The Catcher in the Rye Was at One Time the Most Banned Book in the Country

From The Writer’s Almanac:

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger was published on this date in 1951. It’s about a 16-year-old prep school boy named Holden Caulfield, who is fed up with all the “phonies” and wants to go live in a cabin in California. The book took Salinger 10 years to write, and it was at one time the most banned book and the most frequently taught book in the country.

The book begins: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

And later Holden says: “I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”

Despite Salinger’s hesitations about publicity, The Catcher in the Rye was a sensation. It became a best-seller almost immediately, reaching No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list after two weeks. It has sold more than 65 million copies.

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