In all honesty, I can’t write any of these speeches without bursting into tears.
I know I shouldn’t have written about Catcher in the Rye. That’s the only thing my teacher ever told me. Never write about Catcher in the Rye for the exam. I could have written about Quentin and how he dropped the knife and how he failed to protect his family by his failure to protect Caddy. But I sat there with both essays outlined. If I wrote about Quentin, I’d get my 5. If I wrote about Holden, I’d do what I felt needed to be done.
I, for the first time in four years, chose the road less taken. I wrote about Catcher and it was wonderful. I’ve been good at English since the fifth grade. I’ve been writing novels since I was six. I’ve been reading since I was four. How could I chose a grade over the opportunity to tie my last loose end of adolescence.
When I look back on my life, I was only really happy twice. Once was when I watched my movie in a crowd of strangers and they really liked it. The second time was a few years earlier. It was summer. I was in Central Park. I got to run around a lagoon-shaped pond full of ducks, and I was happy. My adolescence was defined by one book, and one book only. When I was twelve, Holden seeped into my subconscious and vernacular. By sixteen, I was as bitter and phony-hating as Holden ever was. By eighteen, I lost my Allie and my innocence was buried with a purple coffin.
Had I written about The Sound and the Fury, I would have been fine. But because I chose Salinger, I feel like I finally came to some sort of closure with high school. Grades don’t matter. All that matters is you made something of yourself and you stayed true to that person. For me, this moment was when I said to hell with it and wrote a gushing essay about Salinger.
I have been reading “A Farewell to Arms” for the past few days, and there are just no words. Hemingway is perfect for me, because I’m such a slow reader. I can pour over his sentences, no re-reading, at a page a minute and still have the richness of a fine novel. His ideas are so wonderful and agreeable. It’s like reading a man’s version of a Jane Austen.
Things have just begun with me and Papa. He will be my college Kerouac, although Kerouac can never be replaced. I was talking about Jean Louise today with a youth who just read “On the Road” recently (for the first time, how cute). I am so happy that I didn’t have to wait until I had a few more experiences under my belt. I couldn’t bear having the pains I have with, say, Franzen, except with Ti Jean’s beautiful prose.
I can’t keep falling in love with dead people, but it’s so hard when they are so beautiful and so in love with cats.