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13 Things You Might Not Know About The Catcher in the Rye

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Since its publication in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye has spawned catchphrases, book-banning campaigns, unauthorized sequels, and untold millions of padded high school English class essays. Still, there might be some facts left that weren’t covered in said English class.

1. THE BOOK'S INITIAL PUBLISHER THOUGHT HOLDEN CAULFIELD WAS INSANE. 

Before writing Catcher in the Rye, author J.D. Salinger was in talks with Harcourt, Brace and Company about potentially publishing a collection of his short stories. Salinger suggested they publish his new novel instead. His editor, Robert Giroux, loved it—but Giroux's boss, Eugene Reynal, thought Holden Caulfield was crazy. "Gene said, 'The kid is disturbed,'" Giroux later told The Paris Review, continuing,

I said, 'Well, that’s all right. He is, but it’s a great novel.' He said, 'Well, I felt that I had to show it to the textbook department.' 'The textbook department?' He said, 'Well, it’s about a kid in prep school isn’t it? I’m waiting for their reply.' ... The textbook people’s report came back, and it said, 'This book is not for us, try Random House.'

So I went to Mr. Brace. I gave him the whole story. I said, 'I feel that I have to resign from the firm.' I hadn’t got in touch with Salinger because I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him. ... He didn’t read the book. Mr. Brace was a wonderful man, but he had hired Reynal and would not overrule him. ... That’s when I decided to leave Harcourt.

The book would later be published by Little, Brown and Company.

2. SALINGER READ THE BOOK OUT LOUD FROM START TO FINISH TO THE NEW YORKER'S FICTION EDITOR.

Before Harcourt, Brace's rejection, Salinger had his short story "The Boy in the People Shooting Hat" turned down by The New Yorker, who wrote to him saying "it has passages that are brilliant and moving and effective, but we feel that on the whole it's pretty shocking for a magazine like ours." When Salinger finally finished The Catcher in the Rye, he drove to New Yorker Fiction Editor William Maxwell's house and read him the story from start to finish. As for "The Boy in the People Shooting Hat"? It essentially became chapters three through seven in The Catcher in the Rye.

3. SALINGER MADE HIS PUBLISHERS REMOVE HIS PHOTO FROM THE BOOK.

A black-and-white photograph of Salinger took up the entire back cover of The Catcher in the Rye's first two printings. Growing warier of his escalating fame, Salinger demanded his publishers remove his photograph from the book starting with its third printing. Earlier, he'd told an interviewer: "Let's say I'm getting good and sick of bumping into that blown-up photograph of my face on the back of the dust-jacket. I look forward to the day when I see it flapping against a lamp post, in a cold, wet Lexington Avenue wind." 

4. THE BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB ASKED SALINGER TO CHANGE THE TITLE.

Before publication, The Catcher in the Rye was selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club to be shipped out to its thousands of subscribers, nearly guaranteeing that it would become an instant bestseller. One caveat, though, was that the club wanted Salinger to change his book's name. Salinger declined, writing to them that "Holden Caulfield wouldn't like that."

5. IT WASN'T UNANIMOUSLY PRAISED UPON RELEASE.

While initial reviews of The Catcher in the Rye were almost overwhelmingly positive, a handful of critics were not amused. The Christian Science Monitor claimed the book was "not fit for children to read" and called Caulfield "preposterous, profane and pathetic beyond belief." 

6. SALINGER STARTED THE BOOK AFTER BEING RELEASED FROM A MENTAL HOSPITAL.

Multiple scholars view Holden's alienation as a veiled response to what Salinger had witnessed as a soldier in World War II, where he spent 11 months advancing on Berlin. Shortly after the German surrender, he checked himself into a mental hospital. Not long after he left, he wrote the first story narrated by Holden Caulfield. "I'm Crazy" was published in Collier's in December 1945. 

7. THERE WAS A PULP-FICTION EDITION IN THE 1950S. 

In the 1950s, it was common practice to reissue "serious" books as pulp paperbacks, designed to attract readers more interested in crime or romance fiction. The Catcher in the Rye was pulp-ified in 1953, with the slogan "this unusual book may shock you, will make you laugh and may break your heart—but you will never forget it." The cover featured a man soliciting a prostitute.

8. THERE ARE MULTIPLE THEORIES ON HOW SALINGER CAME UP WITH THE NAME HOLDEN CAULFIELD.

Some think Salinger got it from Holden Bowler, a shipmate of Salinger's during the war; others believe it came from glimpsing the marquee for the movie Dear Ruth (which starred William Holden and Joan Caulfield). Another theory holds that Holden was a nickname given to Salinger himself by his shipmates.

9. IT MADE SWEAR-WORDS MAINSTREAM.

Just three years before The Catcher in the Rye was published, Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead was published with all instances of f**k rendered as "fug." Holden's comparatively profligate profanity was a revelation at the time, and contributed to the book's eventual status as one of the century's most-banned.

10. THERE IS A PREQUEL OF SORTS TO IT.

In 1949, Salinger was set to publish "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls" in Harper's Bazaar, but withdrew it before publication. The story, which is about the death of Holden's older brother, was donated to Princeton University on the condition that it not be published until 50 years after Salinger's death, in 2060. But in 2013, it and two other unpublished stories were scanned and leaked online.

11. JOHN LENNON'S MURDERER WAS OBSESSED WITH IT.

When the police arrived at the scene of John Lennon's murder, they found 25-year-old Mark David Chapman reading aloud from The Catcher in the Rye. He'd bought a copy of the book—his favorite—en route to murder John Lennon; in it he wrote "This is my statement," and signed as Holden Caulfield. The next year, police found a copy of The Catcher in the Rye at the home of John Hinckley Jr. after he attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan.

12. IT MIGHT'VE POPULARIZED "SCREWED UP" AND "LMAO." 

Though hard evidence is scarce, it's been said that The Catcher in the Rye helped to popularize the phrase "screw up" and the notion of laughing one's ass off

13. ITS UNAUTHORIZED SEQUEL WAS BANNED FROM PUBLICATION IN THE U.S. 

In 2009, author Fredrik Colting, writing under the pseudonym John David California, published an unauthorized "sequel" to The Catcher in the Rye in the U.K. calling it a "literary commentary on Catcher and the relationship between Holden and Salinger." Salinger died in the process of suing Colting for copyright infringement, but he had succeeded in getting Judge Deborah Batts of the New York District Court to claim the book "contains no reasonably discernable [sic] rejoinder or specific criticism of any character or theme of Catcher."

Additional source: Salinger (2013)

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10 Terrific Facts About Stephen King
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Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

As if being one of the world's most successful and prolific writers wasn't already reason enough to celebrate, Stephen King is ringing in his birthday as the toast of Hollywood. As It continues to break box office records, we're digging into the horror master's past. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Stephen King, who turns 70 years old today.

1. STEPHEN KING AND HIS WIFE, TABITHA, OWN A RADIO STATION.

Stephen and Tabitha King own Zone Radio, a company that serves to head their three radio stations in Maine. One of them, WKIT, is a classic rock station that goes by the tagline "Stephen King's Rock Station."

2. HE'S A HARDCORE RED SOX FAN.

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Not only did he write a story about the Boston Red Sox—The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (who was a former Red Sox pitcher)—he also had a cameo in the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore movie Fever Pitch, which is about a crazed Sox fan. He plays himself and throws out the first pitch at a game.

In 2004, King and Stewart O'Nan, another novelist, chronicled their reactions to the season that finally brought the World Series title back to Beantown. It's appropriately titled Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season.

3. HE WAS HIT BY A CAR, THEN BOUGHT THE CAR THAT HIT HIM.

You probably remember that King was hit by a van not far from his summer home in Maine in 1999. The incident left King with a collapsed lung, multiple fractures to his hip and leg, and a gash to the head. Afterward, King and his lawyer bought the van for $1500 with King announcing that, "Yes, we've got the van, and I'm going to take a sledgehammer and beat it!"

4. AS A KID, HIS FRIEND WAS STRUCK AND KILLED BY A TRAIN.

King's brain seems to be able to create chilling stories at such an amazing clip, yet he's seen his fair share of horror in real life. In addition to the aforementioned car accident, when King was just a kid his friend was struck and killed by a train (a plot line that made it into his story "The Body," which was adapted into Stand By Me). While it would be easy to assume that this incident informed much of King's writing, the author claims to have no memory of the event:

"According to Mom, I had gone off to play at a neighbor’s house—a house that was near a railroad line. About an hour after I left I came back (she said), as white as a ghost. I would not speak for the rest of the day; I would not tell her why I’d not waited to be picked up or phoned that I wanted to come home; I would not tell her why my chum’s mom hadn’t walked me back but had allowed me to come alone.

"It turned out that the kid I had been playing with had been run over by a freight train while playing on or crossing the tracks (years later, my mother told me they had picked up the pieces in a wicker basket). My mom never knew if I had been near him when it happened, if it had occurred before I even arrived, or if I had wandered away after it happened. Perhaps she had her own ideas on the subject. But as I’ve said, I have no memory of the incident at all; only of having been told about it some years after the fact."

5. HE WROTE A MUSICAL WITH JOHN MELLENCAMP.

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

King, John Mellencamp, and T Bone Burnett collaborated on a musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which made its debut in 2012. The story is based on a house that Mellencamp bought in Indiana that came complete with a ghost story. Legend has it that three siblings were messing around in the woods and one of the brothers accidentally got shot. The surviving brother and sister jumped in the car to go get help, and in their panic, swerved off the road right into a tree and were killed instantly. Of course, the three now haunt the woods by Mellencamp's house.

6. HE PLAYED IN A BAND WITH OTHER SUCCESSFUL AUTHORS.

King played rhythm guitar for a band made up of successful writers called The Rock Bottom Remainders. From 1992 to 2012, the band "toured" about once a year. In addition to King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening and Ridley Pearson were just some of its other members.

7. HE'S A NATIVE MAINER.

A photo of Stephen King's home in Bangor, Maine.
By Julia Ess - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

King writes about Maine a lot because he knows and loves The Pine Tree State: he was born there, grew up there, and still lives there (in Bangor). Castle Rock, Derry, and Jerusalem's Lot—the fictional towns he has written about in his books—are just products of King's imagination, but he can tell you exactly where in the state they would be if they were real.

8. HE HAS BATTLED DRUG AND ALCOHOL PROBLEMS.

Throughout much of the 1980s, King struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. In discussing this time, he admitted that, "There's one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all. I don't say that with pride or shame, only with a vague sense of sorrow and loss. I like that book. I wish I could remember enjoying the good parts as I put them down on the page."

It came to a head when his family members staged an intervention and confronted him with drug paraphernalia they had collected from his trash can. It was the eye-opener King needed; he got help and has been sober ever since.

9. THERE WAS A RUMOR THAT HE WROTE A LOST TIE-IN NOVEL.

King was an avid Lost fan and sometimes wrote about the show in his Entertainment Weekly column, "The Pop of King." The admiration was mutual. Lost's writers mentioned that King was a major influence in their work. There was a lot of speculation that he was the man behind Bad Twin, a Lost tie-in mystery, but he debunked that rumor.

10. HE IS SURROUNDED BY WRITERS.

A photo of Stephen King's son, author Joe Hill
Joe Hill
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Stephen isn't the only writer in the King family: His wife, Tabitha King, has published several novels. Joe, their oldest son, followed in his dad's footsteps and is a bestselling horror writer (he writes under the pen name Joe Hill). Youngest child Owen has written a collection of short stories and one novella and he and his dad co-wrote Sleeping Beauties, which will be released later this month (Owen also married a writer). Naomi, the only King daughter, is a minister and gay activist.

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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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