Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: The Catcher in the Rye

alex atkins bookshelf literatureWhat if the opening paragraphs to some of the greatest works of literature were reimagined through the lens of the current coronavirus pandemic exacerbated by a staggering economic collapse? Atkins Bookshelf presents “Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus” series.

Today we will reimagine the opening paragraph of J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye. The novel’s narrator,  Holden Caulfield, is undoubtedly one of the most distinctive voices in modern American literature. Just about every adolescent can relate to this memorable coming of age story: leaving behind the innocence of youth, stepping into young adulthood often characterize by superficiality and hypocrisy. Moreover, the period is marked with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty — something we can relate to in the age of coronavirus:

If you are bored out of your mind from self-sheltering and really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were incorrigible workaholics that barely made time for me, and all that pity-party, tell-all testimonial kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would take away my iPhone and internet access if I told anything pretty personal about them beyond their phony LinkedIn profiles. They’re quite prickly about anything like that, especially my father, a recent victim of identity fraud. I mean for Chrissakes he uses “password” as his password. It kills me. Any way, they’re nice and all ­— I’m not saying that — but they’re also thin-skinned as hell. Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything, especially since you’re glued to your smartphones watching stupid cat videos or watching the Tiger King’s cat fight with that creepy big cat activist. (BTW what really happened to her husband?) Watch enough of this crap and it will turn your brain to mush. But let me tell you about this batshit crazy stuff that happened to me during the coronavirus pandemic that made me pretty sick and had to come out and recover. All I have to show for my suffering is this “I took hydroxycholoquine and all I got was heart arrhythmia” t-shirt that I’m wearing. It totally sucks! I recently Facetimed A.J. about, and he’s my brother and all. He’s in New York City — of all places! — right at the epicenter of this COVID-19 cluster-fuck. That isn’t too far from this crumby place, and he comes over and visits me practically every weekend to load up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer and N95 face masks. He’s preppy but not a prepper — if you know what I mean. A real dope — I swear to God. Anyhoo… he’s going to drive me home when I complete my self-quarantine next month (assuming I can get my hands on one of those coronavirus tests) since flying in an airplane is like stepping into a giant phallic-shape petri dish swirling with coronavirus and the smell of a dozen stinky perfumes that phonies wear when they travel. It makes me wanna puke. A.J. just got a Tesla. One of those over-priced electric cars that crashes into all kinds of crap when it’s on autopilot. Artificial intelligence is really dumb, ya know? It cost him damn near sixty thousand bucks. A.J.’s got a lot of dough, now  — he finally got one of those PPP loans through the SBA. Ha! the SBA — what a bunch of phonies, thinking that they can prevent a deep recession by tossing out all that loot. A.J. didn’t use to seek out government help. He was a proud Republican and believed that the government shouldn’t help out the little guy. That’s socialism he said. Nobody likes losers. Boy, things changed pretty darn fast when he fell on his ass financially, though. He sure sounds like a whiny socialist now: why doesn’t the government help me now? It’s enough to make you puke. Any way, he used to be just a regular writer, when he was home before the coronavirus shit show. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Pandemic is a Deep State Hoax, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was ‘The Smartest Man in the World.’ It was about this megalomaniac, self-aggrandizing buffoon (how do you like my SAT words?) who was the leader of a country. But he was a real phony — he barely read anything, he never listened to anyone. He really believed he was the smartest man in the world. I’m a real  stable genius he said. So when all the medical experts at WHO and elsewhere were ringing the alarm bells — a fucking pandemic is coming! — this bozo said there was nothing to worry about. What a bunch of B.S.! The delay in response meant that hundreds of thousands of poor saps suffered unnecessarily. And then — get this — the entire economy came crashing down. But all he cared about were his goddam poll numbers and being re-elected. Gosh, it really killed me. Now he’s itching to go campaigning and rewriting history by denying how badly he bungled the response to the pandemic. Hashtag DELUSIONAL! If there’s one thing I hate, it’s politics. Don’t even bring it up.

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