When I was in 10th grade, I decided to write a book report as a book “review.” I wanted to be a writer, and this exercise allowed me to pretend that I was. The Catcher in the Rye had been published in 1951, but I wrote my review in the mid-60s as if the book was a new release and I was writing for the Times Book Review.

Today I rediscovered this piece, written in my curly teenage cursive, chock full of cross-outs and carats, in an old steno notebook. It’s quite astute–if a bit clunky. Hey, I was 15! (Note my many digs at “society.”)

The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger
(Little, Brown)

This controversial new novel offers a poignant character study of a lost, disturbed, sensitive young man. The novel, which has caused a veritable sensation in the literary world, tells in first person narration of Holden Caulfield’s view of the world he’s living in–an impersonal and seemingly pointless society, one that fails to reach the boy or offer him anything truly meaningful.

Sixteen-year-old Holden tells his story from what the reader gathers to be a sanitarium. His tale is an account of his two-day adventure, from the time he walks out of his prep school and including his encounters in New York with assorted characters, such as taxi drivers, elevator operators, a prostitute, nightclub players, a girlfriend, and small girls on roller skates.

10thgradebookreportWhile Holden tells of wandering wayward through the streets of New York City, the reader learns that he, who has rejected what has been offered him–schooling, money, position–and who seems to take little indeed, is actually starving for meaning in life, a meaning which society seems to have encumbered rather than aided.

The story is told in Holden’s own coarse vernacular, totally frank and uncensored, which produces a story only for the mature reader, but which is totally effective in offering a clear perspective of the boy. Mr. Salinger employs such touching humor that he creates one of those rare works which has the reader laughing out loud and weeping, alternately. With his profound sensitivity but frank perceptiveness, Holden strips the people and things he sees of all pretension. We laugh at the coarse bareness and realism of his viewpoint in spite of ourselves; we find him “hitting close to home” repeatedly.

The novel is laudable from another point of view, aside from its profound characterization. It evinces the sad guilt of our society, a society that can strip a boy of all drive and ambition and replace it with loathing and revulsion toward its hypocrisy. This is the society that distracts and controls to the point where Holden’s only ambition is to be standing on a cliff preventing children from falling over as they play in the proverbial field of rye from a Robert Burns poem. When his sister asks him what he’d really like to be, Holden says, “I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.”

The novel is not totally pessimistic or without hope, however, and not distorted in its sense of values. One concludes the novel with the impression that though Holden is emotionally disturbed and lost, [he] may not be irretrievably so. The Catcher in the Rye is excellent in all aspects, and worthwhile to the modern reader of fiction. This, J. D. Salinger’s first novel, may well prove to be the first of many fine works by the author.



Over Mother’s Day weekend I painted this rose as a tribute to my mother, who is with me in spirit every day, and to all my favorite moms.


Inspired by a photograph by Joel Meyerowitz, who, over 16 years, took a series of images of the same place and published more than 40 of them in his book, Bay/Sky.



Are two crows meant to be together,
as they wheel across the sky,

Tracing the same loop-de-loop,
up, down, and around—
the leader seeming to beckon,
seeming to say,
Come, come away with me
and we shall married be?

Is this crow the only crow
for that?

Some people say
that everything
happens for a reason.

I say

why invoke the rational
to validate the divine?

I say

that the crow follows
not another crow
but an ancient internal command
to do what crows do.

I say

that geese don’t honk
because they love Jesus
but because they are geese.

Miracle enough.

Please don’t say “between you and I.” It hurts my brain. And it doesn’t make you sound more refined, it only reveals your grammatical ignorance.

Most of us were taught in school that when a pronoun is the object of a preposition, it takes the objective case; me, not I. Okay, maybe you don’t remember objects or cases, so try this:

Think of a simple sentence such as, “He jumped on me.” You would never think to say “He jumped on I,” right?

Now reverse the pronouns in “just between you and I,” and you’ll hear how silly it sounds:

“… just between I and you.”

You wouldn’t say that (I hope).

Bonus point
The same principle applies to a pronoun that is the object of a verb. The confusion arises when there is more than one object, as in: “She was very good to my mother and me.” Some people think they’re using more elevated speech if they say, “She was very good to my mother and I.” Not so.

Again, use the “reversal” technique. You wouldn’t say, “She was very good to I and my mother.” So don’t say “… good to my mother and I.” Just between you and me, it ain’t good grammar.

Questions? Send me an email message at hannahbenoit14 @ gmail.com.

Latest painting

Click to enlarge.

Laptop Device

Girl-ReadingLaptop Device

A book does not require a password
with at least eight characters,
one uppercase letter,
a number and a special character
A book provides its own characters,
usually far more than eight,
and most of them very special.

A book is no diva:
it will not tell you
that it is busy writing scripts
or that a page cannot be found (404 error).
A book does not number its errors, and
it keeps all its pages in one place,
handily bound together,
so none can stray.

A book is not case sensitive,
nor sensitive at all.
You can dog-ear its pages,
write in its margins,
fling it across the room,
neglect it for weeks,
use it as a door stop,
press flowers between its pages,
rest your coffee cup upon it
(leaving a brown ring),
and even then,
its feelings will not be hurt.

If you drop a book,
its screen will not shatter.
Its battery will never die,
and it will not lock you out,
nor get too hot to hold,
except during the sex scenes.

A book will not tell you it is a Read Only file,
denying you permission to write to it.
So feel free to write to it,
preferably a love letter
or a thank you note
for being the perfect laptop device.

August 2014