Has Holden Caulfield Been Supplanted by Lisbeth Salander?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

In today’s lead story Big Apple literary agency discusses trying to find another J.D. Salinger in Shanghai.

“We are particularly interested in young authors whose books handle contemporary problems in society,” says Dr. Luc Kwanten, co-founder of Big Apple. “When it comes to China, we are looking for writers who were born in the post-Mao era, in their 20s and 30s. Their works depict the problems and alienation in a society that is moving too fast into modernization.”

catcher in the rye

But this raises the question: In this age when youthful disaffection has been wholly commodified and commercialized, and a bit of Holden Caulfield’s attitude features in every “dude” starring in a soft drink commercial or Twilight knock-off, is Caulfield the touchstone he once was?

Certainly, there are writers who still feel his influence. John Wray’s 2009 novel Lowboy is just one example of a contemporary novel that pays homage to Holden. But wouldn’t it be better for Big Apple to go looking for the next Stieg Larsson and Lisbeth Salander in Shanghai instead? Salander is a character who is altogether more contemporary — a rebel with a cause, a victim/victimizer with a violent streak, tattooed, pierced Goth-Swede super-heroine.

In China, where the state exerts so much control over day-to-day life and expects everyone to fall in line, youthful alienation and disaffection is itself a form of rebellion. There, Salinger may still very well be fresh and new. Perhaps Holden Caulfield is still alive and well and is, indeed, living in Shanghai or Beijing or Shenzhen?

Let us know what you think in the comments below or via Twitter using #ppdiscuss.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.