A Reader's Companion to J. D. Salinger's the Catcher in the Rye
 
Peter G. Beidler’s Reader’s Companion is an indispensable guide for teachers, students, and general readers who want fully to appreciate Salinger’s perennial bestseller. Now nearly six decades old, The Catcher in the Rye contains references to people, places, books, movies, and historical events that will puzzle many twenty-first-century readers.

Beidler provides some 250 explanations to help readers make sense of the culture through which Holden Caulfield stumbles as he comes of age. He provides a map showing the various stops in Holden’s Manhattan odyssey. Of particular interest to readers whose native language is not English is his glossary of more than a hundred terms, phrases, and slang expressions.

In his introductory essay, “Catching The Catcher in the Rye,” Beidler discusses such topics as the three-day time line for the novel, the way the novel grew out of two earlier-published short stories, the extent to which the novel is autobiographical, what Holden looks like, and the reasons for the enduring appeal of the novel.

The many photographs in the Reader’s Companion give fascinating glimpses into the world that Holden has made famous. Beidler also provides discussion of some of the issues that have engaged scholars down through the years: the meaning of Holden’s red hunting hat, whether Holden writes his novel in an insane asylum, Mr. Antolini’s troubling actions, and Holden’s close relationship with his sister and his two brothers.

Who needs to read A Reader's Companion to J. D. Salinger's the Catcher in the Rye?

Any of the millions and millions of men and women who in the past sixty years have been touched by The Catcher in the Rye. They’ll learn something new—guaranteed—and have their lives changed all over again—not guaranteed.

All high school and college English teachers who assign The Catcher in the Rye and want some basic information about some of the issues it raises. This book will let them keep up with their students, who will probably find out about it before they do, and give them some questions to ask, like why this book has been banned so often and, well, what the source of its enduring appeal is? We know why men love this book, but why is it also a favorite with so many women?

Students who want to impress their friends and teachers with little-known facts about the novel, like the two early-published stories that introduced Holden Caulfield. If they need ideas for class papers and keys to some of the basic critical issues in the novel, this is their go-to source book. What does Holden look like? Is he crazy? How come he likes Phoebe so much? And what’s with that red hunting hat? And wouldn’t it be handy to know the number of every page in the novel where, say, the enigmatic Jane Gallagher is mentioned? Look no further!

Anyone fascinated by the reclusive life of J. D. Salinger and the complex relationship between him and his character Holden Caulfield. They’ll read about what Salinger’s daughter and one of his girlfriends wrote about the man they called “daddy” and “Jerry,” respectively—if not always respectfully!

Film buffs who want to know more about all those movies Holden Caulfield talks about. What in the world is The Baker’s Wife about, and who was the kid that fell off the boat?

Residents of New York City who want to learn more about Holden Caulfield’s odyssey, where he went, what he saw. They’ll especially enjoy the map of Manhattan, keyed to his wanderings, and photographs of some of the places he saw. They’ll even see the ducks in the lagoon, the ones Holden Caulfield is afraid will freeze to death.

International students who need help understanding Holden Caulfield’s colloquial and slang expressions like “attaboy,” “buddyroo,” “chewed the rag,” “falsies,” and “horsing around.” They’ll learn that there is neither a gun nor a bull involved in “shooting the bull.”

Librarians who want to make their patrons happy, who want to avoid the panicked looks of people who see that the Companion is not available.

You, because this book will make your favorite novel live once again. Hey, quit horsing around, buddyroo, get acquainted with your new Companion! Attaboy!

I loved this book.
Reviewed by Sue Butler, Adolescent Literacy Consultant, Seattle Public Schools
 
There is something for everyone in Peter Beidler's guide to Salinger's classic 1951 novel. It has detailed explanatory notes, photographs of places referred to in the novel, a map of Manhattan showing stops along Holden's journey, explanations of the movies he mentions, glossaries of words, phrases, and idiomatic sayings--all served up with gleeful humor. Beidler, who obviously loves The Catcher in the Rye, shares his enthusiasm with all who read his guide.

This reader's companion will be useful for students who need help understanding the culture of the 1950's. It will be indispensable for readers whose native language is not English, or who struggle with complex, ironic, or culturally unfamiliar texts.

And of course they will love the photo of bosom of the "squaw" in the diorama in New York City's American Museum of Natural History. Holden says all the little kids who visit the museum "wanted to sneak a look at it." Thanks to Beidler's Companion, we all get to sneak that peek. But we also get a glimpse into many other fascinating crevices in Salinger's novel.

This reader's companion belongs in all high school and college libraries. It will give everyone writing a paper on The Catcher in the Rye a leg up.


Preview The Catcher in the Rye at Scribd.com.

PETER G. BEIDLER recently retired from Lehigh University as the Lucy G. Moses Distinguished Professor of English. Widely published in both British and American literature, he has won a number of teaching awards. In 1981 he was named National Professor of the Year by the Council on Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation.