poem “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye”) is J.D. Salinger’s metaphor for the loss of childhood innocence; Holden Caulfield is Salinger’s alter ego; fused, entwined, enshrined for eternity.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!