Tag Archives: Holden Caulfield

Session #11: July 1st, 2009

Arnold Bennett, British novelist
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Today we discussed irony, and we read an extract from “Old Wives’ Tales” by British author Arnold Bennett.

It was not as difficult or challenging as Ayn Rand, which we have been reading for the past 3 sessions. However, the discussion was not quite as lively as in previous sessions. It seems that reading Rand gets people’s brain cells working.

UPDATE: Next session will be July 22nd, and we will read and discuss “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger.  Although I chose this topic at random, actually there is a connection with irony: the “hero” of the story, Holden Caulfield, has this crazy idea that he wants to be the “catcher in the rye”. He remembers the Robert Burns poem incorrectly: he creates an image in his mind of a field of rye on a cliff-top: children are playing in the field, completely unaware of the danger of the cliff; his job is to catch them and save them from death.  It is not until almost the end of the novel that he learns (from his younger sister Phoebe) that he has made a mistake: the poem does not refer to a “catcher in the rye” but “if a body meet a body, coming through the rye.”

This novel is written in a style called “skaz”: a Russian word (which to English ears suggests “skat” and “jazz”). It means, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

in Russian literature, a written narrative that imitates a spontaneous oral account in its use of dialect, slang, and the peculiar idiom of that persona.

JD Salinger‘s novel is one example in English. Another is British writer’s Anthony Burgess‘s A Clockwork Orange. Salinger is a recluse.  He has repeatedly refused all attempts to obtain his permission to make a movie of his book.  Salinger was recently in the news but look at the photo! That is the most recent photo of Salinger? 1951??

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