Crawford Kilian On Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

“Mark Twain made the American vernacular a literary language; Salinger tried to do the same for the American adolescent whine. We who read Catcher as teenagers in the 1950s and ’60s at once considered ourselves free to babble on paper just the way we did over coffee and cigarettes. It was certainly easier than learning how to write a straightforward sentence expressing something more than teen angst.” Crawford Kilian

Salinger was old hat, i.e. required reading in lit classes, by the time I came along.  To be in the curriculum says that there might be something powerful and timeless about your writing.  Perhaps, though, it also says that you are past the point of being spokesman for an up and coming generation.   That’s not a bad thing; it’s just the result of time marching on.   Time and age can inform writing and make it even more powerful.

I’m trying to recall a novel from my coming of age years that expressed our decade’s teenaged angst in a timeless way, but I can’t think of one.  Perhaps, our angst was expressed more in movies or, even more likely, in song lyrics.

What work most captures your decade of teenaged angst?  Are you influenced by that when you write, blog, etc.?   What do you think about the goal of learning “how to write a straightforward sentence expressing something more than teen angst”?  Who writes best about the joys, and not just the angst, of the teen years?



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