I was 16 and my high school english teacher, Rocco Gratale, was assigning term papers for the spring. I read over the list of novels that we could select for our subjects, and tried to go off the reservation. At the end of class, I asked him, “Do you mind if I do The Razor’s Edge, by Somerset Maugham?” My mom had that book on our shelf for years, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to read it.
My teacher said, “No, Gil. I think you want to do your term paper on The Catcher In The Rye.”
I’d never heard of it. I was all about the science fiction and the comic books back then. We were on pretty good terms, so I told him, “Geez, I’d sure like to do that Maugham book, Roc.”
“No, Gil. I think you want to do your term paper on The Catcher In The Rye.”
“Yes, Rocco. I’d . . . like to do my term paper on The Catcher In The Rye?”
I shudder to think of what aspects of my personality led him to “suggest” that book.
Now go read Ron Rosenbaum’s wonderful 1997 essay about Salinger. I never did get around to The Razor’s Edge, but I did see the movie a few years later.