Archive for April, 2010

How do I Say?

April 29, 2010


How do I Say?

How do I say when it’s over
That I meant every word that I said
When the world we knew is dissolving
And the love we shared is dead?

How do I tell you it matters
The joy you brought to my life
When the dreams that we shared are all shattered
And you’ll never be my wife?

How can I tell you I’ll miss you
Every day for as long as I live
When the well that we drank from is empty
And nothing is left to give?

I don’t blame you if you hate me
Cuz’ right now I hate me too
And I hate the whole damn world
For what love made me do to you

I just want to see you happy
But there ain’t nuthin’ I can do
Neither one of us will be happy
Till we get past me and you

Someday when you’re not lonely
Cuz’ you’ve found a better man
I just hope you will remember
When my heart was in your hands

by Richard W. Bray

Some Lines of Poetry and Topkis v Vidal

April 27, 2010

Gore Vidal

Some Random Lines of Poetry

And time should gurgle on,

Not lords of nature yet, but naked prey.

Your footsteps feel from granite to grass?

People who do things exceed my endurance;

(I think I made you up inside my head.)

Man hands on misery to man.

It’s always a mistake to worship human beings

“Some polish is gained with one’s ruin,” said she.

out and out meanness, too, lets love breathe

I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

as freedom is a breakfastfood

What kind of beast would turn its own life into words?

And in this flea our two bloods mingled bee.

The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews,


And because it’s a holiday
, one of my all-time favorites, Topkis v Vidal from the letters page of the New York Review.

by Richard W. Bray

William T. Power

April 26, 2010

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasjacket

William T. Power

If there’s a perfect job for everyone
There’s only one for me
I must be the boss of everyone
And everything I see

The thing that makes me happy
Is telling people what to do
So cook my food and wash my car
Or I will fire you

You say you’re not my servant
That isn’t my concern
Everyone must serve me
And today it is your turn

My feet are awfully dirty
They have calluses and corns
So get on your knees and wash them
Or you will feel my scorn

Don’t make haste; hop to it
I’ve got meetings to attend
It’s senseless to resist me
I will neither break nor bend

Funny thing about this place is
My doors lock from outside
And it seems I must be shackled
Just to take a ride

I demand to have a chat with
The chap who runs this place
Though this outfit is well-organized
The protocol’s a disgrace

A fellow of my stature
Must be held in high esteem
Am I really in the psycho ward
Or is this just a dream?

by Richard W. Bray

Some Thoughts on The God Delusion

April 22, 2010

Richard Wright

Some Thoughts on The God Delusion

After patient and painstaking work he convinced his friend that his former beliefs were untenable, that science was indeed queen. But to his horror, Krummie had to confess to me, he soon discovered that he had succeeded only in making his friend supremely unhappy. He thought at first that this might pass, but when, after a year, the man remained miserably depressed, Krumwiede resolved, he told me, never again to tamper with a man’s hereditary convictions (89).

The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams

I’m a devout deist, and I’m generally happy about the recent trend of books promoting atheism. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins is an erudite argument cogently delivered with much wit, and Dawkins is less overtly hostile to religion than many of the other purveyors of Atheist Manifestos recently on the bestseller lists.

Here’s Dawkins quoting Einstein (a great deist who is often mischaracterized as a theist):

I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony that exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings (18).

If I could pick any creed, I would be a Liberal Secular Jew, but I’m not sure how to make that conversion. This brings me (sort of) to a friendly argument the author had with Robert Winston, whom Dawkins describes as a “respected pillar of British Jewry.”

When I pressed him, he said that Judaism provided a good discipline to help him structure his life and lead a good one. Perhaps it does; but that, of course, has not the smallest bearing on the truth value of its supernatural claims (14).

Goodness, Gracious, Sakes Alive, Mr. Dawkins! People, even scientists, believe all sorts of wacky things, so I’m not even sure how we could ever come to a consensus on what a “truth value” is. Mr. Winston’s personal beliefs about a deity neither pick my pocket nor break my leg. I’m glad to hear that he’s a decent bloke.

When Dawkins looks for “Direct Advantages of Religion,” he doesn’t see much, although he does concede that it has inspired much great art. But Dawkins does not believe that people should be comforted by mere beliefs which are obvious poppycock to the trained scientist. Dawkins quotes ardent atheist George Bernard Shaw:

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one (167).

Dawkins makes no effort to hide his condescension, which is a common trait among the New Atheists. Denis Dutton, another God-wrestling scientist, believes that nonbelievers should refer to ourselves as “brights,” an appellation which clearly implies that those who don’t agree with us are stupid. (And there’s nothing wrong with the word Freethinker.)

Lots of good and wonderful and beautiful things come from organized religion, and I’m not just talking about Verdi, Take 6, and El Greco. Organized religion promotes fellowship and improves people’s lives in various ways.

But some people just can’t stand it. Richard Wright, for example, was “disgusted” by the “snobbery, clannishness, gossip, intrigue, petty class rivalry, and conspicuous displays of cheap clothing” which he encountered in church (151). The beauty of the music and rituals is completely invisible to him. As Wright saw things, “[t]he naked will to power seemed always to walk in the wake of a hymn” (136).

I’ll bet Christopher Hitchens wishes he’d said that.

by Richard W. Bray

Chloe and Corn Chowder (by Wayne)

April 19, 2010


Chloe


Chloe

Corn Chowder

Ingredients:

4 cobs of fresh corn
One medium size onion
Several cloves of fresh garlic
1/2 of a red bell pepper
1 cup half & half
1 1/2 cups water
Smart Balance brand margarine spread

Directions:

1. Slice onion and garlic and red pepper
2. Melt 4 tablespoons Smart Balance’ margarine spread in large skillet
3. Add onions/garlic/red pepper
4. Saute for ten minutes on medium heat, stirring until soft
5. Shuck and rinse fresh corn, then remove the corn form cob via serrated knife
6. Add corn to skillet and mix along with two more tablespoons of Smart Balance spread
7. Add 1 1/2 cup of water
8. Allow to cook on medium heat for ten minutes, stirring occasionally
9. Add 1 cup half & half
10. Cook another ten minutes on medium, stirring occasionally

enjoy…

The Decider

April 15, 2010

The Decider

I stepped into the river
It was wet and it was cold
My bones began to shiver
Just like I had been told

I stepped deeper in the river
And it didn’t get any better
I felt my body quiver
And my clothes were getting wetter

I kept descending deeper
And it didn’t feel so nice
I’m a plodder, not a leaper
But it felt as cold as ice

I continued on my quest
My parents did not raise a quitter
I would not fail this test
But the chill was getting bitter

I did not question why
As hypothermia numbed my brain
I’m not the kinda’ guy
Who is threatened by mere pain

They found my body on the shore
No more frigid quests for me
No more chances to explore
No more Brave New Worlds to see

It is true that I am dead
And it’s too late for revisions
But it never can be said
That I don’t stand by my decisions

by Richard W. Bray

Sophie and Twice Baked Potatoes (by Hilary and Richard)

April 14, 2010

Sophie
Sophie

(This is a recipe we first discovered at a cooking class in San Francisco. These hearty potatoes go great with any roast and are easily reheated for a fabulous next day lunch!)

Twice Baked Potatoes (Serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients:

4 large russet potatoes, about a pound each
Olive oil
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup milk (I use 1% or 2%)
2 T. butter, softened
1 T. heavy whipping cream
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
4-6 strips bacon
1/4 cup green onion
Hot sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400. Scrub potatoes clean and poke each in several places with the tines of a fork. Rub the potatoes all over with a little olive oil. Place directly on the middle or top rack of oven. Bake potatoes for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cooked through. (They should give a little when pressed.)

2. If you’re short on time you can bake the potatoes in the microwave. (10 minutes on high heat for 2 potatoes and 15 minutes for 4 potatoes.) The skins of microwave baked potatoes aren’t nearly as crispy, so you may want to rub a little olive oil on them and finish them in a conventional oven for 10 minutes at 400.

3. While the potatoes are cooking, cook the bacon strips in a frying pan on medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until crisp. Drain on paper towels and let cool. Crumble.

4. Allow the potatoes to cool just to touch. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the insides, forming a potato “canoe”. Leave about ¼” of potato on the skin.

5. Place the scooped out potato, sour cream, milk, cream and butter into a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher. Mix in the remaining ingredients, reserving a little of the green onion to sprinkle on the tops of the potatoes once they are baked. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce. Spoon filling into the potato shells.

6. Heat oven to 350. Place potatoes on a roasting pan and bake 15 to 20 minutes or until they are heated through and the tops are golden brown. Garnish with reserved green onions.

Note: To make the potatoes spicier, you could add a small can of fire-roasted diced green chilies in addition to the hot sauce.

Faith Might be Stupid, but it gets us Through (Part 2)

April 12, 2010

Louise Erdrich

Faith Might be Stupid, but it gets us Through
(Part 2)

Erdrich uses Lipsha’s preposterous theology to demonstrate how “Christianity has helped destroy the traditional Ojibwa religion but has not replaced it as the center of Ojibwa life.” (Vecsey 58) No Christian who believes in an omnipotent God could entertain the thought that He might be hard of hearing. But the alcoholism, disease, subjugation and extermination which has accompanied the white man’s conquest of the Ojibwa led many to question the power of their original gods. Erdrich uses the irony of a “deaf God” to reveal the spiritual abandonment that many Ojibwa feel.

While Erdrich clearly enjoys joking about the deafness of the Christian God, the preponderance of Christian references and imagery throughout Love Medicine creates an ethereal, almost otherworldly atmosphere. Yet Erdrich maintains that she is not a “Catholic” writer. She has stated in an interview that she writes about Catholicism in order to “exorcise” it from her system (Purdy 94). But the Christian symbolism woven so intricately into the fabric of Love Medicine betrays an ambivalence to Catholicism which Erdrich seems less than willing to acknowledge. There is even room for some reviewers to discern a hint of Christian allegory in Love Medicine:

Given all the obvious Christian references here, one might feel the urge consider to June a “Christlike” figure, one who has been sacrificed to the sins of history (Purdy 87) .

Although Love Medicine is obviously not a Christian allegory in the sense that, say, Crime and Punishment is, the overabundance of biblical images is obviously not arbitrary: Characters walk on water, wear crowns of thorns, and even achieve “sainthood”. And many of the chapter headings–Saint Marie, Flesh and Blood, Crown of Thorns, Resurrection and Crossing the Water evoke Christian imagery. But what effect is Erdrich trying to achieve here?

The last sentence of the first chapter reads: The snow fell deeper than it had in forty years, but June walked over it like water and came home (7). Later in the novel a character named Moses walked across the lake and appeared in town (75). These are clearly references to Christ. But they are not the kind of images which would bring comfort to pious readers. Instead, Erdrich assaults Christian sensibilities by comparing these two sinful, lascivious heathens to Christ.

Erdrich forges her most vigorous assault against the Catholic Church in the depiction of the struggle between “St. Marie” Lizarre and Sister Leopolda. This conflict can be viewed as a microcosm of the missionary enterprise. The sadistic nun who burns, beats and cuts an innocent Indian girl embodies the worst excesses committed against the Ojibwa by the Catholic Church. But Marie is determined to endure Leopolda’s torment in order to achieve sainthood despite her inferior status as an Indian girl who possesses a “mail-order Catholic” soul (44). Marie uses her guile to convince the nuns that the wound on her hand which she received from Leopolda is actually the result of a “holy vision” (60). The irony of Marie’s duplicitous achievement exposes Erdrich’s hostility for the Catholic Church. Despite Erdrich’s angry tone, however, the impact of Catholicism upon Erdrich and her characters is not easily dismissed. The cogent Catholic imagery in Love Medicine and the manner in which it shapes the lives of the Ojibwa in the novel attests to durability of faith, even in the minds of professed nonbelievers.

Erdich is certainly not a Catholic writer such as Flannery O’Connor who succumbs to the glorious masochism. But Erdrich wrestles with God in much the same manner as that oddly sincere Catholic writer, Graham Greene. The ridiculous yet compelling nature of Erdrich’s literary Catholicism reminds us of so many of Greene’s hopelessly flawed creations who tragically, and often comically, grope after grace.

Curiously, it is in the often ludicrous theology of Lipsha Morrissey where we find Erdrich’s most eloquent declarations on religion:

I thought how we might have to yell to be heard by the Higher Power, but that’s not saying he’s not there. And that’s faith for you. It’s belief even when the goods don’t deliver. Higher Power makes promises we all know they can’t back up, but anybody ever go and slap a malpractice suit on God? (245)

The incongruity of these words being delivered by the same person who substitutes the hearts of frozen turkeys for goose hearts in his love potion is striking. The irony here is that this persuasive testimonial of faith is delivered by someone whose actions rarely demonstrate any real religious convictions.

Native Americans have every reason to deny the existence of God. The most heinous crimes–murder, rape, larceny, and genocide–have been perpetrated against them in His name. And their indigenous gods were helpless against this onslaught. Yet faith, albeit “stupid” faith, persists in the minds of Louise Erdrich’s Ojibwa.

The various manifestations of God in Love Medicine, Catholic, Ojibwa and syncretic combinations thereof, are the results of Erdrich’s attempt to make sense out of her experiences. The people she portrays are, like all of us, both heroic and absurd, as are their explanations of God.

by Richard W. Bray

Endnotes

Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1993.
Purdy, John. Building Bridges: Crossing the Waters to a Love Medicine”, Teaching American Ethnic Literature Maitino and Peck, eds. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1996.
Vecsey, Christopher. Traditional Ojibwa Religion and Its Historical Changes. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1983.

Faith Might be Stupid, but it Gets us Through: The Syncretic Collision in Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (Part One)

April 10, 2010

Faith Might be Stupid, but it Gets us Through:
The Syncretic Collision in Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
(Part One)

Louise Erdirch’s novel Love Medicine demonstrates how the collision between indigenous and Christian cultures has decimated the Ojibwa language and religion. Love Medicine abounds with examples of characters whose behavior is influenced by traditional beliefs and practices which have been diluted beyond recognition. But the missionaries and United States government officials who devastated Ojibwa society were unable to entirely replace it with American civic and religious mores. The apostasy of the Ojibwa has created a vast spiritual malaise because many Ojibwa are unwilling to embrace American values yet unable to return to their pre-Colombian world.

Erdrich depicts a society where the aboriginal world of ghosts, gods, animistic automobiles, curses and spiritual healers freely mingles with the Catholic universe of masses, miracles, sacraments, baptisms and holy water. But these rival religious traditions are presented in a tone devoid of reverence. Furthermore, none of the major Native American characters in Love Medicine seriously embraces either of the two religions. So what is the reader to make of the numerous Christian and pagan allusions in Love Medicine? One could view Erdrich’s allocation of Christlike attributes to corrupt and sinful “heathens” either as a Christian allegory or as an ironic parody. Perhaps the book is simultaneously both a tribute to the persistence of faith and a condemnation of its shortcomings. As Lipsha Morrissey pithily observes: “Faith might be stupid, but it gets us through” (245-246).

The protracted efforts by Catholic clergy to save the souls of spiritually content Ojibwa left many of them in a state of profound religious confusion. In their zeal to add to their minions, the missionaries ruptured Ojibwa links to the pre-Columbian world. However, many Ojibwa remain resistant to the white man’s religion, resulting in “conversions to Christianity that have most often been nominal and superficial” (Vecsey 45). This phenomenon has left many Ojibwa in a spiritual no-man’s-land between the conflicting religions. The upshot here is that many of them, “alienated from the ultimate sources of their existence have suffered intense bewilderment and lack of direction” (Vecsey 5).

The exploits of Lipsha Morrissey (an extremely likable and amusing character) illustrate how the vestiges of Ojibwa religion have been diminished to the point of absurdity. For example, Lipsha is believed by many in the community to possess Native American healing prowess despite his near total unfamiliarity with Ojibwa teachings. He claims to have “the touch,” or the ability to heal by the laying on of hands, which he believes is “a thing that you got to be born with” (231). But this assertion betrays his ignorance of Ojibwa religious teachings. While curing was one of the “primary roles of [Ojibwa] religious leaders”, it was not an inherited skill (Vecsey 162). Djessakids (healers) achieve their curing powers by virtue of the potency of their adolescent vision quest, something Lipsha has not experienced.

Lipsha’s ridiculous attempt to create a syncretic love potion for his grandparents by feeding them the hearts from frozen turkeys that he had personally blessed with holy water demonstrates his perfunctory acquiescence to both Catholic and Ojibwa traditions. Like many of the Indians in Love Medicine, Lipsha refuses to let go of the few remaining shards of his Native American heritage, and his superficial Catholicism is more like an amalgam of assorted superstitions than a coherent theology. Lipsha’s predicament is shared by many of the Ojibwa who remain on reservations in North America:

The average Ojibwa has been stripped of much religious knowledge through the centuries and needs a specialist to perform the most basic religious acts. He still feels the need for those religious acts because Christianity has not adequately replaced the traditional religion (Vecsey 173).

Native Ojibwa beliefs continue to coexist with Christianity despite that fact that the reservation Indians are often unaware of their origins. Their perspective towards living things is thus altered by watered-down indigenous notions regarding the nature of existence. Although traditional Ojibwa religion is dualistic, it promotes a worldview which “did not make a sharp distinction between the orders of living beings” (Vecsey 92). The souls of humans are looked upon as identical with those of animals, superhuman beings (manitos) and even inanimate objects. There are several occasions in Love Medicine when characters behave as though they believe–as did their ancestors–that “entities like the sun, flint, and animals acted with living will; they were living persons.” (Vecsey 92) This phenomenon is illustrated by the reverent reaction June’s relatives have to the car which has been purchased with her life insurance money:

So the insurance explained the car. More than that it explained why everyone treated the car with special care….It was as if the car was wired up to something. As if it might give off a shock when touched. Later; when Gordie came, he brushed the chrome and gently tapped the tires with his toe. He would not go riding in it, even though King urged his father to experience how smooth it ran ( 24).

In a chapter entitled Crown of Thorns, a binging Gordie Kashpaw flees his house in order to escape the haunting ghost of his wife June. In his drunken haste, Gordie runs into a deer which he puts in his backseat in the hope that, “someone would trade a bottle for it” (220). But as he continues driving with the animal in his car, it begins to move and Gordie kills it with a crowbar. Later when he looks into the backseat, Gordie suddenly sees June:

She was in the backseat, sprawled, her short skirt hiked up over her hips. The sheer white panties glowed. Her hair was tossed in a dead lack girl. What had he done this time?

Besides exposing how traditional Ojibwa beliefs continue to manifest themselves among the reservation Indians, these two episodes demonstrate how Erdrich’s characters view modernity. Gordie’s vision of June is consistent with traditional Ojibwa beliefs in the “common metamorphisms between human and animal life” (Vecsey 63). But Gordie’s hallucination is more the product of his inebriation than a spiritual revelation. In this fictive world, the sublime and the ridiculous often go hand in hand.

Traditional Ojibwa beliefs, though remote and often barely discernible from their origins, maintain a powerful grasp on Erdrich’s characters. When Henry Lamartine drowns attempting to cross a river, his Brother Lyman is haunted by the knowledge that “(t)he old one say a Chippewa [Ojibwa] won’t ever rest if he’s drowned, a rumor that both scared me and kept me up at night” (298). Like Christians, traditional Ojibwa are dualists who believe in an afterlife, and they also believe that a river must be crossed in order to reach the afterlife. However, the Ojibwa are required to swim across this river. “If one could not cross a stream in life, one could not get to the next world” (Vecsey 64). Henry’s drowning is also evocative of Ojibwa belief in an Underwater Manito which had the power to “cause rapids and stormy waters; it often sank canoes and drowned Indians” (Vecsey 74). Lipsha Morrissey claims that the water monster “was the last God I ever heard to appear” (236).

Despite his Catholic God’s admonition that “You shall have no other gods before me,” Lipsha has incorporated both traditions into his belief system: “Now there’s your God in the Old Testament and there is Chippewa [Ojibwa] Gods as well” (236). Lipsha speculates that the current plight of the Ojibwa is the result of both the limitations of a Christian God who has “been going deaf,” and the Ojibwa inability to communicate with their indigenous God:

by Richard W. Bray

Holden Caulfield–Whimpering Little Phony

April 8, 2010

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzcatcher

Holden Caulfield–Whimpering Little Phony


Holden Caulfield endeared himself to the anti-socializers of all ages because he went right into the lion’s cage–all those phonies!–without liking anything of what he relentlessly described.

Alfred Kazin‘s America (250)

As Erik Erikson noted, adolescents are often deeply concerned with notions of identity. This preoccupation commonly manifests itself in decisions teens make regarding music and fashion. For many young people, life is a constant struggle to remain ahead of the curve, rejecting bands and fashions they have discovered as soon as they become popular. Authenticity is a key component of this phenomenon, as adolescents of all ages feel so betrayed when a band that they like “sells out” by making any sort of changes in their music or overall presentation which might enable them to attract a larger audience. (Death or glory becomes just another story)

The adolescent quest for authenticity has no greater (and certainly no more enduring) spokesman than Holden Caulfield, J.D. Salinger’s incessantly complaining hero from The Catcher in the Rye. For generations, this clarion castigator of the Great Phoniness of it All has attracted “armies of young people who gratefully see themselves in The Catcher in the Rye” (Kazin 248). What often goes unheeded by Caulfield’s admirers (though certainly not by Caulfield himself) is the fact that he is just as dishonest and insincere as all the phonies he admonishes throughout his brief sojourn back to the mean streets of Manhattan.

For the soon-to-be-institutionalized Holden Caulfield, the game of life has been intentionally rigged against him:

Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game all right–I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game (12-13).


This is a peculiar outlook for someone as wellborn as Caulfield
. Most of his contemporaries would consider Holden Caulfield–with his wealthy parents who send him to the finest schools and supply him with ample spending money–to be one of the hot-shots. Caulfield’s acute egocentrism inhibits him from stepping outside of his rather comfortable situation long enough to ponder how relatively fortunate he is.

For almost three-hundred pages, this whining, self-absorbed narcissist goes on and on about everyone else’s problems. (Nothing is ever really Holden’s fault. He can’t help the fact that the world is overpopulated with a bunch of goddam phonies).

One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies….For instance, they had this headmaster, Mr. Haas, that was one of the phoniest bastards I ever saw in my life (19).

And later when his kid sister admonishes Holden for dropping out of yet another school, he whines:

“Oh, God, Phoebe, don’t ask me that. I’m sick of everybody asking me that,” I said. “A million reasons why. It was one of the worst schools I ever went to. It was full of phonies” (217).

But the most interesting thing about Caulfield is that he is quick to point out that he’s just as much of a hypocrite as anyone. (Oddly, this doesn’t seem to deter the legions of young people who find him so compelling.)

Caulfield freely admits that he’s “the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life” (22). When a potential date asks Holden if he is “from Princeton,” he replies, “Well, approximately” (84). And when a nice old lady tells him that Pencey is a “very good school,” he declines to demur. “Even if I’d wanted to, I wouldn’t have had the strength to straighten her out” (260). So there’s one loophole: it’s only ok to be a hypocrite when your name is Holden Caulfield

When Holden strikes up a conversation on a train with a woman he describes as “about forty or forty-five, but she was very good-looking,” he decides against telling her the truth about her son Ernie, “Who was doubtless the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey, in the whole crumby history of the school” (70, 71). Caulfield freely admits that he “really started chucking the old crap around”( 73). His excuse for this supreme act of phoniness: “The thing is, though, I liked old Murrow’s mother.” (72).

But Caulfield is less honest with himself when he makes up a lie to get away from the almost preternaturally annoying Lillian and her “Navy guy” boyfriend: “After I told her I had to meet someone, I didn’t have any goddam choice except to [leave]…People are always ruining it for you” (114).

But nobody forced Caulfield to say he “had to meet someone.” It was merely the most expedient way to rid himself of unwanted company. He could have simply told the couple the truth, that he didn’t want to sit with them, but that would have been unkind. So he chooses to blame them for the fact that he is just as phony as anyone else in the story.

But I don’t find Caulfield’s hypocrisy nearly so annoying as his perpetual complaining. (I can hear you thinking, “Relax, he’s just a fictional character” or “Don’t you realize that the dude is in a mental hospital?”) Fictional or otherwise, I have a far greater tolerance for guys who choose a life of quiet desperation than those who opt for the whimpering variety. This is probably because I was raised to believe that men who complain too much just aren’t Scandinavian enough.

by Richard W. Bray