What alarms me about the book - not the book so much as the aura about it - is this. The book is primarily about paralysis. The boy can't function. At the end, before he can run away and start a new life, it starts to rain. He folds. There's nothing wrong in writing about emotional and intellectual paralysis. It may, thanks to Chekhov and Samuel Beckett, be the great modern theme...
The aura around Salinger's book - which, perhaps, should be read by everyone but young men - is this. It mirrors like a fun-house mirror, and amplifies like a distorted speaker one of the great tragedies of our times - the death of the imagination. Because what else is paralysis? The imagination has been so debased that imagination - being imaginative, rather than being the linch pin of our existence, now stands as a synonym for something outside ourselves. Like science fiction. Or some new use for tangerine slices on raw pork chops - 'What an imaginative summer recipe.' And Star Wars - 'so imaginative'. And Star Trek - 'so imaginative'. And Lord of the Rings, all those dwarves - 'so imaginative'.
The imagination has moved out of the realm of being our link, our most personal link, with our inner lives and the world outside that world, this world we share. What is schizophrenia but a horrifying state where what's in here doesn't match what's out there?
Why has imagination become a synonym for style? I believe the imagination is the passport that we create to help take us into the real world. I believe the imagination is merely another phrase for what is most uniquely us. Jung says, 'The greatest sin is to be unconscious.' Our boy Holden says, 'What scares me most is the other guy's face.' 'It wouldn't be so bad if you could both be blindfolded.' Most of the time, the faces that we face are not the other guys', but our own faces. And it is the worst kind of yellowness to be so scared of yourself that you put blindfolds on rather than deal with yourself. To face ourselves - that's the hard thing. The imagination - that's God's gift. To make the act of self-examination bearable.