Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”

(1919–2010)

Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused, frightened and sickened by human behaviour…

…you’ll learn from those, if you want to; it isn’t education, it is history and it is poetry.

Noted for its themes of angst and alienation and its critique on superficiality in society, Catcher in the Rye is often listed as one of the best novels of the twentieth century. The work is regarded as, “the defining work on what it is like to be a teenager;” although it is a bit dated now. It is usually placed alongside The Great Gatsby as being a classic of the post WWII era.

J. D. Salinger is a classic writer in the sense that he took his writing very seriously. He was was known to have locked himself up for hours and hours every single day. He’d write, revise, edit, rewrite again and again (and again). Arguably, Salinger wrote to collect his thoughts and ideas for his own peace of mind and mental health (i.e., not to get rich).

Don’t ever tell anybody anything.

Winterson’s “Oranges” & “Why?”

(1959– )

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is considered to be a classic “coming-of-age” novel however, it is known to basically be a memoir. The book is about a girl, who incidentally is lesbian, growing up in a strict religious household in a small English town. It is, as somebody wrote, British author Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Künstlerroman.’*

Half a lifetime later Winterson kind of rewrote it in, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? These to books are inseparably connected as they are in fact two versions of the same story. The youthful one with more fairytales narrated in an experimental way (written at 26 years of age); the second, with more philosophical and political ponderings, the work of the same storyteller in her mid-50s.


* Künstlerroman (German; plural -ane) means a narrative about an artist’s growth to maturity.

Anaïs Nin’s “Delta of Venus”

(1903–1977)

Anaïs Nin was one of the key diarists of the 20th century. Her most famous work though was Delta of Venus. According to Penguin Modern Classics, this book was as influential and revelatory in its day as Fifty Shades of Grey is today. Delta of Venus is now considered to be a groundbreaking anthology of erotic short stories. Each of the 14 stories is written in a vibrant and impassioned prose that literary critics say, evoke the essence of female sexuality in a world where, “only love has meaning.”

Do not seek the because – in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.

Nin’s diaries chronicle her search for fulfillment in what was often for women a painfully restrictive era (I’d say to be a woman today is still pretty fucking difficult, men love to objectify and control the ‘fairer sex’ [sic]*). She began these diaries in 1914 at the age of eleven and kept writing them until she passed away, some 60 years later.

In 1936 she published House of Incest a 72-page novel, where she vividly narrated incidents with her father that highlighted the inappropriate physical relationship she had with him. The book contemplates a dream that she calls ‘hell’, a hell that she wants to break loose from, a nightmare that she wants to wake up from, but seems to be trapped within.

We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anaïs Nin is said to have classified herself into the erotica genre without any sense of shame and is now considered to be one of the boldest female writers of erotica, with a renowned ability to project astutely both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ characters (indeed, she may be one of the best full stop, can you name a better fe/male writer of erotica? Fifty Shades was also penned by a female author).

You cannot save people, you can only love them.


* It’s an unfortunate fact that throughout history women have often been valued based largely on their looks. The term ‘fairer sex’ also implies delicateness. The phrases is now considered dated and, when used, may also have humorous (sic) intentions. The phrase’s etymology is ever so interesting!

‘sic’ used in brackets — [sic] — after a copied or quoted phrase is used to point out that while the phrases may be misspelt, odd or erroneous it is true to the original author’s words. Think of Donald Trump’s June 2019 Tweet ‘cocked and loaded.’ The usual idiom is “locked and loaded”, for which dates back to WWII and means literally: to prepare a firearm for firing by pulling back and ‘locking’ the bolt and loading the ammunition, and figuratively: to ready oneself for action or confrontation.




Kerouac’s “On the Road”

(1922–1969)

On the Road is the novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across the United States. It has been described as, “one of the great American novels.” Above all else, it is a story about loss. Ted Gioia contends that it is a book of broken dreams and failed plans. It’s a book about the search for something meaningful to hold on to,” writes Meghan O’Rourke, “the famous search for ‘it,’ a truth larger than the self, which, of course, is never found.”

My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.

Today, Kerouac is considered a literary iconoclast, recognised for his method of spontaneous prose — covering e.g., spirituality, promiscuity, drugs and poverty — and continues to be something of an underground celebrity. As Hilary Holladay puts it, “Kerouac was this deep, lonely, melancholy man… [you read this] sense of loss and sorrow on every page.” According to John Leland, aspects of the book such as the tales of passionate friendships and the search for revelation, “are timeless.”

Happiness consists in realising it is all a great strange dream.

Ishiguro’s “Remains of the Day”

(1954– )

This is a moving book about the repressing of our desires. It is about how class conditioning can turn you into your own worst enemy, making you complicit in your own subservience. This book will strike a cord with anyone who feels they’ve ever held themselves back when something that truly mattered was within their grasp.

Hear all about it here

The [remainder] of my life stretches out as an emptiness before me.

British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro (who was born in Japan but moved to England at the age of five) is considered one of the eminent contemporary fiction authors in the English-speaking world, winning the Man Booker Prize for his 1989 novel, The Remains of the Day.

What can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves?

Greene’s “Our Man in Havana”

(1904–1991)

This is an amusing read and makes me think of the phrase, “the devil makes work for idle hands'” because in the book, Greene makes fun of the British intelligence service and its willingness to believe reports from their bored local informant. Listen here!

I don’t care a damn about men who are loyal to the people who pay them…

English novelist Graham Greene is oftentimes regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.