My juniors have been studying the fantastic The Catcher in the Rye, and they’ve been doing a lot of written analysis about Holden, etc. One day I thought I’d cut them some slack and let them do something a little creative: now that we’ve read in Holden Caulfield’s unique voice for a while, let’s try writing in his voice too. My students were to write either about their weekend, a person they admire, or a person they dislike (the previously studied chapters contained Holden talking specifically about a person he really admired, and then some people he really disliked), all of it the way Holden might say it. I was excited to see my students adopt phrases like “and all”, “phony”, “lousy”, “goddam”, etc. (Though, they were not required to swear, if they didn’t want to–they just couldn’t use words Holden does not use.) I got some really good papers, too! And some that weren’t very Holdenesque at all.
Well, one student wrote about me the way he thought Holden might if I were his teacher. The following is maybe my favorite thing I’ve ever read or heard about myself (and I still can’t tell if I am intended to be a person this student admires or dislikes):
“Mr. Snodgrass is a plaid person. He dresses in a post World War II fashion. He really does. He knows how to make a fast buck. He wastes his life potential with a high school English teaching job. I spend like every day trying to tell him, I really do. He likes improv. He should quit his daytime job and go pro. Someday he is going to go out in the work force where he’s meant to be and see how right we all and myself are, alls I’m gonna say is ‘what did I tellya?’ That or go broke half starved trying to find me saying, ‘You ruined me you sonuvabitch!’ Alls I’ll do is run, Snod is not the kind of person you want to start a manhunt with.* He is skinny and slick. He can play the guitar so goddam fast you will puke. Being as stupid as I am I would do it, I really would. He drinks like two packs of Coke a day so I think we are even. He also comes with an odd taste in women. He likes to go for the laid back ones, yaknow? I can never really know what he is going to say, he is a hotshot out of college and you have to have a goddam scholar’s vocabulary to understand him, you really do. If he asks you a question alls you can do is stall, or man overboard!”
*My favorite sentence.
I don’t understand every part of this writing, and I’m not going to try to explain or justify any of this, even the parts I do understand. That seems more fun for everybody.