David Warren writes:
[Catcher in the Rye] has had a remarkable and, to my mind, infernal influence on society, owing in part to its author’s literary skill in the manipulation of colloquial language, in part to the emotional and even hormonal power in that peculiar explosion of sex and ego that is adolescent narcissism itself. The proof is in the pudding, and the fact that Catcher in the Rye went on to inspire at least three celebrity assassins (Mark David Chapman, John Hinckley Jr., and Robert John Bardo), along with who knows how many “little league” psychos and suicides, speaks to its real power.
The great German poet, J.W. von Goethe, achieved something similar with his own original contribution to the genre of the “coming of age novel” — The Sufferings of Young Werther, in 1774. It not only triggered the suicides of innumerable overwrought young dandies across the Europe of his day, but launched the German Romantic movement.
Still, what for Goethe had been the over-talented expression of a passing phase in youth — ironically disavowed even within the novel — was for Salinger the embodiment of a permanent worldview. The latter’s paranoid demonization of “the Phonies” is echoed in the 1950s Jimmy-Dean cults of rebellion, in every hippie tract against “the Squares,” and to this day in delusionary ideas about how the world works, among our leftwing “intellectuals.”
Although I’m shocked that Warren, of all people, use the expression “the proof is in the pudding” — I know he knows the expression is “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”