J. D. Salinger and Cormac McCarthy Intertexuality

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  • 03 Nov 2013 at 1:00 pm #4523

    Richard L.

    I think there’s much to be discussed here.

    First, let’s clear some things out of the way. In the old incarnation of this forum, it seems like there might have been a thread on this. I recall someone wondering if there was any link between Holden Caulfield and Judge Holden. The answer was, there isn’t. McCarthy took the name directly from General Samuel Chamberlain’s MY CONFESSION, the main historical source of the novel.

    Salinger told Joyce Maynard that he took the last names of the actors on a movie poster (William Holden and Joan Caulfield), but although those posters exist for a couple of movies, the Salinger scholars now say, since the author’s death, that Holden Caulfield existed in stories at such an early date that the Hollywood connection is unlikely.

    Another BLOOD MERIDIAN connection we can dismiss as unlikely is when, in Salinger’s novel, Holden Caulfield visits his old mentor, Spencer, and the old man says: “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.”

    Taken out of context, that would seem to compare to Judge Holden’s pontification: “Men are born for games.”

    However, in context, Holden Caulfield replies respectfully, “Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it.” But then, looking back, he thinks: “Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right– I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game.”

    If that was all there was, it would not be worth making a thread on it, much less the long essay on this intertexuality that appeared in THE CATCHER IN THE RYE: NEW ESSAYS, edited by J. P. Steed, (2002). The essay, “Love, Loss, and Growing Up in J. D. Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye and Cormac McCarthy’s All The Pretty Horses,” is by Matthew Evertson, English & Humanities Professor and Dept. Chair, Tempe Arizona.

    Although I have not yet seen the forty-page essay above, I have seen Matt Evertson’s very brief essay entitled “Holden Caulfield’s Longing to Construct a New Home.” It is eye-opening in the manner of Jay Ellis’s landmark volume: NO PLACE FOR HOME.

    Evertson points out that both novels take place in 1949, both concern 16 year old boys on the cusp, both of them homeless. The text he compares on this is remarkable. In a footnote, he points out that while Salinger may not have been aware of McCarthy, McCarthy was certainly aware of Salinger, pointing out to Garry Wallace Salinger’s refusal to give interviews that, at least at the time, was also his own policy.

    I’m awaiting a copy of the longer article. Meanwhile, if anyone here has some info to share on this, I’d like to see it.

    The link to the brief article you can read on-line is here (if it works):


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