Friday, January 29, 2010

The Catcher retires

Coming of age in 1969 as a freshman at St. Michael's High School in Northampton you could not help but be smitten by J.D. Salinger's stunning work, 'The Catcher in the Rye'. Plus, the similarity between Mr. Salinger and Emily Dickinson, The Belle of Amherst, was strikingly similar.

My freshman English teacher Sister Bernard Francis whom we all called "Bernie"--but never to her face--had assigned a book report presentation before the entire class on any novel that struck our fancy.

I decided to accompany my daring talk on 'The Catcher in the Rye' with a photo slide show almost like a PowerPoint presentation ; and, being the rebellious Holden Caulfield type, I could not resist shooting the scene where Caulfield--who hates profane graffiti especially when it is within the view of children--erases a "Fuck you," while noting he can't possibly erase them all.

Probably one reason 'Catcher in the Rye' is high on the list of books banned from schools and libraries--although equally high when measuring books taught in public schools.

But this was St. Michael's, a classic old style private Catholic school. The nuns could do whatever they wanted, including corporal punishment.

For my final slide I projected a rather large "Fuck You" etched in white chalk on the red brick exterior of the school; I took the photo holding the camera in my right hand while my left hand used an eraser to cover only the F--so everybody instantly got the idea.

Yes, it caused a bit of a group gasp. And then almost everyone turned to look at the teacher who was sitting in the back of the room with the lights down. Her face had turned scarlet red--readily noticeable against the backdrop of her black-and-white nuns habit. But she said nothing.

As she slowly got up from the small wooden student desk and walked toward the front of the room, I was sure my hand would soon be stinging from the impact of a wooden ruler. She simply said, "Thank you Mr. Kelley, return to your seat."

In those few moments, as she angrily approached me, the angst between her roles as an English teacher and Catholic nun played out, and--fortunately for me--the English teacher won.
Miss Emily (of course).

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you — Nobody — Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! They’d banish us — you know!

How dreary — to be — Somebody!
How public — like a Frog —
To tell one’s name — the livelong June —
To an admiring Bog!
My other blog reports


Anonymous said...

Sparks sure flew over this book which is now a classic over American literature! It was the Vagina Monologues of its day.

Thank you for your story, Larry. You proved why free speech is so important to cultivate in our young people, even when it clashes with the powers that be.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah for sure.

Which is why I was--and still am--soooo disgusted by Ensler being put in the same category as Salinger.

She was/is a one-trick-pony with questionable talent. He was a freakin genius.

Although...I would think twice about assigning 'The Catcher in the Rye' to 5th,6th,or even 7th graders.

Ensler actually did an interview with an intrepid Gazette reporter where she suggested 'The Vagina Monologues' would be just fine as sex ed material for the elementary schools.

Anonymous said...

Ensler was awarded the Obie Award in 1996 for ‘Best New Play’ and in 1999 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship Award in Playwriting. She has also received the Berrilla-Kerr Award for Playwriting, the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, and the Jury Award for Theater at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.

But of course she's a talentless hack in your book because she had the unfortunate pleasure of having her play performed in the town you live in.

LarryK4 said...

At a High School in my hometown. BIG difference.

Yeah, I saw all those awards on Wikipedia.

But I also noticed they closed with:
"The Vagina Monologues includes a section entitled "The Little Coochie Snorcher that Could". This portion of the play, as originally performed, has been criticized for including a lesbian rape scene of a 13-year-old girl by a 24-year-old woman who uses alcohol to lower the inhibitions of her victim.[4] At the conclusion of the segment, the narrator (the grown-up thirteen year old girl) fondly reminisces about the rape, claiming that it helped to nurture her and help her grow as a woman, and finishes the play with the line, "If it was rape, it was good rape". The segment received criticism not only for depicting any rape as "good", but also for forming a double standard, as elsewhere in the play, male-on-female rape is depicted as not only inexcusable but the ultimate act of violence against women.

The scene was modified in later performances; the young girl's age was changed to 16, and the "good rape" line was omitted."
And if you have ever rented the 'VM' DVD Ms. Ensler opens by looking at the camera and telling the viewers that 'VM' is a compilation of interviews with over 200 women and that she "has not changed a thing."

Well, except for taking out "good rape" and changing the age from 13 to 16 for the Little Coochie Snorcher.

Her follow up work "The Good Body" (about her navel of all things) opened and closed in a week on Broadway a few years back.

She has done zilch since.

Anonymous said...

I do not believe that _The Catcher in the Rye_ should be taught in High School. We have enough problems with students thinking about suicide without encouraging them....

Anonymous said...

Ensler didn't write her play so it could be performed at Amherst's high school. She wrote the play, it became a hit, and someone in Amherst decided to perform it. Don't blame her for the venue.

LarryK4 said...

Oh, but I do...I really, really do (as she defended it--on 'The Today Show' no less).

If Ensler had an ounce of sense, or a freakin core--untainted by fame and fortune and hanging out with (Hanoi)Jane Fonda--she would have figured out the right thing.

A "teachable moment"; and she flunked.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight, so when I finish my play it will get rave reviews by the "Arts" community.

My play will have the same plot as VM only I'm calling it the "Manhood Monologues". I will have a sweet little scene where a adult man has a few drinks with an underaged boy and then with great passion rapes him. Only later do we find that this rape actually makes the young fellow a well rounded more worldly person that can't thank the adult enough for this life long experience.

I can't wait for the recognition and awards that will await me.

What a load of B.S. the VM is just another example of a piece of crap that nobody in the "ART WORLD" dared not tell the empress she had no clothes. If a gay man tried to sell this he'd be tard and feathered.

This is how far society has lowered it's standards, and justifys it by calling it freedom of speech or art. How long before we see an exceptable version of a man raping a young girl and find it exceptable?

Anonymous said...

I loved the host of spelling errors you made! That must be part of the "Manhood Monologues."

Anonymous said...

My play will have the same plot as VM only I'm calling it the "Manhood Monologues". I will have a sweet little scene where a adult man has a few drinks with an underaged boy and then with great passion rapes him

Mine will have a 14-year-old GIRL, just like TVM, exactly like TVM, and we shall see how well that goes....

Anonymous said...

If my spelling errors were the only thing that you have to comment on, my point has been made.

But I do thank you for your comment, as I feel it is important for everyone to themselves to the best of their abilities.


Anonymous said...

There I go again with the bad spelling, LOL! This is what I intended to say.

But I do thank you for your comment, as I feel it is important for everyone to better themselves to the best of their abilities.


Anonymous said...

Larry K Jan 30 at 2:15: "(Hanoi) Jane Fonda"

? Are you kidding?
The author of this blog actually said that?

LarryK4 said...

Umm...Yeah, actually I did. Glad you know how to read.

Anonymous said...

VALLEY V-DAY presents a community production of Eve Ensler's play, The Vagina Monologues at the Northampton Center for the Arts, February 6 & February 7, 2010 - 7 p.m.

Following last year's sold-out production at P.A.C.E., we are proud to hold this year's production of the landmark feminist theatre event at a larger venue. As last year, our proceeds will benefit The Prison Birth Project. Featuring over 25 local actresses and community members, this show promises to be hilarious, poignant, and will be a great evening out.

Ticket information at the Valley V-Day website

Hurry! Saturday tix almost sold out!

Bring your friends!

Anonymous said...

It was a great show!