36 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About “The Catcher In The Rye”

Happy 63rd birthday to J.D. Salinger’s classic novel.

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1. Since it was first published in 1951, more than 65 million copies of The Catcher in the Rye have been sold.

2. Around 250,000 copies of the book are sold each year, almost 685 per day.

3. The title The Catcher in the Rye derives from a mishearing of Scottish poet Robert Burns’ “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” by the book’s narrator and protagonist, Holden Caulfield.

4. Caulfield was appearing in J.D. Salinger’s short stories as early as 1941, ten years before the book’s publication.

5. In November 1941, Salinger sold the story “Slight Rebellion Off Madison”, which featured Holden Caulfield, to The New Yorker, but it was not published until 21 December, 1946, because of World War II.

6. The story “I’m Crazy”, which was published in the 22 December, 1945, issue of Collier’s, contained material that was later used in The Catcher in the Rye.

7. A 90-page manuscript about Holden Caulfield was accepted by The New Yorker for publication in 1946, but was later withdrawn by Salinger.

8. Salinger later offered excerpts of The Catcher in the Rye to The New Yorker, but the editors did not run any of it because they didn’t think Holden Caulfield was believable.

9. While Caulfield speaks poorly of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms in Catcher, Salinger actually maintained a personal correspondence with Hemingway and the two held a mutual respect for one another.

Little, Brown & Company / BuzzFeed

10. The Catcher in the Rye was originally banned in many schools across the US. Administrators and parents believed that Caulfield’s act of engaging a prostitute was completely immoral, and also objected to the vulgarity of the language used by the character.

11. In 1957, Australian customs seized a shipment of the novels that had been presented to the government as a gift from the US ambassador. The books were later released, but the Australian customs maintained that the obscene language and actions depicted in the book were not suitable for adolescents.

12. In 1960, a teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was fired for assigning the novel in class; he was later reinstated.

13. In 1963, a delegation of parents of high-school students in Columbus, Ohio, asked the school board to ban The Catcher in the Rye for being ‘anti-white’.”

14. In 1977, parents in Pittsgrove Township, New Jersey, challenged the assignment of the novel in a literature class. They charged that the book included “filthy and profane” language that promoted premarital sex, homosexuality, and perversion, as claimed that the book was “explicitly pornographic” and “immoral”.

15. Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the US.

16. In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States.

17. And it is still proving controversial. It was the tenth most frequently challenged book in US schools from 1990 to 1999. More recently, it made the top 10 in 2001, 2005, and again in 2009.

18. Reasons cited for challenging or banning the book include: Caulfield’s “rebellious views”, its “785 uses of profanity”, that it is “part of a Communist plot”, that it is “unacceptable”, “obscene”, and “undermines morality”, that it depicts premarital sex, alcohol abuse, and prostitution, and that it “contains lurid passages about sex”, details the main character’s “sexual exploits”, is “centred around negative activity”, and contains “vulgar words”.

British-born actor Freddie Bartholomew.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Judy Garland and Freddie Bartholomew.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

 

19. Caufield’s look is supposedly based on Freddie Bartholomew, a child actor famous in the 30s and 40s.

20. Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon, was reading a copy of The Catcher in the Rye when he was arrested. He said in his police statement that the larger part of his personality was Holden Caulfield, while the smaller part of his personality was Satan.

21. Police found a copy of the novel in John Hinckley Jr’s apartment after he shot Ronald Reagan in 1981. Hinckley said he shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster, whom he’d been stalking.

22. In 1989, Robert John Bardo stalked and murdered actress Rebecca Schaeffer at her home. He was carrying a copy of the book when he was arrested.

23. The book appeared on Time magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923.

24. Holden repeats a number of catchphrases throughout the book. The word “phony” appears 35 times in the book, “crazy” appears 77 times, and “goddam” appears 245 times.

25. Salinger served in the US Army during WWII and was involved in the 1944 invasion of Normandy. He reportedly carried six chapters of The Catcher in the Rye with him when he landed on Utah Beach on D-Day.

26. Salinger spoke of producing a stage adaptation of the book in which he would play the role of Caulfield opposite Margaret O’Brien. He said if he couldn’t play the part himself, “forget about it”.

27. Salinger believed Catcher was not suitable for film treatment, and that translating Caulfield’s first-person narrative into voiceover and dialogue would be contrived.

Keiran Culkin in “Igby Goes Down” (2002)

Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer

Emma Watson and Logan Lerman in the film adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” (2012)

Summit Entertainment

 

28. Hollywood legends Samuel Goldwyn and Billy Wilder both tried to make adaptations of the film but were frustrated in their attempts.

29. According to Salinger, entertainer Jerry Lewis tried for years to get his hands on the part of Caulfield, despite Lewis not having read the novel until he was in his thirties.

30. John Cusack told Premiere magazine that his one regret about turning 21 was that he was now too old to play Caulfield.

31. Others who have tried to make film adaptations with no success include Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Harvey Weinstein, Steven Spielberg, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

32. A letter written by Salinger in 1957 revealed that he was open to an adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye being released after his death.

33. He wrote: “Firstly, it is possible that one day the rights will be sold. Since there’s an ever-looming possibility that I won’t die rich, I toy very seriously with the idea of leaving the unsold rights to my wife and daughter as a kind of insurance policy. It pleasures me no end, though, I might quickly add, to know that I won’t have to see the results of the transaction.”

34. Works influenced by The Catcher in the Rye include the novels Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Ordinary People by Judith Guest, and the film Igby Goes Down by Burr Steers.

35. Swedish writer Frederik Colting wrote a follow-up to Salinger’s novel, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye. Salinger’s lawyers managed to block its publication in the US until Salinger’s copyright expires. It is available in the UK under the authorial pseudonym John David California.

36. The 2013 documentary Salinger claimed that the reclusive author had penned a sequel to The Catcher in the Rye, to be published after his death. Reports at the time suggested this might happen in 2015, though no further details have emerged as yet.

J.D. Salinger while serving in the US army during WWII. The Weinstein Company

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