Thank you for posting this, pherank. I have little knowledge of Salinger, sorry to say - I read Catcher in the Rye as assigned reading like everyone else, but it didn't spur me on to read more. I understand he was a hard man to get hold of and some fans seem to like naming their cats and children Zooey. Also something about Joyce Maynard. Opening the floor to more informed readers (and viewers of this movie), please speak up....
Hi Dirac, Catcher in the Rye is a downer, to be sure. ;)
I equate it, thematically, and in its cultural impact, to James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, and perhaps to a lesser extent with Kerouac's On the Road. I do think that the book is going to be more 'appealing' to young men than young women. As director John Hughes once put it, “At that age, it often feels just as good to feel bad as it does to feel good.”
I personally was more intrigued and taken by Salinger's books that involve the Glass family. They are a group of fictional characters that, as Wikipedia describes it,
"are all precocious, and have all appeared on a fictional radio quiz show called It's a Wise Child, which has, according to the stories, sent all seven Glass children through college. From 1927 to 1943, at least one of the children appeared on the show, beginning with Seymour and Buddy. It is mentioned in Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters that each child appeared on the show under a pseudonym as the Black children. Seymour was known as Billy Black, and Walt was Georgie Black. The Glass family lives in New York City; all the children spent most of their childhood in an apartment on the Upper East Side."
Glass family members figure in the short story, "Hapworth 16, 1924", and the books Nine Stories, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, Seymour: An Introduction and Franny and Zooey.
I believe in Franny and Zooey one of the brothers gives out a list of recommended reading, and at the time I first read the book (maybe 18 years of age?), I was fascinated by the sophistication of the list. Much of it was beyond me, but fascinating nonetheless.
Wikipedia gives the plot summaries of Franny and Zooey to give you an idea of what things are like (and they are short in length):
Part of what I found so intriguing was the juxtaposition of mid-century modern Americans, intellectual New Yorkers, grappling with Zen Buddhism and Hindu Advaita Vedanta concepts. Salinger gives us an intersting view of post-war America, in economic boom times, but also in a kind of spiritual malaise (shell-shocked from the war, as Salinger literally was). Those books have always 'resonated' with me. There is something oddly personal and interior about these writings. They remind me very much of the experience of stumbling upon a trunk of decades-old letters written by a family member or close friend. And the letters happen to reveal an entirely new perspective that you weren't aware of.
EDIT: And the exciting news for Salinger fans is that there are 5 unpublished works that are set for release beginning in 2015, I believe.
"One collection, to be called 'The Family Glass,' would add five new stories to an assembly of previously published stories about the fictional Glass family, which figured in Mr. Salinger’s 'Franny and Zooey' and elsewhere, according to the claims, which surfaced in interviews and previews of the documentary and book last week.
"Another would include a retooled version of a publicly known but unpublished tale, 'The Last and Best of the Peter Pans,' which is to be collected with new stories and existing work about the fictional Caulfields, including 'Catcher in the Rye.' The new works are said to include a story-filled “manual” of the Vedanta religious philosophy, with which Mr. Salinger was deeply involved; a novel set during World War II and based on his first marriage; and a novella modeled on his own war experiences."