Monthly Archives: June 2010

Revisiting Holden Caulfield: Blogger in the Rye

IMG_0018“Boy, when you’re dead, they really fix you up.  I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something.  Anything except sticking me in a goddamn cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead?  Nobody.”

– The Catcher in the Rye

Through a weird series of events, having to do with some silly quiz a friend and I took online that put its results in our various Twitter streams, both of us were compared to J.D. Salinger.  My friend wasn’t familiar with Salinger, and I was, but only through:

  • Vague memories
  • The fact that Salinger died this year

…so I had to look him up to make sure I was getting the details right.  Which made me revisit him, the author, as a person.  Someone who, when he made it big, totally shunned his fame and turned his back on it.  Here I am pushing fifty, having written most of my life and never making it big, and then there’s this guy who made it big and I learn that was the last thing he wanted.

So suddenly I’m interested in the guy.

I can only barely remember reading his one novel, The Catcher in the Rye, and like most I only read it because of a high school English teacher assigning it in class.  Jeeze, what was I?  Fourteen?  There were no aliens, rocket ships, or time travel involved so reading it was a chore and I’m pretty sure I opted to go the Cliff’s Notes route.

IMG_0019So here it is 2010 and I decide, you know, maybe I should read this novel.  Of course, me being who I am, I hopped on my Kindle and searched.  Nope.  Nothing.  Nada.  Salinger had never authorized it to be interpreted as a Hollywood movie, and it appears he didn’t feel it appropriate to be turned into an ebook, either.  So I had to obtain it the old fashioned way, and order it on Amazon.com.

It cost 10¢ plus $3.99 shipping, and when it arrived I found it full of some high school girl’s handwriting.

(I’m actually having just as much fun reading this anonymous girl’s notes as I am reading the manuscript itself.)

One thing that struck me right away in revisiting this only dimly remembered novel is that it reads exactly like some well-educated kid’s blog.  Not somewhat.  Exactly.  Holden Caulfield, if written today, would be a blogger.  Totally and completely, and my apologies to J.D. Salinger who I know is spinning in his grave at this thought.  But it’s true.

Go back and read this book.  If you’re an avid blog reader or writer, especially if you’ve perused the wit and wisdom of places like LiveJoural, Blogger, or Xanga, you will recognize this writing style immediately.

It makes me wonder which is the chicken, and which is the egg.  Do blogs read like this because most of us were forced to read Catcher in the Rye during our formative teen years?  Or does it read like this because Salinger caught the tone of teen angst perfectly and completely?

Probably the latter, I expect.  Still, it’s distracting, even as it makes the read enjoyable.  And to my utter surprise, this book is worth revisiting, especially looking at it with a more mature eye.

Without Wax

BookHere’s an interesting bit from Dan Brown’s novel, The Lost Symbol:  “Since the days of Michelangelo, sculptors had been hiding the flaws in their work by smearing hot wax into the cracks and then dabbing the wax with stone dust. The method was considered cheating, and therefore, any sculpture “without wax”—literally sine cera—was considered a “sincere” piece of art. The phrase stuck. To this day we still sign our letters “sincerely” as a promise that we have written “without wax” and that our words are true.”

This has been highlighted by 670 Kindle users (and counting), so I can only assume these people are taking Brown’s little literary flight of fancy seriously, as fact.

This is an example of Dan Brown’s wonderful imagination and inventiveness.  But that’s not Homemade-wax-seals-part-1where the word “sincerely” came from.  I mean, really, how do you go from carving sculptures to writing letters?  While the word “sincere” most likely did come from “without wax,” it’s much more likely that the phrase originated from the idea that the writer, having written, is being so honest that s/he is not sealing the envelope. 

Remember, they used to close envelopes with a wax seal.  So a letter written and not sealed with wax is an “open letter,” for anyone to read.  This implies no fear of someone refuting the honesty of what is contained within, thus it is “without wax” or sincere.

Microsoft Word 2010

I’ve been using Microsoft Word since “Word for Windows 2.0” and now here I am using version 2010. It’s not the beta version, either, it’s the real thing – because of a deal my company has with Microsoft, I was able to get Office Professional Plus 2010 for a whole $9.95. Can’t beat that. And I have to say I like it.

I like it especially because they’ve come full circle. They’ve eliminated all distractions. It’s practically a blank white window.

I also do a lot of writing using “Pages” on my iPad, and that’s what I like about it, too. A blank white screen. Just start typing.

So, what have I typed on it? Well, pages from manuscripts. Meeting notes. A list or two.

I’m afraid I’m entering into a bit of writer’s block. Haven’t had that for a while. It’s different this time, though – I know what it is. My day job has been satisfying my creative urge quite well, and when I get home, I’m just … done. Yesterday I got a good 1000 words in or so, and I was happy with it. Tonight was a different story. I just wasn’t interested, and when I tried to push myself I started getting that burnt out feeling.

So to heck with it, I thought. I watched some Dr. Who and the first half of the original Torchwood episode.

But anyway, this is supposed to be about Word 2010. I like it. I’m writing this on it – like earlier versions, you can post straight to your blog, just like with Windows Live Writer.

I highly recommend it, especially if you can somehow get it for $9.95.