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C. Derick Miller – Head Writer
Your Stories on Video
I don’t recall hearing that word much during my youth and I’ve surely not heard it at all coming from someone’s mouth in my adult life. I knew that it meant “fake” or “false,” but I was never quite sure as to what extent of fakeness or falseness something or someone had to be in order to be considered a “phony.” Thank J. D. Salinger for the wisdom of Holden Caulfield!
Published in serial form between 1945 and 1946, but released as a novel in 1951, The Catcher in The Rye was originally intended for adults but is often read by adolescents for its themes of angst, alienation, and as a critique on superficiality in society. Basically, many a rebellious teenager from the past claimed this book as the key to their behavior and bull headedness toward authority. I was not one of these people. I did it all on my own.
Many people I’ve met over the years claim that “Catcher” was required reading during their high school years, but it wasn’t an option in my good old hometown of Greenville, TX. For a place who used to boast a sign above main street which read “Welcome to Greenville, the Blackest land, the Whitest people,” I shake my head at the fact a book like “Catcher in The Rye” was ‘the line.’ Due to this, I didn’t read this novel until later on in my adult years. Later as in my ‘grandfather’ years. Verdict?
I hated it! The main character was a whiney brat and I found myself on several occasions screaming for him to shut up out loud! To boot, we were involved in a world war at the time it was being written and the main character was of draft age. He was a spoiled rich kid who quit school. Shouldn’t he have been shipped to the front lines where he could’ve found something legitimate to whine about? Why were so many people claiming this book to be their coming-of-age novel? Also, why were so many people claiming that my adult personality was obviously based on the main character in this book, even though I’d never read it? Was it really that difficult to be around me when I’d get on one of my negative, vocal tirades?
Then, it grew on me. J. D. Salinger’s writing style became something I wanted to personally explore within my own writing. Then, I re-read the book through the fresh eyes of a curious artist, and everything fell into place. I tried my best to imagine I was a teenage boy encountering these words and this mentality for the very first time in my life, and it all made sense. These lines resonated with me:
“I think that one of these days…you’re going to have to find out where you want to go. And then you’ve got to start going there. But immediately. You can’t afford to lose a minute. Not you.”
“This fall I think you’re riding for—it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangements designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn’t supply them with. So, they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started.”
“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”
Lines such as this damn near brought me to tears the second time around. What was J. D. Salinger trying to tell me? Well, the 16-year-old version of me. What idea was he trying to sell to that guy who truly no longer existed? Wait, does he still exist? If I sit back in silence, I can almost hear that long dead inner child of mine scream at me from the darkness, begging for me to pay attention. Are we only as ‘old’ as we make believe to be? If so, why? For respect from the ‘phonies’? Who really cares if they take us seriously or not?
See? This is exactly what I’m talking about! This is what a good book can do to you! It can take you to places you never thought you’d go again or even places you’ve never been at all! I think this is also why I write them. I, one day, would like to be remembered as “the guy who took me there” by some unsuspecting child in the future. Most importantly, I don’t want to be a “phony”!
Is there a book you read in your youth that influenced you to become the person you are today? Was there a book you read in your adult life that made you want to revisit the carefree days of your youth? Here at Your Stories on Video, we want to know! Tell us all about it! Who knows, perhaps it’s one we’ve never read ourselves and you could very well be introducing us to it for the first time. It could change our lives in return! I’m personally excited to know and can’t wait to hear from you!