Tuesday, February 02, 2010

POSITIVELY THE WORST SALINGER TRIBUTE YET. When J.D. Salinger passed a lot was said about him, some of it affecting, some idiotic. As he was not in any way an overtly political figure, there wasn't a handle conservative bloggers could easily grasp. And some of them were actually gracious -- even including Gerard Vanderleun, if you can imagine it.

There was Jules Crittenden's ridiculous screed, in which Crittenden seemed to confuse Holden Caulfield with his author and blame him for Flaming Youth, but I took that as a bit of willful contrarianism meant to generate traffic, which is a big thing on the internet with or without politics, rather than seriously.

On another order is Tom Bethell's American Spectator piece, which reader Greg Costello pointed out to me. Bethell mentions that librarians censored Catcher in the Rye in the 60s and thereafter -- "censored" in quotes, which is an ominous tipoff.

Bethell alerts us to a coming reversal: "But maybe the librarians knew something that the rest of us have overlooked." Then he recounts the part of the book in which Caulfield's old English teacher tries to get "perverty" with him.
So there you have it. Holden talks about perverts and flits, in a book published by Little Brown in 1951, and reprinted a million times since then. A Back Bay paperback edition reappeared in 2001.

Is it allowed, in the 21st century, to use words like that? Notice that the New Yorker refused to published Catcher in the Rye, but they did publish Salinger's unreadable story "Hapworth 16, 1924." So maybe Harold Ross at the New Yorker was alert to these nuances of political incorrectness long, long ago.
Bethell goes to the trouble to ask someone at Little Brown "if they would allow a book to appear today in which a gay man is called a 'pervert' or a 'flit.'" The guy "laughed openly. 'The question answers itself,' he said." Therefore: "If you haven't read Catcher in the Rye yet, better get a hold of it soon. Because it is likely to disappear from the shelves before you can say flit."

It's a miracle Bruno ever got made. Or that this line was approved for the cable series Party Down: "That is a question for a psychologist -- or as Adam would say, a Jew faggot.” Or that Joe Rogan can do a routine in which a guy tells his dog, "How about you stop chasing your tail, faggot!" Or bloggers can call Lil Wayne a faggot. Or Ann Coulter can call John Edwards one. Or -- 'scuse me, what were we talking about again?

This reminds me of the complaints of National Review contributor Mark Goldblatt, who in the last decade published a novel called Africa Speaks, by which he meant to show the world that "If not for the French... African Americans would currently rank as the most hypocritical, most paranoid, most pretentious group of people on the planet." His book was offered for sale on Amazon -- you can still buy it there -- but he was unsatisfied because he had received "no newspaper or magazine reviews" and "no bookstore shelf space." Though he had been allowed to publish, despite the PC police, he was mad that he couldn't get The Breaks, which he attributed to reverse racism.

When these guys bring up the specter of censorship, they usually mean not that they are denied First Amendment rights, but that many people don't approve what they're saying. This state of affairs, alas, is beyond Constitutional protection. They do have the right, though, to publish their claims of homosexual oppression -- with Catcher in the Rye as evidence, yet -- in whatever publications will accept them, which itself shows that our freedom of the press is exceedingly robust.

UPDATE. In comments Cleter makes what should have been the obvious connection: "The conservatives should LOVE Salinger. He actually went Galt, and stayed Galted for fifty goddamned years." Halloween Jack notes that librarians have actually been fighting to keep allegedly "politically incorrect" books in libraries for years. Hell, Laura Bush could have told them that.

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