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In which John gets kind of excited about the J. D. Salinger novel, "The Catcher in the Rye," the newest entrant in the Nerdfighting Blurbing Book Club. And argues that we should not, at least with catcher, be readers who read and run.


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A Bunny
( - -)
((') (')
Good morning, Hank. It’s the hottest day of the year, so far, and you know what summertime means… It means it’s time for us to use our critical analysis skills to read with thoughtfulness and depth. Hoo-hah! Nerdfighters!

[Intro rolls]

So, Hank, as you know the current Nerdfighter Blurbing Book club book is none other than The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye is J. D. Salinger’s most famous published work, but it’s not the only book he ever put together. He also did Franny and Zooey and Nine Stories and this book which has Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.

This book has a very interesting dedication! I want to read it to you: “If there is an amateur reader still left in the world, or anybody who just reads and runs, I ask him or her with untellable affection and gratitude to split the dedication of this book four ways with my wife and children.”

Now, Hank, let’s put aside the fact that soon thereafter Salinger left his wife for a nineteen year old girl and hasn’t been a particularly good father to his children and focus on what Salinger calls the reader who reads and runs. Now, you hear a lot of people say that when we try to read books critically we ruin them or we analyze them to death or we think about them too hard and they cease being interesting to read. One of the reasons that metaphor and symbolism are so important to books is that they’re also important to life. Like, for example, say you’re in high school and you’re a boy and you say to a girl, “Do you like anyone, right now?”- that’s not the question you’re asking! The question your asking is, “Do you like me, right now?” In the exact same way on page sixty of The Catcher in the Rye when Holden asks the cab driver what happens to the ducks in the pond when the pond freezes over, he’s not asking about the ducks. He’s asking about himself. What happens to me in the dead of winter, when the pond freezes over.

That’s one of the primary ways that metaphor works. It’s a way into the hardest, deepest questions, and you don’t have to be able to intellectually grasp the best metaphors in order for them to work on you emotionally. Look, Hank, I understand why Salinger might have found the incessant analysis of his novels intrusive and painful. I understand why he would appreciate the reader who reads and runs but this isn’t about him- although, if you’re watching this, J. D., I think you’re awesome, but um… Could you stop doing it with nineteen year olds? You’re embarrassing yourself.

You don’t read a book to appease and author. You read a book because you want to. And it is my strongly held opinion that a book becomes richer and more vibrant when we read closely and think hard about it. To that end, Hank, in the next two weeks I’m going to make two videos about Catcher in the Rye. One that’s about the first half. One that’s about the second half. And I’m gonna be totally English teachery about it! And I don’t care! So, if you want to read the book, if you could read the first half by, say like, Tuesday. Like, say to the end of chapter fifteen. And then we’ll talk about it and then everyone on YouTube will be like, “Oh my god. Critical analysis is so fun. It’s like all the best parts of LisaNova plus all the best parts of Smosh.” And just a few quick things to think about during the next week, when you’re reading the first half.

Number one: in response to the common criticism that Holden Caulfield, the narrator of The Catcher in the Rye, is unlikable, I regret to inform you that you are also unlikable. So am I. There's this weird but pervasive feeling in the world of contemporary coming of age fiction that characters ought to be like either the person you want to be or the person you want to be with, and I’m happy to acknowledge that Holden Caulfield is not the guy you want to be or the guy you want to be with. He’s not Edward Cullen. But he is the guy you secretly know yourself to be. Which, I would argue is the end much more interesting.

Number two: the red hunting cap, be on the lookout for it.

Number three: something that I think is really important when you’re reading this book is to bear in mind that there are two stories going on. There’s the story the Holden is telling and there’s the place from which he is telling it, now. There’s the Holden he’s telling the story about and there’s the Holden that is telling the story. Which, I ultimately think is really important. Also, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m doing a lot of Hank Green gesticulations, today. Haaaa!

Mm, I think we all wished that hadn’t happened. So, yay! Let’s read Catcher in the Rye. Hank, that was an awesome song about book eight. Nerdfighters, thank you so much for your Willy sounds. In fact, if you would email your Willy sounds to me at, I want to make a compilation video with Willy doing his constant head turn because a ton of your videos made him turn his head. Aaand, oh! If you live in or near Grand Haven, Michigan, I will be there on the afternoon of Monday, July 28th. More info in the sidebar. Hank, I’ll see you later this week.

*sniffs book* It still smells like my boarding school.