My response to Jennifer Schuessler’s article in the New York Times titled “Get A Life, Holden Caulfield.” This response details that while Holden’s exact experiences are perhaps no longer common, the underlying message will always hold relevance– all while writing (or trying to, at least) in Holden Caulfield’s skaz.
If you really want to hear about it, this article is the phoniest thing I’ve ever read. It really is. Who is Jennifer Schuessler, anyways? Probably some Ivy League snob. No kidding, this woman goes on and on about how the “weird, whiny, and immature” Holden just needs to pop some pills and keep it quiet. Even worse, it’s backed up by just some lousy testimony you’d find in a ShamWow commercial. I mean, listen:
“Holden Caulfield is supposed to be this paradigmatic teenager we can all relate to, but we don’t really speak this way or talk about these things… I had a lot of students comment, ‘I can’t really feel bad for this rich kid with a weekend free in New York City.’”
Anyway, I guess what they’re trying to say is that Holden just doesn’t appeal to kids because their life, fifty years later, isn’t really the same as his and all.
She goes on to say that young people are too obsessed with “their compulsive text messaging and hyperactive pop culture metabolism…” Phones! It really kills me that adults think we grow up differently just because we’re growing up with some lousy iPhones. I mean, that’s not all I ever do. Now, this may come as a shock to you, so brace yourself. Different generations have… get this… different experiences. Society is like a goddam suitcase, that’s what it is. A suitcase where every shirt that doesn’t fit in gets thrown away and can’t go on vacation. Does that sound fun to you? It doesn’t to me, that’s for sure. Since when was growing up strictly for the birds?
Old Mr. Dickstein, who teaches at some phony school or another, says:
“I wouldn’t say we have a more gullible youth culture, but it may be more of a joining or togetherness culture.”
Togetherness. Now that’s a word I really hate. It’s a phony. I mean, it just depressed me. There’s nothing more depressing about goddam phony adults thinking they know the up and up about current teenage cultures. Adults! I do suppose this article was written in 2009, but if you pull up this funny website called google.com and type in “news,” you might come to find that we don’t have a togetherness culture. So who knows what Old Mr. Dickstein is going on about.
If anything, Holden’s struggle is more relatable now than when it was published. Back then, teenagers were expected to be adults. Now there are teenagers, but they’re still too “childish” to develop their own identity. Because, like I was saying, how can you really “find yourself” or even define yourself when you’re fifteen and crap. No, you gotta wait till you’re about to croak because society thinks that’s when you’re the wisest. That really depressed me.
“Perhaps Holden would not have felt quite so alone if he were growing up today… These days, adults may lament the slasher movies and dumb sex comedies that have taken over the multiplex, but back then teenagers found themselves stranded between adult things and childish pleasures.”
Boy, this really killed me. She’s implying that before, there was no teenage culture, but now there is, and Holden would love that. Then she quotes old Stephanie Savage, saying that in Holden’s world, “you can either go to the carousel in Central Park, or you can choose the Wicker Bar. You can have a skating date, or you can have a prostitute come up to your hotel room.” For Chrissake, do we really have to be hiring a prostitute to relate to Holden? That killed me. It really did. Sure, Holden’s rich and annoying, but we don’t have to be living the same lousy life to relate to him.
Now, if you want to know the truth, Holden would not love this teenage culture. He really wouldn’t. I mean, the main problem with developing teenage culture is that it’s constantly suppressed and commercialized in these goddam “slasher movies and sex comedies.” You think a zit-faced hormonal teen who is struggling to keep their grades above a C really relates to sex comedies? You think a kid who can barely pass gym class is “enchanted by wide-eyed, quidditch-playing Harry Potter of Hogwarts”? Boy, let me tell you, they sure aren’t. Now, I don’t know about the author of the article, but if you want to know the truth, if I was expected to have perfect skin AND save the world like teenagers today are expected to do, à la Harry Potter, I would have a pretty tough time growing up.
Nowadays, it’s this exact teenage culture that does the alienation. And that depresses me even more. Because now, even if there is a distinguished identity, but it’s not your own, it’s society’s. Strictly phony.
So that’s my response. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I do suppose I don’t know anyone whose typical Sunday entails getting drunk as hell and hiring a prostitute in New York City. But, for Chrissake, as long as time moves in a linear fashion and kids become teens and teens become adults, Holden Caulfield is and will always remain relevant.