Today, past and present

A literary milestone was published on this day in 1951:

Cover features a crude drawing of a Carousel horse (pole visible entering the neck and exiting below on the chest) with a city skyline visible in the distance under the hindquarters. The cover is two-toned: everything below the horse is whitish while the horse and everything above it is a reddish orange. The title appears at the top in big dirty yellow letters against the reddish orange background. It is split into two lines after "Catcher". At the bottom in the whitish background are the words "a novel by J. D. Salinger".    While Salinger had written numerous short stories, Catcher in the Rye was his first actual novel to be published. Written for adults, it quickly caught the imagination of teens everywhere. Holden Caulfield, the main character,  became an icon of teenage angst and rebellion. 

The novel itself also had a storied career, as one of the first teachers to assign it for class reading was fired. The teacher was later reinstated, but Catcher was banned from 1962 to 1981 in the United States.  In ’81, Catcher in the Rye was both the most censored and yet also the second most taught book in US public schools.

While it may not have been read in classrooms, it nevertheless developed a healthy following. Today around 1 million copies are sold each year with total sales of more than 65 million books.*  (Don’t shoot me when I say I preferred Franny and Zoey.)

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