Banned Books Week: Reading (And Drinking) The Catcher in the Rye
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is why I think The Catcher in the Rye is so damn important anyway. Big deal, we all read it in high school. Except I didn’t.
Well, I did. But that wasn’t my first time slipping into Holden Caulfield’s shoes.
My dad’s a great guy for a lot of reasons, but a big one is his support of my reading habit. When I was growing up, he and my mom all but shoveled books in my general direction, and I devoured them like a furnace. They knew I had a big imagination, so they gave me things in kind: stories about epic battles, or shadowy mysteries, or an average boy enrolled in a very un-average school.
So when my dad dropped a library copy of Catcher into my lap and I asked what it was about, I was surprised when he said, “It’s about a kid who wanders around New York.”
I stared at the cover, with its yellow text and sketchy rendering of a red carousel horse. Surely, robots or aliens would figure into his explanation any second. When they didn’t, I said, “And…?”
“And he’s very unhappy with the world,” said my dad.
“Because it’s full of velociraptors?” I asked.
(Not really. This is the shape of that conversation, but fourteen years after the fact I can’t help writer-ing it up a bit.)
My dad chuckled. “Read it, Paul.”
So I read it.
I took two big things away from my first dip into Holden’s head. The first was something along the lines of: oh my god there’s swearing I’m eleven does dad even know what’s in this book
(He totally did. My dad is cool.)
The second thing, I understood but didn’t really appreciate until a few years later. A book doesn’t have to be a voyage aboard the Dawn Treader for it to be a journey. Sometimes, a story can just be about someone trying to figure out who they are and why their world is how it is. Understanding that made me a better reader. And once I’d figured out who I was, being a better reader made me a better writer.
Catcher broadened my reading, but it didn’t cure my magic-and-mysteries habit. And now that I’m older, I’ve picked up a few other habits to go with my reading. One of which led me to create…
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE
For thematic reasons, I opted to do a slight variation on the Manhattan. Not only does it resonate with the text, but rye is actually the recommended whiskey to make it with. That said, we’re making a drink for Holden Caulfield here, and Holden’s not like any other bargoer. He had distinctive experiences in Manhattan, so his Manhattan should be distinctive in turn.
-2 ounces of rye whiskey
-⅔ ounce of sweet red vermouth
-3 dashes of angostura bitters
-A lemon twist, as garnish
Combine the first three ingredients in a glass or shaker over ice. Stir gently, until well-mixed.
Strain the results into a martini glass or a champagne goblet. It should look translucent, not cloudy.
Top it off with a splash of soda water. Rub the lemon twist around the rim of the glass, then garnish and serve.
One last word of advice: drink the Catcher in the Rye in good company. Drink it alone, and you start missing everybody.