Friday, October 21, 2011

A.E. Hotchner's five favorite coming-of-age tales

A.E. Hotchner is best known for Papa Hemingway, his 1966 biography of Ernest Hemingway, whose work he had adapted for plays and television. His other books include King of the Hill, a memoir about growing up in St. Louis during the Great Depression. It was made into a film in 1993, the screenplay written and directed by Steven Soderbergh.

In 2007 he named a five best list of coming-of-age tales for the Wall Street Journal.

One book on the list:
The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger
Little, Brown, 1951

Holden Caulfield thoroughly deserves his status as the quintessential teenager of American literature. J.D. Salinger found a note-perfect teenage voice, with Holden's venomous contempt for everything "phony," a voice that the author expertly deploys in capturing all the prejudices and emotions of a troubled prep-school boy from New York. Holden's escapades are both hilarious and painful, as when he decides to lose his virginity with a prostitute that he has procured with the help of a hotel bellhop. When she arrives, Holden has second thoughts about this misguided attempt to grow up and finds himself bargaining with the indignant woman to let him out of the deal. Holden zig-zags through an amusing, pathetic, confusing year, battling inner turmoil every step of the way. But in the end he does grow up -- somewhat.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Catcher In The Rye appears on Jay McInerney's list of five essential New York novels, Woody Allen's top five books list, Patrick Ness's top 10 list of "unsuitable" books for teenagers, David Ulin's six favorite books list, Nicholas Royle's list of the top ten writers on the telephone, TIME magazine's list of the top ten books you were forced to read in school, Tony Parsons' list of the top ten troubled males in fiction, Dan Rhodes' top ten list of short books, and Sarah Ebner's top 25 list of boarding school books; it is one of Sophie Thompson's six best books. Upon rereading, the novel disappointed Khaled Hosseini, Mary Gordon, and Laura Lippman.

--Marshal Zeringue