4. The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
Author: J.D. Salinger
Areas Featured: Greenwich Village, Midtown, Central Park
The Catcher in the Rye is so ingrained in the public consciousness, so ubiquitous, it's strange to think of it as just a New York novel. When revisiting Catcher with an eye to the Big Apple, however, the reader is reminded of the symbolic weight of so many of the novel's locations. From the Eskimo dioramas in the Museum of Natural History to the ducks in Central Park, Manhattan becomes Salinger's shorthand for loneliness and alienation. There are fleeting moments of beauty and happiness, like the carousel ride in Central Park, but these images are largely snuffed out by drunken regret in hotel lobbies and bars.
Writing about Salinger's work makes it sounds depressing, even hopeless. When we remember our early experiences with Salinger, though, we likely remember the levity of the idealistic moments that punctuate the eternal disappointment with the phoniness of humanity. Holden Caulfield's hopeful longing in the midst of misery is perhaps what makes this a New York novel, rather than mere geography. â€”BG