Thursday, February 11, 2010

Holden Caufield (for Caulfield)

J. D. Salinger passed away on Jan. 27 at the age of 91, leaving grieving but curious fans of his writing to wonder what he had been up to for the past fifty-odd years. The Catcher in the Rye remains the central Salinger experience and we found three cases of Holden Caufield in the OhioLINK database, along with 16 in WorldCat. This typo registers as a "low probability" one on the Ballard list, but it's still a pretty common spelling error, I think. Google returns over 83,000 hits on "Holden Caufield." (We also got five hits on Caufield + Caulfield, all references to other people.) The L in the first syllable gets more or less swallowed up, much as Holden himself does—by boys at prep school, girls in nightclubs, adults everywhere, life itself. (He talks to his dead brother as he steps off the curb: "Allie, don't let me disappear.") The problem with the world, according to Holden, is that it's full of "phonies." The word phony is an alteration of fawney, a gilt brass ring used by swindlers, from the Irish Gaelic fáinne or ring. This will ring a bell for readers: the book's ending finds Holden watching his little sister Phoebe ride the carousel in Central Park and try to catch the gold ring. Try and catch today's typo if you can, just as Holden dreamed of catching careless kids running through a field of rye. Or the way he would rub out the F-word written on a schoolhouse wall, despite the certain knowledge that there would always be more to come.

(The Catcher in the Rye, 1979 Russian edition, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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