Monday, March 26, 2012

Same book different cover (or why I own three copies of The Catcher in the Rye)

Confession time. I have a strange habit. Well, maybe more than one...who am I to say. But this is a peculiar one that I'm not prepared to give up. If there's a book that I love and it meant something to me I like to buy different editions of it. Usually I only buy it twice. Surely that's not excessive. The Catcher in the Rye is the only book I have three times over. But two is usually my limit. Am I alone in this or does anyone else do the same thing? It's not like I have to get all the editions that ever come out. In the case of Jane Austen books (I have multiples of many of those, like this one for example) my house would be full of them. So it's not pathological or anything. I'm not a crazy hoarder lady. It's just that if I really loved the book and I like the cover of a new edition, I'll buy it again.

I read The Catcher in the Rye for the first time when I was about 14 or 15. I didn't understand it at all but I loved Holden's voice. I thought he was funny and I laughed out loud during the scene when he was arguing with the cab driver about where the ducks in the Central Park lake went during the winter. Not many books made me laugh out loud. I originally borrowed that book from my local public library. It was a revelation. I re-borrowed it regularly after that and re-read it as a teenager more times that I can count. I still didn't know what Salinger was going on about, but I just knew I liked it. I bought that first copy second hand (the one on the left) because that was the same cover of the one I used to re-borrow from the library year after year. So there's a bit of nostaglia involved with that copy.

The middle one (above) I bought when I visited New York about eight or nine years ago. It's a new edition but a reprint of the original cover. It represents the carousel in Central Park, which appears in a pivotal scene in the book. I actually pounded a lot of pavement in NYC to find a copy in absolute mint condition (no tears in the jacket or dents in the spine etc). Psycho or what?

The last copy there I bought because a few years ago I had to teach the book to my Year 12s. I was very nervous about teaching it because I thought it might ruin it for me. But it didn't. It gave me a new perspective on Holden and I felt very differently about him and his predicament than I did when I was a teenager myself. I no longer thought he was 'cool',  just pretty messed up. But Salinger's writing itself held up and it still has a place as one of my favourite books of all time. I bought this third copy because I needed to have the same copy as the students for page number references and because I had to annotate it. Um, convincing argument?

So there's my confession. I've got it off my chest now. Really, I haven't doubled-up on many books. Honest. Just a few of my favourites. I won't go and list them all, because maybe you really will think I'm mad. So I'll just leave it at that.