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In the Future, Everyone Will Be Non-Phony for 15 Minutes

The problem is that Catcher in the Rye is no longer a book for cool high school students.Catcher in the Rye is a book for cool high school teachers. Holden’s painful, alienating realization—that in life, phonies abound and beauty is a fragile, horrible thing we will forever chase and lose—is a fundamental teenage anguish. Adults who remember this feeling share the book to say: I understand that this world hurts. Here is someone else who understands. Assigning Catcher in the Rye has long been an acknowledgement that the moody sensitivity of teenagers is actually— despite its insufferability to older people—the correct reaction to the world.

Read more at Schools Should Replace Catcher in the Rye


  1. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    See also this piece in the New York Times, by Jennifer Schuessler:

    ‘Get a Life, Holden Caulfield’

    “The Catcher in the Rye,” published in 1951, is still a staple of the high school curriculum, beloved by many teachers who read and reread it in their own youth. The trouble is today’s teenagers. Teachers say young readers just don’t like Holden as much as they used to. What once seemed like courageous truth-telling now strikes many of them as “weird,” “whiny” and “immature.”


    Young people, with their compulsive text-messaging and hyperactive pop culture metabolism, are more enchanted by wide-eyed, quidditch-playing Harry Potter of Hogwarts than by the smirking manager of Pencey’s fencing team (who was lame enough to lose the team’s equipment on the subway, after all). Today’s pop culture heroes, it seems, are the nerds who conquer the world — like Harry — not the beautiful losers who reject it.

  2. Matthew Lickona says
  3. They push it in Junior High along with reefer.

  4. And about time. The only thing I hated more than Catcher in the Rye was Moby Dick.

  5. Southern Expat says

    To me, as a member of the fogey class, the idea that teenagers should read novels about how teenagers are the only ones who truly perceive the world in all its oppressiveness is…unappealing.

  6. From the secret origin files of Simpson and Nguyen:
    Went out for exercise down the sin swollen streets, passed prostitutes offering love in wet kisses and fumbling fingers. Filthy. My attention was soon drawn to stumbling boy emerging from a bar, mumbling while his lips clenched a cigarette. Drunk. Underage. Not good. Must be made example of. Delinquent nearly tripped on sidewalk and fell into LOLSCHACH, proceeded to slam him against wall, cigarette falling from his gaping lips. Ashes, ashes, they all fall down. Boy mumbles again, can barely make out his drunken ramblings. “Phony.” Hurm. Uses odd vernacular for boy no older than sixteen. Boy crying, mumbling again, something about a sister. Slap boy across face, knocking his silly hat off. Tell him to go home, be good, stop drinking. Illegal. Or next run in with LOLSCHACH will not be so pleasant. Nods his head, turns to walk off, hear him uttering, “Phony,” again. Tackle him.

  7. Hmm…I read Black Swan Green and have a really difficult time imagining it would resonate with masses of teenage students. Maybe after the Cloud Atlas movie has its moment.

    I’m actually kind of skeptical that any literary novel is going to resonate with high school students today. I thought the new trend was to identify with a monster clique. You’re either teem vampire or teem werwolf–everyone else is teem zombie. If you’re super cool, you’re steampunk, or half man, half machine.

    In a culture where everyone is subversive and divided, wouldn’t the true iconoclast be somehow integrated and whole?

    Somebody needs to design the video game, you know, for the book to spin off of.

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