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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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15 Powerful Quotes From Margaret Atwood
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MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

It turns out the woman behind such eerily prescient novels as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake is just as wise as her tales are haunting. Here are 15 of the most profound quips from author, activist, and Twitter enthusiast Margaret Atwood, who was born on this day in 1939.

1. On her personal philosophy

 “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

2. On the reality of being female

“Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

3. On limiting how her politics influence her characters

“You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

4. On so-called “pretty” works of literature

“I don’t know whether there are any really pretty novels … All of the motives a human being may have, which are mixed, that’s the novelists’ material. … We like to think of ourselves as really, really good people. But look in the mirror. Really look. Look at your own mixed motives. And then multiply that.”

— From a 2010 interview with The Progressive

5. On the artist’s relationship with her fans

“The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

6. On the challenges of writing non-fiction

“When I was young I believed that ‘nonfiction’ meant ‘true.’ But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth—there may be several truths—but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

7. On poetry

“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

8. On being labeled an icon

“All these things set a standard of behavior that you don’t necessarily wish to live up to. If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

9. On how we’re all born writers

“[Everyone] ‘writes’ in a way; that is, each person has a ‘story’—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at 20 is seen as comedy or nostalgia at 40.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

10. On the oppression at the center of The Handmaid's Tale

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here. Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” 

— From a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

11. On the discord between men and women

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’ … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

— From Atwood’s Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982

12. On the challenges of expressing oneself

“All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

13. On selfies

“I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature. And it does no good to puritanically say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,’ because people do.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

14. On the value of popular kids' series (à la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson)

"It put a lot of kids onto reading; it made reading cool. I’m sure a lot of later adult book clubs came out of that experience. Let people begin where they are rather than pretending that they’re something else, or feeling that they should be something else."

— From a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post

15. On why even the bleakest post-apocalyptic novels are, deep down, full of hope

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

— From a 2011 interview with The Atlantic 

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China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
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People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
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A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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