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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Open the door, Homer!: Holden Caulfield as Ulysses?

Some further thoughts on "Catcher in the Rye" in advance of book-group meeting (tonight): Someone must have noticed this, written about this, done a dissertation on this, but the other possible literary antecdent for Catcher is the Odyssey. Unlike Ulysses, it takes place in three days, not one, but still a pretty tight timeframe. And there's a way in which you can see Holden as leaving the battlefield after the war (the prep school, the football game that he alone cuts out on), and beginning a tortuous homeward journey. He's tempted by various siren calls (the rockettes? the women in the nightclub whom he dances with?), threatened by a cyclops (Maurice the bellhop?), is there a Scylla and Charybdis? (have to think about that), a Land of the Lotus Eaters (Amalifi's apartment?), Calypso (old Sally?) - or are these tropes that will occur in any work of literature? Is the Oddyssey such a model, the journey home, that it can encompass almost any travel narrative? The closest point of contact between Catcher and the Odyssey is his actual return home, sneaking into the apartment, unrecognized, there's no faithful dog, but he has to rescue Old Phoebe much as Odysseus has to reclaim his place in the household. It's a stretch - but a thought.

Another final thought on "Crazy Heart," which I finished last night: The end is surprisingly bleak; I had been sure that this was a novel of redemption, a man turned around by the love of a good woman, but, no, Tom Cobb doesn't let Bad Blake off so easily, and leaves him soaked in mud, drunk, broken down by the side of the road, going nowhere. I'm curious to see if the movie softens the blow. Any guesses? What do you think?

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