Tag Archives: Novel

‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ a powerful American novel

J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel, “The Catcher in the Rye,” gives the angst-ridden teenagers of this world a worthy champion: Holden Caulfield.

Set in the ‘50s, “The Catcher in the Rye” describes the misadventures of sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield before he is hospitalized after a mental breakdown.

After flunking out of a reputable preparatory school, Holden flees to his hometown of New York City on a midnight train. While in the city, he takes refuge in a seedy hotel that Holden describes as being “lousy with perverts,” which, unknown to Holden, ends up being the best decision that he makes throughout the novel. From there, he finds himself searching for something, or someone, to fill the emptiness that resonates within him

Holden Caulfield shares several qualities with typical teenagers, regardless of the era. That is, he hates himself but still thinks he is better than everyone else. He often finds himself in states of unwavering depression that no amount of cigarettes or conversations with prostitutes can cure.

Holden can be described as many things, few of which are positive, but the simplest description of his character would have to be: lovable douchebag. Holden is crass, judgmental, sexually frustrated, a compulsive liar and teeming with teenage angst. But who isn’t at that age?

It’s these characteristics that make “The Catcher in the Rye” classically popular with teenaged readers.

Like any novel, “The Catcher in the Rye” has its share of both positive and negative criticism. For instance, Adam Gopnik of the The New Yorker said, “No book has ever captured a city better than ‘Catcher in the Rye’ captured New York in the ‘50s.”

In contrast, BBC’s Finlo Rohrer, whom Holden would undoubtedly shrug off as a phony, said that Holden was a “self-obsessed central character” with “too much whining.”

Salinger’s novel has faced a bit of controversy in its near 62 years since publication, because for some reason or another, fanatics of the novel think it’s a grand idea to murder people. Some of the shootings associated with the novel include John Lennon’s 1980 murder, in which the shooter was arrested with the novel on his person, and the 1981 attempted assassination on then-president Ronald Reagan.

So, if you already have some homicidal tendencies, “The Catcher in the Rye” may not be the best literary choice for you.

But if you’re a moderately sane person with limited access to firearms, why not head down to Linfield’s Nicholson Library and borrow this charming (and strangely influential) novel?

Paige Jurgensen/For the Review

Paige Jurgensen can be reached at linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com

Zamyatin’s novel shows down side of communism

“We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin combines science fiction and classical literature. In 1921, Zamyatin, a Russian native, asked the question “what would happen if Communism succeeded?” Zamyatin’s answer was numerically ordered humans living and controlled in the ‘One State.’ Zamyatin also made history by writing the first science fiction novel.

“We” is a futuristic novel that follows D-503, a brilliant engineer that had just built a rocket and his journey as he comes to terms with his diagnosis of the worst illness in the One State: a soul. D-503’s soul allows him to see his community as the oppressive, brain-washing society that it is.

The One State was a communist wonderland, where all citizens lived in literal glass houses and everyone received the same amount of food and clothes and intimate loving as everyone else, all given to the people by the ever-vigilant Benefactor. The best part of the One State: no one questions authority.

D-503 fell victim to the dangerous emotion of love with an intoxicating woman, I-330, who seduced him and introduced him to a group of rebels who had been fighting in the shadows to take down the One State. Now, D-503 has to choose between submitting to the life and civilization that he’s always known or striving for freedom.

Even if the reader is not a huge fan of science fiction literature, “We” is such an amazing piece of literary genius that it should be on everybody’s to-read list this holiday season.

An astonishing fact about “We” is that Zamyatin wrote it when Communism was still new and no one knew whether it would fail or succeed, or what it would turn into—perhaps Zamyatin’s One State. Almost immediately after its publication, “We” was declared the first novel to be banned by the Soviet censorship board. In an act of defiance, Zamyatin had his work illegally sent to Western Europe for publication, which resulted in Zamyatin’s exile from Russia after the Soviets found out.

Zamyatin wrote in a letter to Joseph Stalin, “True literature can only exist when it is created, not by diligent and reliable officials, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics.”

Along with his impressive predictions, the reader will be sure to find Zamyatin’s characters both foreign and familiar and his storyline completely intoxicating. Zamyatin’s “We” would be the perfect holiday gift for science fiction fans and literature lovers alike.

Paige Jurgensen

Staff Writer

Professor emeritus of history explores novelist’s life

Dr. Richard W. Etulain, professor emeritus of history at the University of New Mexico, came to Linfield on Feb. 22 and discussed the life of novelist Wallace Stegner, who Etulain believes to be the most important writer of the American West since John Steinback. Christina Shane/Staff writer

A collision of history and literature occurred Feb. 22, as students and scholars gathered in the Austin Reading Room of the Nicholson Library to hear a special guest lecture on a novelist’s life.

Thanks to the Ken and Donna Ericksen Endowed English Department Fund, nationally recognized scholars such as Dr. Richard W. Etulain, professor emeritus of history at the University of New
Mexico, are brought to Linfield’s campus.

Etulain gave his lecture, “Wallace Stegner: Wise Man of the American West,” bringing Western American history to life through the literary works of Wallace Stegner, who Etulain considers“ Our most important writer [of] the American West since John Steinbeck.”

Etulain has had an extensive career combining history and literature as he has been both president of the western History Association and the Western Literature

“Professor Etulain straddles the fence between the two disciplines,” David Sumner, professor of English and environmental  studies, said when introducing the historian.

“I was trying to ride two horses at one time,” Etulain said.

So was his fellow historian and novelist, Wallace Stegner, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historiographer of the twentieth-century American West—who was the main subject of Etulain’s lecture.

Etulian’s lecture was teeming with academic stories—many of which were personal experiences with Stegner himself. In 1995, Etulain published “Stegner: Conversations on History and Literature,” which features intimate conversations between the two scholars.

His interviews encompassed not only historical and literary discourse, but also addressed environmentalism—a philosophy that Stegner reinforced in many of his novels.

“I thought the most interesting part was the fact that Stegner was fairly successful despite not publishing
novels under one specific genre,” freshman Summer Yasoni said.

Dr. Etulain addressed those who are familiar with his work and desire more information, as well as those who had never heard of him, which represented a fair amount of those who attended.

Roughly one-third of the audience raised their hand when asked if they had previously known the works of Stegner.

“I tried to show Linfield students and faculty members how much [Stegner] has contributed to our understanding of the American West,” Etulain said.

Etulain’s most recent work, “Abraham Lincoln and Oregon Country Politics in the Civil War Era,” is expected to be published next year.

Christina Shane/
Staff reporter
Christina can be reached at linfieldreviewnews@gmail.com

Alumna’s debut novel stems from thesis

Molly Johnson, class of ‘04, began writing her debut novel as her undergraduate thesis. Now, seven years later, the novel has been published.

Johnson described how she struggled through the writing and publication process during an author reading in the Nicholson Library on Nov. 7.

Johnson’s novel, “Sparticus and the Circus of Shadows” is geared toward young adult readers and chronicles the adventures of a young explorer’s quest to rescue his missing mother from a traveling circus.

She said that after writing the original manuscript and graduating from Linfield, she decided to attend Portland State University for a master’s degree in writing.

Johnson used her graduate thesis project to continue revising the same book she began for her undergraduate degree.

After she graduated with her master’s degree, one of her professors recommended that Johnson give herself some time to clear her head before she continued trying to revise and edit the book.

“I was told to give it six months of breathing time,” Johnson said.

Johnson left to teach English in China, bringing the manuscript with her to continue editing after she was settled.

Her writing progress was delayed, however, when the flash drive containing the only version of her manuscript was stolen while she was traveling.

Johnson was forced to write a letter to Portland State, requesting a copy of her thesis. She received a hard copy in the mail and went through the painstaking process of retyping the entire document.

During this time, Johnson said she continually made major changes to the book, trying to fill plot holes and develop characters.

“The book always felt like water,” Johnson said. “It was never static.”

Even after hours of revisions and sending her work off to be considered for publication, Johnson still received multiple rejection letters.

Little did she know, her first major break would come from  a request from a former professor at Portland State.

Johnson said the professor contacted her, asking if a class could use her graduate thesis for an editing and publishing course. Johnson agreed, hoping that she could publish one of the revised versions someday.

Coincidentally, months later, a Portland State alumnus contacted Johnson, telling her that he read her manuscript when he took the revision and editing course. The alumnus had recently opened his own publishing house and wanted to kick off the company by publishing Johnson’s book.

“I think it was at this point that I realized that I needed to be an active player in the production of the story,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t just along for the ride anymore.”

Johnson said her fiance was a key player in the success of her finished book, as he read through the story, pointing out character inconsistencies and plot holes.

She said that now, even after a long editing process, there are still things she would like to change about her book.

“I already marked up a copy of the book with revisions,” Johnson said. “But I have to believe in my work and what it turned out to be.”

Joanna Peterson/
Managing editor
Joanna Peterson can be reached at linfieldreviewmanaging@gmail.com.