Easy Rawlins

Internet access at last! And, sadly, I have to use it to work. While Scott is off entertaining littlies in schools all over Chicago to celebrate the official publication day of Extras I’m stuck in our hotel room slaving away. Le sigh.

The tour has been brilliant thus far. I’ve met many fabulous booksellers, authors, and sales reps—hey, Michelle & Anne!—and generally had a grand time. Running into John Scalzi & Liz Gilbert was a definite highlight. Liz is in Chicago too. Right now she’s at Oprah’s studios. That’s right, she’ll be on Oprah on Friday! Liz is one of my favourite people in the universe so if you get a chance do watch her on Friday’s Oprah. The whole hour is devoted to Liz. How incredible is that?

In addition to hanging out with book people and gossiping I’ve also snaffled up some pretty awesome freebie books, including the latest Easy Rawlins by Walter Mosley, Blonde Faith. So far I loves it:

“What are you reading?” I asked.

“Catcher in the Rye,” she said, a little frown on the corner of her pillow lips.

“You don’t like it?”

“It’s okay. I mean it’s good. But I just think about a little black child or Mexican kid readin’ this in school. They look at Caufield’s life an’ think, ‘Damn, this kid got it good. What’s he so upset about?'”

I laughed.

“Yeah,” I said. “So much we know that they ever even think about and so much they think about without a thought about us.”

I didn’t have to tell Gara who they and us were. We lived in a they-and-us world while they lived, for all appearances, alone.

Wow, huh?

And now I have some writing of my own to do. Here’s hoping it will be half as good as what Mosley writes.


  1. Veronica on #

    Eh, I don’t know that it’s that wow. That was pretty much my reaction to reading Catcher in the Rye. I hate Salinger.

  2. zebediah on #

    I think its very wow.

  3. Kadie-Wa on #

    I’m going to have to put oprah on my calander. I love to watch about authors and amazing people like that.

    I have a question for you justine. When you write your books. (write or type) do your hands cramp up alot? because in our school we were writing a paper and that suddenly poped into my head. just wondering! thanks!

  4. janet on #

    My basic feeling about Catcher in the Rye is kind of similar, except in my case “they” is men (or boys) and “we” is women.

    Holden Caulfield is the drunk guy in a bar who won’t leave you alone; he thinks he’s being charming and that you’re a bitch for not agreeing.

  5. Lisa on #

    everyone has problems. just because person a’s problems are relatively worse than person b’s problems does not mean that person b does not have a problem, or is not entitled to sometimes be unhappy, or even bitch about it. catcher in the rye is by no means my favorite book ever, (and i do like walter mosley quite a bit) but it’s an attitude that kind of bugs me. holden caufield is basically mentally ill. but he’s supposed to cheer up/shut up because he’s not mexican?

  6. hillary! on #

    I never read it. It never seemed interesting enough.

  7. Justine on #

    Lisa: I see what you’re saying but I think you’re looking at it from the wrong end. It’s not about what Caufield feels or thinks it’s about how the imaginary black or Mexican kid would feel reading a book from the pov of someone who is so comparatively privileged. In that context Caufield (and Salinger) are kind of irrelevant. Easy Rawlins and Gara aren’t telling anyone to shut up; they’re just reflecting on the reading experience when you come from such a different place.

  8. Veronica on #

    I think it’s more than that. Because Holden isn’t a real person, it’s not enough just for him to have problems; his problems have to presented in a way that is engaging, interesting, and absorbing to the reader. Clearly, there are many who think Salinger succeeded in this.

    But not me. I’ve read Catcher more than once, and I’ve always found Holden to be a tedious, self-centered, whiny brat. I might give it another shot some day, because I’m not sure I ever conjured up enough sympathy for the death of his brother (I’m correct, right? His brother’s dead?), but I probably won’t. If a character’s problems are compelling only to readers of similar social status, and if a genuine problem, like grief and loss and how to cope with them, is not presented in a way that evokes sympathy, that’s a limitation of the novel.

    Obviously there are many who find Salinger’s representation of Holden (and as an aside, what kind of name is that, anyway? who the hell is named “Holden”?) to be evocative and resonant, but for those of us who don’t, it’s not just about some kind of superiority of life-problem; it’s about Salinger’s failure to create a character who makes his problems speak to those outside of that situation.

  9. janet on #

    Veronica, I think you have it exactly right. I might have a lot of sympathy for Holden if I knew him personally, but as a character in a book, no. I read and hated the book in high school, and then read it again when I was about 35 to see if I liked it any better. A lot of high school English teachers use it because it has a teen protagonist that we’re all supposed to identify with, which I think is where part of my dislike of the book originates.

    I can’t remember about the brother, either. Could be you’re thinking of Salinger’s Glass Family stories.

    In the social class that Holden belongs to, it’s pretty common (or at least it used to be) to give boys family names as first names. It could be his mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name.

  10. Veronica on #

    Ah, see, I learn something new every day!

    Yeah, the first time I read Catcher in the Rye, all I could think was “I’m supposed to identify with this? No way.”

  11. Josh on #

    best conversation by fictional characters about catcher is in Christopher Barzak’s One for Sorrow, toward the end. fookin’ wittiest part of a brilliant novel.

  12. Camille on #

    late late late reply…

    Why assume, though, that a black child wouldn’t relate to Holden? This generalization irks. The experience of deprivation is not the only authentic black or Mexican or [fill in blank] experience. I grew up rather black (Caribbean) and working-to-middle class and loved “Catcher in the Rye” when I was 12. (Admittedly mainly because he wasn’t like me. I was fascinated by boys’ POV books back then, for one.)

  13. Camille on #

    (sorry, hit submit early)

    I just think that one of the more awesome things about literature is that you don’t have to identify with a protagonist to be cajoled and seduced into understanding or even sympathizing with them.

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