We give too much credence to technology, and the notion that it brings rapid change to everything: that everything is all hurry up and get this done now because it is all at your fingertips, and there is no good reason why you can't be on top of it at this very second. You can email this, fax that, write and read books on your phone or tablet, and do just about anything and everything that needs doing, all at the same time, from anywhere in the world. In fact, you never, ever have to take another vacation without getting work done. (Ah, the beauty of technology.) And while this is true access to unimaginable amounts of information, indeed, at our fingertips, practically coded under our nails, and trafficking it no longer comes at risk of burning paper cuts echnology hasn't changed everything. You still control the buttons.
At my mother's yesterday to pick up the kids from a sleepover with their Nani, I poked around the living room bookshelf, the one my father built. He built just about everything in that turn-of-the-century colonial. He tore the whole thing apart, inside and out, and put it back together again. (I grew up, quite literally, on sawdust, paint-stained tarps and the ever present scent of freshly sawn Pine.) And he made lots of room for books. Books he read, books he collected, books he loved. No book he loved more than J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. When he died, he was buried with a well worn, dog-eared copy of that novel in his hands.
Every year, he had his senior honors English class read the book. I was in the class my senior year. We read the book, of course. I won't bother you with its details because if you were a teen in America anytime after it was published in 1951 you have most likely read it. But here's a quote: "
And if you haven't read it, then do. It's a terrific, timeless story, but what I most love about the book is that it has never changed. By this I mean that the imagery, the story, the voice and feel of that book is forever the same in my mind because no other version, no media, no movie, has sullied my take on the story. Although he was vigorously pursued, thanks to a grudge against the film industry Salinger wouldn't cut a movie deal. Now that Salinger is no longer with us that might change. I'm hoping not.
Sure "Igby Goes Down" (2002) was based on The Catcher in the Rye, but Igby is not Holden. No one can be Holden but Holden. And I agree with Matt Zoller Seitz, this novel should never be made into a movie. Nope, never.
But back to technology. And the fact that some things don't change. They may be augmented, yes, but not forever changed. Proof that this is true:
"Where Did You Go?"
"What Did You Do?"
Swiped off those carefully crafted, stained Pine bookshelves, authored by Robert Paul Smith in 1957, this beaten hardcover (photo up top) now sits to the left of my laptop. It is Smith's memoir of growing up in the 1920s and 30s. It's about boys being boys, it's about girls, too, and about what happens when kids are left to their own devices. It's to be read, as Ogden Nash said, "with delight in one gulp." Go read it. It will not only quench your thirst for days past, it will remind you that they're not really gone. Not entirely. iPads, and iPods, and iPlenitude for God's sake, be damned. Kids will always be kids. And when you ask them what they've been doing, you can bet your last horse chestnut that you're going to hear: "Nothing."
And thanks to modern day technology, you can find Smith's book here.
|Back, inside cover.|