The Catcher in the Rye
Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories ? particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme ? With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is fully of children. The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.
The Flame Alphabet
The speech of children has mutated into a virus which is killing their parents. At first it only affects Jews-then everyone. Living quietly in the suburbs, Sam and Claire's lives are threatened when their daughter, Esther, is infected with the disease. Each word she speaks - whether cruel or kind, banal or loving - is toxic to Sam and Claire. Radio transmissions from strange sources indicate that people across the country are growing increasingly alarmed. But all Sam needs to do is look around the neighborhood: in the park, parents wither beneath the powerful screams of their children. Claire is already stricken and near death. As the contagion spreads, Sam and Claire must leave Esther behind in order to survive. The government enforces quarantine zones, and return to their daughter becomes impossible. Having left his family and escaped from the afflicted cities, Sam finds himself in a government laboratory, where a group of hardened scientists are conducting horrific tests, hoping to create non-lethal speech.
What follows is a nightmarish vision of a world which is both completely alien and frighteningly familiar, as Sam presses on alone into a society whose boundaries are fragmenting. Both morally engaged and wickedly entertaining, The Flame Alphabet begs the question: what is left of civilization when we lose the ability to communicate with those we love?