28 January 2010

Can't stand Salinger, yet I owe him

You've heard and I've heard the stories about what a horrid human being Salinger was and this is why I'm glad I read English during those "fallacies" times. This included "biographical fallacy" a literary tenet which deemed all reference (and all knowledge) of the author's life to cast a poisonous shadow on one's interpretation of the author's work. By the time I was in grad school the fallacy folly had passed somewhat but when it comes to someone like Salinger, one wishes one knew nothing about the man.

I will say this though, I owe him a lot. I was a tutor for two years and got loads of children who had never picked up a book. I'd give the kid To Kill a Mockingbird and if that didn't work, The Catcher in the Rye. It was fool-proof. To this day, I feel guilt at all the wine and flowers from teary-eyed parents. In their eyes, I was a miracle worker. Took me about two months before I made my "discoveries" and very few hours of prep before I was able to lay back and bank on my trade secret.

Boys would especially become engrossed and they are the most difficult customers when it comes to reading fiction — and so are male adults who make up only 37% of fiction readership — and once you got the boys hooked, a few strategic next few choices were enough to transform a quasi-illiterate mush brained kid into a shiny bookworm.

Once someone is an avid reader, grammatical and spelling mistake quietly, steadfastly vanish. I'm also a firm believer that reading literature nurtures empathy and helps socialisation. Of course, The Catcher in the Rye belies that "socialisation" notion and that is why boys love it. It takes young readers a while to realise that Caufield is the biggest phoney of them all.

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