Monday, February 7, 2011

Where Did You Go?

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 trueaccess 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—you can always shut it off. So you see, technology hasn't changed everything. You still control the buttons.

You do.

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: "Don't ever tell anybody anything.  If you do, you start missing everybody." 

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.


  1. What a lovely idea to bury someone with their favorite book.

    “Where Did You Go” looks delightful.

  2. I just the love the entire premise that technology has too much credence. I do not own an iPad or pod and don't plan to. When I read I want the opportunity to still get paper cuts :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  3. I've heard a lot about the book....must read it soon....

  4. You know, I don't think I've ever read Catcher In The Rye, and will definitely change that. My daughter will be teaching it soon in her honors English class too.

    Another book that has that timeless imagery and voice is Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. It's that classic coming of age type of story, I could read it again and again over the years.

  5. They should probably bury me with my Kindle. It holds 1300 books, and I am a child of technology!
    Still. I love the heavy weight of a hardback novel, the swishy sound of the pages as you turn them and the aroma of ink on paper as you break open a new book for the very first time.
    I have been enjoying the energy of your posts. Very refreshing.

  6. What a fine tribute to your faher's memory!

    As for technology - it's great, and yet, it doesn't take away from us the feelings of "nothing new under the sun" and "deja vu" with which we grew up.

    To change things,for example, one still has to start a revolution (see Egypt, Tunisia).When economy fails, there's always great danger of war (civil war, regional war or world war), and so on.

  7. Another great post. Your dad sounds wonderful, Jayne. I understand the beauty of a Kindle, but I love my books and my bookshelves in a death-do-us part sort of way. And maybe, like your dad, I'll even take one or two with me.

  8. Yes, I get "nothing" as a response on a daily basis from my kids. I'll have to check out that book. It looks like a timeless one.

  9. My son had "Catcher in the Rye" set as required reading in his English class, which is how I came to read it for the first time (smile). Books. Hum. They breed, don't they? I have bookcases everywhere, including the bathrooms! Trouble is, my penchant for trashy, true life murder reads isn't the kind of book I really want to advertise (blush)..

  10. How sweet. This warmed my soul. Although I love technology I do appreciate life in its slower calmer, more peacfull realm as well.

  11. Hahaha, I have read this! Last week in fact, I was at the local charity store whereby you can pick up shit (or gems) for a song and I came across this one.
    Indeed I did purchase it. Why? Well, it tickled my fancy for a number of reasons. Firstly it reminded me of the phraseology I used to employ as a child when up to no good, secondly, because a few big name authors wrote a blurb on the back and thirdly, I have a habit of picking up things, like old books and not wanting to let go of them. This one was a pearl.
    Anyway, great post. Technology does seem to be hardwired (or expected to be) into our fingertips, but I believe the thrill of serendipitous finds, such as the above tome does still course through our veins.
    Sure, we have tonnes of info at our fingertips, but do we have the brainspace to trawl through it all and separate the wheat from the chaff?
    Well I reckon I do, as evidenced in my finding of your great lil blog. I may just check in again soon.
    Keep plugging away, I like your style.

  12. Jane- The book and photos of grandkids. Just seemed the natural thing to do.

    Jules- I don't own and ianything. And I'm with you- paper all the way! I don't like the cuts, though. Happens too often...

    Cat- You will laugh, laugh. Funny, irreverent, smart, smart, smart.

    Joanne- I've read a lot of Bradbury, but you know, of all things I haven't read that one, and I know it's a sort of autobiographical story. I'll send for it. Thanks. ;)

    Nessa- There's something lyrical about your name, you know that don't you? I just want to sing it. I love the smell and feel and sound of your comment. Thanks. :)

    Duta- Yes, deja vu - I like that.

    Seré- My dad was fantastic. And the best teacher (seriously, school teacher) I ever had. Books do become a part of you.

    Susan- Ain't that the truth?! Pick it up, you'll enjoy it.

  13. Shrinky- One of my favorite books is a true life murder story (but not trashy): Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. That is one hell of a story, unbelievable journalism.

    T. Anne- I think we seek that slower lane even more now, since we are constantly bombarded with technological apparatus.

    Dan- Um. I'm all tongue tied. You rock. (Tickled my fancy, too.)

  14. Hmm...another dictionary reader. I'm gonna have to get my fingertips primed and pour forth some more tales of (mis)adventure and post. You are good with a great style. Im hooked, lined and sinkered...

  15. i think technology is like religion. it's fun to play with but don't let it run your life or infringe on pleasures.

    i'd like to take yertle the turtle to my grave. it's a great story and it was a pleasure reading it to my kids. i'll never forgive my sister for buying all those care bear books.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. I'll have to get my hands on this one. It sounds like a good spring read. I'm only nostalgic in the spring and fall for some strange reason.

  18. Dan- *blush* Scrabble player, too? I'm glad you're enjoying this. ;)

    BP- Good way of putting it. Politics, too, I think. And Yertle! Who doesn't like Dr. Seuss? Care Bears, on the other hand... can feel your pain.

    Chris- Isn't spring right around the corner? ;)

  19. Thank you, on a few counts.

    "Catcher" should never be made into a movie. Some experiences are only realized fully inside of one's own head, and no attempt to dumb it down for others should be allowed. That's what would happen, of course. Some Hollywood idiot will get his claws into and change something absolutely essential.

    Second, thanks for the book recommendation. I'm going to read it, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it. May I make one in return? Bill Bryson's "The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid" is a memoir of growing up in the 50's and 60's, and is easily among my top-ten favorite books. It is the only book I've ever read that made me jealous that I didn't write it.

    Finally, I love that your father was buried with a book in his hands. If someone did that for me, I think I'd like it to be Twain, but I'm torn between "Tom Sawyer" and "Roughing It".

  20. Wonderfully written post. Jayne, I like your style, premise, and resolution. Your blog is going on my "virtual" reading list, and I am searching for a copy of Robert Paul Smith's book to review.

  21. Thats a wonderful story about your Dad being buried with his favourite book, Jayne.
    It's funny that I hadn't even read The Catcher In The Rye myself till quite recently.I bought a copy from a secondhand bookshop to take on holiday and instantly loved it.
    I also agree with Suldog about Bill Bryson, I've read all his books many times and they never fail to make me laugh out loud!

  22. I love the memories, yours and mine. Funny how they stay true no matter whose memories they are. I had some of yours too.

  23. Suldog- Let's hope no one's claws get a hold of those rights. And I'm glad you mentioned Bryson, I've been meaning to pick up one of his books.
    And wait a minute, no Huck Finn?! ;)

    Stephen- Thanks for adding me to your virtual list! Looking forward to more of your reads.

    Paul - Ok, well that's two for Bryson. Back to the bookstore...
    Thanks for following! :)

  24. Gayle- Yes, well, I hope they were the good ones.

  25. When Jim comes home from work and asks me what I did all day, I say "nothing".

  26. Lin Ann- Oh, but we all know the real truth. "Nothing" is not in your vocabulary except to translate the hundreds of mind -boggling, breathtaking things you do all day but cannot be put into words (and it would take too long to regurgitate it all). ;)

  27. 'Although he was vigorously pursued, thanks to a grudge against the film industry Salinger wouldn't cut a movie deal.'

    Oh, there's no way that ever would have happened! Holden himself refused to be in a movie short. No, the Salinger universe would have unraveled utterly.