Academic Nonfiction

A Reader's Companion to The Catcher In the Rye


A Reader’s Companion to J.D. Salinger’s

The Catcher in the Rye

By Peter G. Beidler

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’s guide provides some 250 explanations to help readers make sense of the culture through which Holden Caulfield stumbles as he comes of age. It provides a map showing the various stops in Holden’s Manhattan odyssey. Of particular interest to readers whose native language is not English is the 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. Readers of A Reader’s Companion to J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye will wonder how they managed without it before.

Peter G. Beidler 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.

Self-Reliance Inc.

Self Reliance, Inc.

A Twentieth-century Walden Experiment

By Peter G. Beidler

In the spring term of 1976, a courageous English professor at Lehigh University and fifteen trusting undergraduate students initiated a brave new course on philosophical and practical self-reliance. It was in some ways a traditional English course, with books to read and discuss, and papers to write and grade. But in other ways it was a wildly untraditional course, involving organizing the class into a for-profit corporation called Self-Reliance, Inc. Pete Beidler, the professor was corporate president of Self-Reliance, Inc. The students were all members of the board of directors. Together they borrowed money from a local bank and with it purchased for $3,500 a rundown house near the university. They spent the semester practicing practical self-reliance by renovating the house from the roof on down. At the end of the semester they sold the house. Read the fascinating account, published here for the first time, of the origins and outcome of the Self-Reliance, Inc. Read about this stunningly innovative course that, years ahead of its time, broke new ground and paved the path for a new way of thinking about college education.

For four decades, Peter G. Beidler taught teaching writing and literature at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. He has also taught at Baylor University and at Sichuan University in China. He has published widely and has won many teaching awards. He was named National Professor of the Year by CASE-Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Writing Matters

Writing Matters

By Peter G. Beidler

Writing Matters offers easy-to-understand, down-to-earth, practical advice about how to write good essays. In the twenty-two short chapters, Peter G. Beidler talks about how to find a topic, the importance of a bold and clear thesis, how to select and organize the evidence that will best support that thesis, what information to put into your introduction, how to write concretely, what “voice” in an essay is, how to write for various audiences, how to doctor a sickly paragraph, and so on. Each chapter is composed as a model essay, so that as students read for information about writing, they also read a series of model essays that show them what a completed essay looks like. One of the most useful parts of the book is the closing section on editing, which contains clear advice, with lots of examples, on how to avoid forty of the most common writing errors. Writing Matters was originally written as a guide for first-year composition students, but it has also been used with success in advanced high school English courses for students preparing for the writing portion of the SAT, and even as a guide for upperclass college students and graduate students for whom English is a second language.

The Addiction of Mary Todd Lincoln

The Addiction of Mary Todd Lincoln

By Anne E. Beidler

Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the president we have immortalized, has always been difficult for us to understand. She could appear poised and brilliant one moment yet rude and ugly the next. Sometimes competent and strong, able to entertain dignitaries from around the world, at other times she appeared dependent and weak. At times she seemed utterly beside herself with sobbing and screaming. Historians have mostly avoided saying very much about Mary Todd Lincoln except in reference to her husband, Abraham. To many it would seem that Mary Todd Lincoln is still an embarrassment in the tragic story of her martyred husband. But Mary Todd Lincoln lived her own tragic story even before Abraham was murdered. She was an addict, addicted to the opiates she needed for her migraine headaches.

Anne E. Beidler is a former director of Family House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Philadelphia, PA. She holds a doctorate in educational research from Lehigh University. In addition to The Addiction of Mary Todd Lincoln, she is also author of Eating Owen, a historical novel.