Background Reading for My Novel, Part I: Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye

Since the protagonist of my novel is a gay 18 year-old I decided early in my writing that I needed to read as much fiction as possible that would in some respects mirror my young man’s issues and struggles.  I started checking out both and for suggestions from others. The books I’ve been reading have had a young man in his late teens and/or a youngish gay man as the protagonist. What a great group of books I’ve encountered.

I felt an absolute must read was Catcher in the Rye – amazingly a book I had never read. (Am I the last person in the English-speaking language over the age of 14 to have not read this before now?) Holden Caulfield is of course the quintessential teenager suffering angst, alienation and rebellion. What a wonderful novel; I believe it was Salinger’s first. Don’t worry folks, I have no illusions that when completed my first book will be in that league. Besides being hilarious and enjoyable it was inspiring to read. I can now fully understand why it is a modern-day classic.

I’ve read that as recently as the early 80’s this was the most censored book in US public schools, ostensibly because of its vulgar language. In fact in 2009 it was one of the most challenged books according to the American Library Association. Vulgar language?? Give me a break!!! My God, network prime time TV programs, not to mention PG-13 movies and contemporary music have stronger language. Only shows I guess just how uptight and narrow-minded a large number of people are.

This is a very enjoyable and quick read and a book I would highly recommend. It is in fact I think a must-read novel for every literate person. Be sure to read or possibly re-read it.

4 thoughts on “Background Reading for My Novel, Part I: Catcher in the Rye

  1. I read Catcher in the Rye years and years ago and I have to say that I did understand why it was considered a classic. Unfortunately it was one of those books I felt good having read just for the sake of furthering my literary experience but one I didn’t enjoy. Something about it just put me off.
    Just curious about your novel – your protagonist, you say he is 18 and gay. Is he going through the classic struggle many at that age do where he is still trying to figure out who he is and where he fits in with society and the world? Or is he pretty much over that phase of life and knows who he is and his place in the world as well as his goals in life? I ask because depending upon the answer – I could recommend books for either situation.


    • Thanks for your comments. My character Brian is comfortable with himself and has no problem with being gay. He’s a bit lost though in turns of what he wants to do with his life. He has 2 older sisters who are purposeful and successful; thus his dad who is very rigid and narrow-minded not only has issues with his only son being gay but sees Brian as being a slouch. Brian thus decides he’s got to get out of Dodge just to be able to survive and find some direction since his dad is such an obstacle in his life.

      Since my story takes place in the 21st century I’m trying to primarily focus on works that are at least relatively new since they will more likely mirror the world in which Brian lives; of course there are themes of coming of age and/or being gay that transcend historical times. Over the past 2 months I have read the following books which in future blogging I’ll comment on but you’ll get a sneak preview now:

      1. Leave Myself Behind by Bart Yates – sort of a gay Catcher in the Rye story if you don’t know it
      2. Comfort & Joy by Jim Grimsley
      3. A Density of Souls by Christopher Rice
      4. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
      5. Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran

      All these books involve characters in various stages of accepting their homosexuality. The first 3 are all relatively modern novels; the last 2 older works but what many would view as classic gay literature. I enjoyed all 5, Baldwin & Yates’ books in particular; Dancer from the Dance I enjoyed the least. Currently I’m close to finishing André Aciman’s 2007 beautifully written and sensual literary novel Call Me by Your Name. Two books I’m planning to read are Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story and David Leavitt’s The Lost Language of Cranes.

      Again thanks for your comments and I look forward to hearing back from you with your suggestions.

      Happy Reading!


      • Sounds like you’ve already read a few of the books I would have suggested. I’ve heard great things about the Yates book.
        You might also look at When You Don’t See Me by Timothy James Beck.


  2. Yates’ book is wonderful. I still haven’t quite finished Aciman’s novel; not for lack of interest mind you. It is a slow but incredibly beautiful, sensual book as I posted earlier. For the past 2 days though I’ve been on a creative run with my novel and want to keep plowing away at it while I’m feeling motivated. Thanks for the feedback and the suggestion about Beck. I’ll be sure to check it out.


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