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“Catcher in the Rye” has (sort of) already been made into a movie.

“Catcher in the Rye” has (sort of) already been made into a movie. (photo)

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J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” has for near on 60 years now been winning over legions of teenagers who, reading it, think to themselves “I am Holden Caulfield.” Along with “Slaughterhouse-Five,” it’s a staple of teen alienation reading (and freshman English classes). In the horse race of youth unhappiness literature, “The Bell Jar” seems to have lost ground at some point.

Louis Menand once speculated in the New Yorker that most teachers hope to use the novel to communicate that “alienation is just a phase,” but I’ve always suspected kids love it because it addictively contextualizes and makes teen anomie seem smarter than it usually is.

Over at Salon, Matt Zoller Seitz runs through some of the reasons Salinger’s most popular novel should never be a movie. These include Salinger’s grudge against the film industry, partly stemming from a failed relationship with Eugene O’Neill’s daughter. The big point is fascinating — that Salinger’s antipathy towards an adaptation was so well-known that the book comes with the implicit promise that you’ll never have to measure your experience with it against a filmed version — it’ll be a perpetually personal experience.

06242010_igby.jpgBut I’d argue “Catcher in the Rye” is already a movie. I’m not talking about Wes Anderson’s admitted debt to Salinger’s work, populated as his films are with over-intelligent upper-class misfits. Class is key, something angry adolescents tend to gloss over. For better or worse, 2002’s “Igby Goes Down” is almost a straight adaptation; how Burr Steers didn’t get sued for his tale of a young snot hiding out in the city (for months rather than days) and brooding is beyond me. The details are his, but the contours are straight Holden — boy vs. world, floating through an undiagnosable disaffection.

I dig the movie, which, as a portrait of teen angst, is pretty sharp. “Igby” gives its titular protagonist (Kieran Culkin) a brother in the form of the peerlessly pompous Ryan Philippe, who Igby absolutely despises. In flashback, though, we learn that Philippe’s character is just as scarred by their dad’s mental breakdown as Igby, but has learned to deal with it in ways other than drug abuse and being a jerk to everyone.

It forces a sense of perspective into the narrative. “Catcher” seems unfilmable because — as Salinger wrote a producer — the trick’s in Holden’s language and the way he “can’t legitimately be separated from his own first-person technique.” Language makes bearable what could just be one massive snit; to film it (as “Igby” more or less does) requires more forceful narrative measures.

06242010_igbygoesdown3.jpg“Igby” is sensitive to class (and dispenses with the time setting altogether — another problem, since it’s hard to see a new movie willing to think hard about the post-WWII context and how it shapes Holden). It also drove some reviewers off the wall because it’s unbelievably bratty if you’re not sympathetic to its main character’s travails — the worst-case scenario of an adaptation, flattening Holden into just some whiny upper-class kid railing against nothing.

[Photos: “The Catcher In The Rye,” Little, Brown, 1951; “Igby Goes Down,” MGM, 2002]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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