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Josef Benson examines legacy of classic work, uncovers unsettling writing style
Unsurprisingly, Josef Benson—assistant professor of English and director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at UW-Parkside—has a knack for the written word. After his first book about hypermasculinity in novels was published in 2014, Benson has been hard at work producing his next project.
Benson’s newest book, published on March 12, “J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye: A Cultural History”, explores themes from the classic “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger and the way that it has been adored by readers for over fifty years. With that, he dives into the personal experiences of J.D. Salinger to provide textual context.
An all-time favorite
Professor Benson claims that”The Catcher in the Rye” had always been among his favorite books, and says, “I first read the book when I was 16, actually. I loved it at the time, it was…the book that got me into writing and got me into literature. I was pretty much hooked after I read that.”
Discussing the significance of his most recent publication, Benson stated, “I think [Salinger’s life] is an important part of the story. I went for years and years and years loving the novel and not knowing the details of Salinger’s life that inform the book.”
An in-depth look
“Catcher in the Rye” serves as a criticism on liberalism, and, on that note, Benson claims that “there’s too much whining and not enough activism,” Because of this, he states that the book can be considered dangerous because of its “potential for change.” It is seen as a radical, progressive novel, and because of this, he says that “the book has been widely taught, but it has also been widely banned.”
With the research that Benson has done on Salinger’s private life, he uncovered personal ties to “Catcher in the Rye” that added a new perspective to how the book is perceived. He stated, “these facts about Salinger’s life are rarely known, but they are crucial to understand the novel, from his Jewishness to his love of women. I did not set out to slam Salinger, because I’m a huge fan of his work, but what I found out was very unsettling and also very interesting in regard to how he wrote.”
Benson’s book was published on Amazon on March 12, and is available in hardcover. With the new spin on a literary classic, “J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye: A Cultural History”, is sure to cause as much impact as its inspiration.