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

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 Things You Might Not Know About Wine
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by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Between the vine and the liquor store, plenty of secrets are submerged in your favorite bottle of vino. Here, the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma spills some of the best.

1. DIGITAL EYES ARE EVERYWHERE IN VINEYARDS.

Certain premium estates in Bordeaux and Napa are beginning to look a little more like an army base—or an Amazon.com warehouse. They’re using drones, optical scanners, and heat-sensing satellites to keep a digital eye on things. Some airborne drones collect data that helps winemakers decide on the optimal time to harvest and evaluate where they can use less fertilizer. Others rove through the vineyard rows, where they may soon be able to take over pruning. Of course, these are major investments. At $68,000 a pop, the Scancopter 450 is about twice as costly as a 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon!

2. THERE ARE ALSO LOTS OF COW SKULLS.

They’re not everywhere, but biodynamic farming techniques are on the rise among vintners who don’t want to rely on chemicals, and this is one trick they’ve been known to use to combat plant diseases and improve soil PH. It’s called Preparation No. 505, and it involves taking a cow’s skull (or a sheep’s or a goat’s), stuffing it with finely ground oak chips, and burying it in a wet spot for a season or two before adding it to the vineyard compost.

3. FEROCIOUS FOLIAGE IS A VINTNER’S FRIEND.

The mustard flowers blooming between vineyard rows aren’t just for romance. Glucosinolates in plants like radishes and mustard give them their spicy bite, and through the wonders of organic chemistry, those glucosinolates also double as powerful pesticides. Winemakers use them to combat nematodes—tiny worms that can destroy grape crops.

4. WHAT A CANARY IS TO A COAL MINE, ROSES ARE TO A VINEYARD.

Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

5. VINTNERS EXPLOIT THE FOOD CHAIN.

A trio of wines
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Small birds like blackbirds and starlings can clear out 20 percent of a crop in no time. But you know what eats little birds? Big birds. Falconry programs are on the rise in vineyards from California to New Zealand. Researchers have found that raptors eat a bird or two a day (along with a proportion of field mice and other critters) and cost only about as much to maintain as your average house cat.

6. THE BIG PROBLEMS IN TASTING ROOMS ARE VERY SMALL.

Winemakers are constantly seeking ways to manage the swarms of Drosophila melanogaster that routinely gather around the dump buckets in their swanky showrooms. You know these pests as fruit flies, and some vintners in California are exploring ways to use carnivorous plants to tackle the problem without pesticides. Butterworts, sundews, and pitcher plants all have sweet-sounding names, but the bugeating predators make for terrific fruit fly assassins, and you’ll see them decorating tasting rooms across wine country.

7. WINE NEEDS CLEANING.

Winemaking produces hard-to-remove sediments. Filters can catch most of the debris, but winemakers must add “fining agents” to remove any suspended solids that sneak by. Until it was banned in the 1990s, many European vintners used powdered ox blood to clean their wines. Today, they use diatomaceous earth (the fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae), Isinglass (a collagen made from fish swim bladders), and sometimes bentonite (volcanic clay). Irish moss and egg whites are also fine wine cleaners.

8. ATOMS HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.

About 5 percent of the premium wine sold for cellaring doesn’t contain what the label promises. So how do top-shelf buyers avoid plunking down serious cash on a bottle of something bunk? Most elite wine brokerages, auction houses, and collectors use atomic dating to detect fraud. By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

9. FINE WINES GET MRIs.

Even with atomic dating, there are certain perils involved in buying a $20,000 bottle of wine. Leaving a case in the hot trunk of your car is enough to ruin it, so imagine what can happen over a couple of decades if a wine isn’t kept in the proper conditions. Back in 2002, a chemistry professor at University of California at Davis patented a technique that uses MRI technology to diagnose the condition of vintage wines. Not planning any $20,000 wine purchases? This is still good news for the consumer. This technique may soon be used at airport security, meaning you’ll be able to carry on your booze.

10. THERE’S A TRICK TO AGING YOUR WINE.

If you end up with a bottle of plonk, Chinese scientists have developed a handy solution. Zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electric field changes the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.

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New Book Highlights the World's Most Depressing Place Names

If you like a little ennui with your wanderlust, we've got a book for you.

As Hyperallergic reports, the popular Instagram account @sadtopographies recently got the coffee table book treatment with the beautiful and gloomy Triste Tropique, Topographies of Sadness. Since 2015, master of misery Damien Rudd has been compiling Google Maps screen shots of real-life locales like Melancholy Lane, Mistake Island, Hopeless Way, and Cape Disappointment on the social media platform. Scrolling through them will make you laugh and marvel at how these names even came to be.

Created in collaboration with French publisher Jean Boîte Éditions, Triste Tropique includes 89 locales accompanied by amusingly poetic captions (called "romances" by the publisher) from writer Cécile Coulon. "Anyway, does it even really exist?" she writes of Doubtful Island. Each place is printed to scale with its exact location provided. The title is a reference to another glum book: Tristes Tropiques by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss.

This isn't the first time @sadtopographies has been made into a book; last year's Sad Topographies: A Disenchanted Travellers' Guide delved further into the origins of depressing place names. "I have not been to, nor is it likely I will visit, any of the places in this book," Rudd wrote in that 2017 title, but perhaps you'll feel differently.

See the cover, featuring Disappointment Island, below. While you're at it, check out 14 of the most depressing place names in North America here.

Triste Tropique, Topographies of Sadness cover
Jean Boîte Éditions

[h/t Hyperallergic]

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