The Wonderdome Found

logans run dome

Four years ago, I posted a little blog about a poem called The Wonderdome Millenium. I first heard the poem back in 1971 when I was thirteen from a record album of modernist electronic music.  When I wrote the blog, I didn’t have the author, the song, the composer, or the album name, but I memorized the words which struck me for their beauty and simplicity. After a bit of “internet research” I speculated that John Hollander was the author and Milton Babbitt was the composer.

Inspired by Walter Carlos’ 1968 milestone album, “Switched-on Bach,” I was listening to a lot of early electronic, experimental and Musique concrète — at least as much as a teenager could get from his local public library in 1971. As I kid, I was thrilled by pipe organs, player pianos, music boxes, Sousa Marches and any live music I could experience. I wanted to hear fantastic sounds, not just the mass-market drivel pumped through the AM radio “Top 40” pipelines, which continues to this day to characterize the music of the 1970s for most people. My favorite Beatles’ tune was “Revolution 9“. My favorite band was The D’Oyly Carte Opera company. My favorite nightclub was the Shakey’s Pizza Parlor down the street. I found the 1967 Superbowl half-time show thrilling and wonderful.  Most of all, I was enthralled with the Moog Synthesizer and I wanted more of this wonderfully weird music.

The song that housed Wonderdome was unusual in that the music combined a modernist symphonic orchestra, a Moog synth, and a soprano randomly singing the text as she chose. I naively, but fully expected that synthetic music was the sound of the future, and a trend that would unite classical and popular music genres. The poem’s subject matter struck me as a pleasant and optimistic vision of the future, something that was lacking in the era of political turmoil and escalation of the Vietnam war. It would be a few more years before the futurist city of 1976’s “Logan’s Run” would make it to the local cineplex, but the vision of beautiful, clean, organized, livable, plastic and aluminum cities was deeply embedded in my mind, thanks in large part to Walt Disney’s promotion of Tomorrowland, the Monsanto House, and EPCOT, which in 1971 was still a corporate promise that was yet unbroken. I wanted to see the city of the future come to life.

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I couldn’t find “The Wonderdome” anywhere. Not in Milton Babbitt’s discography, not in PoemHunter.com, not in WorldCat.org, not in Discogs.com, not on any of the search engines, nowhere.  But I knew I heard it.  And it is such a great phrase: “The Wonderdome Millenium”!  I searched in vain at places like wonderdome.net and and wonderdome.co. I learned that the comic book heroine, Wonder Woman, had an invisible plane called Wonderdome and Woodhaven, Michigan once had a WonderDome for year round indoor golfing. There is some kinky art series called Wonderdome, and a lot of planetariums and museums have Wonder Domes for kids and performance art.

The only poem I could find on Google that mentions “wonder dome” is My Room by George McDonald.

My Room

Ceiled as with a rosy cloud
Furthest eastward of the crowd,
Blushing faintly at the bliss
Of the Titan’s good-night kiss,
Which her westward sisters share, —
Crimson they from breast to hair.
‘Tis the faintest lends its dye
To my room — ah, not the sky !
Worthy though to be a room
Underneath the wonder-dome :
Look around on either hand,
Are we not in fairy-land ?

From Poems by George McDonald, London:Longman,1857

It’s a fine enough poem, I suppose. Very Victorian, neat and proper in its references to Greek Gods, fine sunsets and fairies, but not quite up to the exotic luxuriousness of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1816 poem, Kubla Khan with its exquisite dome:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

So, here we have all these modern and past references to Wonder Dome, but not mine.  I began to doubt my memories. “Maybe, there is no ‘Wonderdome Millenium’ poem.  Maybe I, like Coleridge, made it all up after a vivid dream.”

Until last week.

Ten days ago, I received a little email indicating that someone had left me a response to my Wonderdome blog.  I normally ignore WordPress announcements in my inbox, but this one caught my eye.  In the comments, a semi-anonymous “rickeyg”, a clarinet player of renown, left me a little note:

rickeyg

OMG! Seriously!? After I got over the shock that someone else actually listened to that record, I went to work to rediscover it.

“Louisville Orchestra.” This was the clue that I needed.  I had totally forgotten about them.  A quick web search of “louisville orchestra 1970 electronic” pulled up this information.

kaleidoscope

The Louisville Orchestra Perform George Crumb And Merrill Ellis ‎– Echos Of Time And The River, Kaleidoscope

Yes, “Kaleidoscope” does sound kinda familiar!  But still no Wonderdome. Drat!

A little more searching revealed this YouTube video:

And there it is! Soprano Joan Wall singing my favorite ditty!

I quickly found a record collector who was willing to sell his superfine copy for a few dollars, and three days later — viola! — Wonderdome was at my doorstep!

Inkedwonderdome kaleidoscope 2_LI

In my version, I only had one phrase off. In my memory I had switched “Comfort” for “Sounds are” so,

“Sounds are soft like lovely flowers”
becomes

“Comfort soft like lovely flowers”

Here is the corrected version with the correct attribution:

Wonderdome

by
Robert Lockwood (1969?)

Sun
Full moon
Two milky ways
No rain, no fog, no heat, no cold
The wonderdome millennium aluminum molybdenum
Comfort soft like lovely flowers
Birds sing hi-fi
Sweetheart
You

I rather miss my version. “Sounds” was a nice complement to “Hi-Fi” and the aleatory nature of the song. But “comfort” elides better and is more metrically stable.  And the imagery of flowery comfort is not bad either.

And the record is great! I love how clean it sounds compared to YouTube’s audio. My family is looking at me very strangely, but I am loving this.  Took in the flip side, too. Not a George Crumb fan, but my mature adult side is appreciative of modernist music in a way that was hard for my teen self who didn’t quite know what I was listening to.

Who is Robert Lockwood?

In preparing this blog and the Discogs update for the Louisville Orchestra album, I realize that I know nothing about Robert Lockwood.  There is a Robert Lockwood Jr. who was a famous blues guitarist, but it is unlikely that he was the poet I am seeking.  There is nothing on the poetry of Robert Lockwood, and it is a common name out on the Web.

I know famous composers often incorporate the texts of friends and colleagues. For example, I met and was once friends with Prof. Shalom Goodman who met Philip Glass through a friend of a friend and contributed the English and Egyptian texts used in the his opera, “Akhnaten“. I figure that Robert Lockwood was a music student or colleague who worked with Merrill Ellis while at University of North Texas College of Music, but I just don’t know.

If anyone has any information on the poet Robert Lockwood, please drop me a note. I would love to hear from you.

 

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Trump’s Child Care Plan: Why It’s a Better Option than Welfare

ivanka-trump-tax-child-careFrom Facebook,

Objectivists for President Trump

An Objectivist friendly friend took me to task over Trump’s Child Care plan. The central thesis of the argument is that child care is not a national obligation. It is a personal responsibility. The secondary criticism is that Donald Trump is not merely giving tax cuts, but giving cash to “low income families,” whatever that means. Also he wants to include employer “incentives” which sound close to mandates, to grant child care or dependent care leave. Finally, the “higher pay” and “equal pay for equal work” language is liberal speak for pandering promises of entitlements.

I understand all that.

I have three responses:

  1. These are *better* options than expanded welfare programs. Reducing taxes is better than promising free stuff, creating new bureaus, and regulating people and businesses.
  2. This will encourage intact families, instead of breaking up families.
  3. This gives stay-at-home mothers a reward for staying at home. It mitigates what feminism has done to child-rearing.

Objectivism is an idealist philosophy, but we are a damaged society that is still burdened with the legacy of 100 years of progressive policy. If this aids all families with small children equally, is it not an acceptable compromise?

 

Update, September 15, 2017: 
Ivanka Trump has been pretty quiet on the child care tax credit and paid-leave program since her father was elected President. She has been pushing, but has been met with polite resistance, even from supporters.  I have the sense that this “feel good” proposal was mostly a sop to the moderate liberals to get them hop on the Trump train and to keep Ivanka busy.  It is obvious that she is just one of many promoting yet another child care program, but she is not empowered to do much more than lobby, and doesn’t carry a suitcase full of 100-dollar bills to make it happen.  Her connections to her embattled father, The President Donald, doesn’t seem to get her much more than an audience with a senator or two. Evidently, the $500 billion this plan would cost is not attractive to the Republicans who are looking to rein in the budget, not expand it out even further.

Still, don’t expect this issue or Ivanka to go away any time soon. She is just waiting for the right time to make her move. Like everything else, she is a pawn on the great chess board of American politics.

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The Ethics of Genghis Khan

Quotation-Genghis-Khan-The-Greatest-Happiness-is-to-scatter-your-enemy-and-drive-67-37-44
Was Genghis Khan the cruellest man who ever lived?

Not many think of Genghis Khan, but they should. More than thirty-five million people living today are his descendants.  He was, at one time, the most powerful man on earth, and more than likely, one of the cruelest.  During his reign of terror, he may have killed forty million people, approximately one tenth of the earth’s population of 400,000,000 in the 12th century AD, and approximately a third of the population of Asia in the lands that he controlled.  His army consisted of 129,000 men in 1227. The Mongol empire was the largest ever, covering 24 million contiguous square miles — the Roman Empire was a mere 5 million square miles — and stretched from the western edge of Russia to the Korean peninsula. (Japan resisted succumbing to the Khan’s invasion only because of the vastness of the Great China Sea.)
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Before he became The Great Khan, he was a poor farmer’s son named Temujin. The future “Ruler of the Universe” was known for being ruthless and ambitious. At sixteen, he killed his brother, in front of his mother, over possession of a fish.  He formed an army, initially to seek revenge on his enemies, but quickly grew it to an incredible size in a short amount of time by promising the men all the women and wealth they could carry in their campaign of terror.  He and his sons had enough soldiers to surround cities and simply starve the citizens into submission.  Unfortunately, those who submitted to him were immediately murdered in mass executions.  It mattered little that depopulated cities were useless to him.  He raped and pillaged with the intent of guaranteeing that his children would rule the earth.

The capture of Mtislav of KIev

It is unlikely that Genghis Khan ever worried about ethics or social niceties or the opinion of the “international community.”  He was thoroughly reviled in his time and for hundreds of years afterwards. This didn’t stop the History Channel from praising him for his “diversity” and “tolerance of religious differences.” (my italics)

Unlike many empire builders, Genghis Khan embraced the diversity of his newly conquered territories. He passed laws declaring religious freedom for all and even granted tax exemptions to places of worship. This tolerance had a political side—the Khan knew that happy subjects were less likely to rebel—but the Mongols also had an exceptionally liberal attitude towards religion. While Genghis and many others subscribed to a shamanistic belief system that revered the spirits of the sky, winds and mountains, the Steppe peoples were a diverse bunch that included Nestorian Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and other animistic traditions. The Great Khan also had a personal interest in spirituality. He was known to pray in his tent for multiple days before important campaigns, and he often met with different religious leaders to discuss the details of their faiths. In his old age, he even summoned the Taoist leader Qiu Chuji to his camp, and the pair supposedly had long conversations on immortality and philosophy.

What a load of crap!  A man who happily tramples on royalty with horses, decapitates the men he conquers, treats women like his personal cum repositories, and enslaves children has no “shamanistic” belief system. mongol

The man was a cruel and vicious Mongol warlord!  He didn’t give a shit about religion. Cruelty was a not only his weapon. It was a sport he loved.  Even the Ottoman Muslims were afraid of him!

As we contemplate how we should respond to the barbarians that encroach upon us today, such as ISIS and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, we should bear in mind how submission and subservience does not buy peace. It only hastens our deaths and the end of our culture forever.

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Sheriff Joe Runs Afoul of the Deep State

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Another example of leftist judicial activism against an elected conservative.

Sheriff Joe was enforcing Federal Law in contradiction to a District Judge G. Murray Snow’s order to stop turning over illegal alien criminals to ICE, which was arbitrary, unconstitutional order, and under appeal. The DOJ has ordered that counties turn over criminal aliens.

It was Judge Snow himself who demanded that Judge Bolton go after Arpaio.

Sheriff Joe wants and deserves a jury trial.

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Remembering Solzhenitzyn

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Annemarie reminded me that Solzhenitsyn and Salinger were both living in the Dartmouth College area when I was there in the 1980s. Saw Salinger, but never Solzhenitsyn. Guess he didn’t like English language bookstores. Or maybe he feared assasination by the KGB. Both probably true.

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26014867/ns/us_news-life/t/vermont-town-remembers-solzhenitsyn-fondly/

 

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Ten Thing That Changed My Life

Ten life changing things I’m really glad I did:

10.) Boxing. I found my sport!

9.) Moved out of California. Yes, I love my home state and miss my family, but the place was making me crazy.

8.) Traveled to Israel. Beautiful country. Helped me to understand the righteousness of the Israeli cause.

7.) Became an English major in college. I still became a “computer guy” but I am literate, too.

6.) Bought a house in the ’90s. Prices were low, and rates got better.

5.) Taught. Yes, I was a real college professor!

4.) Converted to Conservatism. (Rush Limbaugh is a god!)

3.) Read Ayn Rand and studied objectivism.

2.) I had lots of children, though it was terrifying at first. Thank God, I never bought into the “population bomb” theory. They are still beautiful babies to me.

1.) Married Annette D’Agostino. She is so happy and tolerant. Exactly what I needed in my life.

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Slavery’s Global Comeback

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Think slavery has gone away, a relic of earlier centuries?

“Nay, nay!” as the late John Pinette used to say.

Communists and Muslims are practicing it.

“There are now twice as many people enslaved in the world as there were in the 350 years of the transatlantic slave trade…. Assuming even the rough accuracy of 27 million, there are likely more slaves in the world today than there have been at any other time in human history. For some quick perspective on that point: Over the entire 350 years of the transatlantic slave trade, 13.5 million people were taken out of Africa. That’s equal to just half the the world’s slave population today.”

Slavery’s Global Comeback

Globalists are hoping to spread this practice around the world. “Refugees” are needed to prop up failing welfare states with declining birth rates. European, North American and Australian nations are being repopulated with Africans and West Asians.

This is how we used to transport slaves in the 18th century.  Crude and inhuman, right?

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Today, they import themselves. See the difference?

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How about an Alternate Reality show with No Government?


In light of recent dismantling of Civil War monuments in the South, it is not surprising that the Left is amping up the racial division with not one, but two Alternate Reality series, one which fantasizes about America if the Confederacy had won the war — and continued the institution of slavery, and another if the freed black slaves staged an uprising and created a separate nation in the South.

Both programs sound absolutely hideous.  Both promise to further exacerbate race relations which have already been at their worst in 50 years.  Why would someone — two major production companies — want to exploit racial fears by depicting white people as hideously racist and oppressive, and blacks as justifiably angry and violent?

The producers say it is about stimulating a dialog on issues that have gone unaddressed and unresolved in modern American society, namely, hidden racism and discrimination. But that all sits on the presumption that the entire Civil War and especially the Civil Rights movement were abject failures.  Nothing was really accomplished.  White politicians and the white majority public simply gave lip service to “civil rights” and nothing changed fundamentally.  Whites are still privileged and blacks are still oppressed.  Instead of outright racism and “Jim Crow” laws, we whites merely sublimated our oppressive behavior to relieve our guilt while continuing and benefitting from the behavior.  Thus, “dialog” is intended to awaken both races to balance the scales of social justice.

But it is clear to me that this “dialog” is a self-serving justification. A better analysis of the causes of racism and the continuing downfall of the blacks in America points to the rise of the welfare state and deep resentment of perceived racial inequalities, even if those inequalities no longer exist in law.  Whites *have* destroyed blacks, particularly in the dismantling of the black family and their increasing dependence on the state.  Blacks *do* have a legitimate gripe, but not for the reasons they have been told.  The never ending reparations from government in the form of welfare and welfare regulations has stripped most blacks, and especially black men, of all dignity of caring for a family and being productive members of society.

Whites *do* have reason to fear and loath. They are being told that there is *nothing* they can do to mitigate their racism other than submit them selves and future generations to an intensely racist experience — 400 years of oppression by people of color. Especially in the universities and corporate environment, blacks are being given preference in hiring simply because they are black, and not necessarily because they have merited the appointment. But for working class whites, who have a tendency to perceive reality better than their “educated” class counterparts, they experience the racial divide more acutely.  Close encounters with angry welfare dependent blacks is stripped of any the veneer of civility that exists in executive suites. According to the cultural Marxist/Black Lives Matter narrative, it would be just better all around if whites committed democide and stopped having children altogether.  Better yet, just die already.  This sort of rhetoric may seem fringe and “extreme” but as a tenant of left-wing thought, it becoming more mainstream.

Bottom line, we don’t need to fantasize about extreme racial stereotypes. We need to envision a society without government, not one where the government is even more corrupt than it is now.  I want to imagine a world where government and the state do not exist, where my rights are respected, and where people treat others based, not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character.

Amazon to counter-program ‘Confederate’ with reparations-themed ‘Black America’ 

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The French Woman

Part of the fun of “Twin Peaks: The Return” is that you never know what to expect next. You are hoping for a little advance in the storyline, but what keeps you hooked are all these “Wow!” and “Oh My Gawd!” and “What the fok!” moments. I have no idea how it all ties together. But Wow!

Twin Peaks Episode 12: Two Scenes Explain Return Microcosm

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The Secret Rape of Holden Caulfield

After a span of some 40 years, I recently got around to rereading J. D. Salinger’s “A Catcher in the Rye”.  I came away from this novel with a very different interpretation of its meaning than when I first read it in English class, oh so long ago.  I was shocked, not because of the narrator Holden’s Caulfield’s course language, his negativity, or the situations he retells, but by what was left unsaid, the story behind his story that Salinger has woven, like the random patterns on the Nazca Plain of Caulfield’s mind that can only be understood when viewed at a very high elevation.

“Catcher” is a story of the consequence of child sexual abuse.

The character of Holden Caulfield has been interpreted variously, primarily by most as a tale of teenage angst. He is angry, cynical, snarky, tearful, raging, full of sexual energy, confused, depressed, and crazy.  He is intelligent, but lies constantly.  He alternates between moments of great tenderness and insight, and extremely provocative behavior.  He is obsessed by innocence, or rather the loss of it, and he doesn’t know how to deal maturely with adult behaviors. He is bothered by changes in his sixteen year-old body, desirous of women but suspicious of their motives, is outwardly homophobic, but fascinated by perverted behavior.  It is from this outward appearance of Holden Caulfield that we think that this is a coming-of-age novel or teenage rebellion.

But novels of this genre, like “Candide” and “David Copperfield,” generally end on a happy and reconciled note.   David marries the woman he should have married all along and lives happily ever after. Candide retires to his farm in America, a sadder, but wiser country gentleman.  Even in the 1954 movie, “Rebel Without a Cause,” which was inspired, in part, by “Catcher in the Rye,” James Dean’s conflicted teen character, Jim Stark, is reconciled back to his family. Holden Caulfield, on the other hand, winds up in what appears to be a mental hospital, his spirit subdued, perhaps due to the crude psychiatric treatments available in the 1950s. His story is a descent into madness, closer to Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” in character.

Holden’s story is best understood as a long and elaborate tall-tale centered on his relationship with a Mr. Antolini, a friend of his parents and a former English teacher at Elkton Hills, one of three prep schools Holden attended, and the one he hates the most — Pency Prep and the Whooton School being the other two.

As Holden’s emotional crisis in New York City starts to reach its peak, he suddenly thinks to call Mr. Antolini, “the best teacher I ever had,” presumably because he isn’t “phony,” even though it is very late at night, perhaps near dawn.  Prior to this point, which is near the end of the novel, Holden makes no mention of this teacher who had encouraged him in developing his obvious writing skills. It also turns out that Mr. Antolini was a friend of Holden’s parents, and presumably a trusted man. It is refreshing to read about an adult character that Holden actually likes.  But we are being set up by the author to place our trust in an evil man, just as Holden was misled by Antolini.

In chapter 24, though it is the middle of the night, Antolini invites Holden in and provides him with an understanding ear, some comforting life advice, and a place to sleep. Mrs. Antolini, who is much older than her husband and seemingly in a marriage of convenience, makes them coffee and goes off to bed. Mr. Antolini prepares himself a series of strong alcoholic drinks and smokes several cigarettes.

Fighting off sleep “all of a sudden” and yawning obviously, Mr. Antolini prepares Holden’s bed on the couch.  Holden is asleep within minutes.

Holden is startled and awakes only to find Mr. Antolini sitting on the floor beside him and touching him.

“I woke up all of a sudden.  I don’t know what time it was or anything, but I woke up.  I felt something on my head, some guy’s hand. Boy, it really scared hell out of me.  What it was, it was Mr. Antolini’s hand.  What he was doing was, he was sitting on the floor right next to the couch, in the dark and all, and he was sort of petting me or patting me on the goddam head.  Boy, I’ll bet I jumped about a thousand feet.”

Frightened by this obviously sexual advance, Holden immediately dresses and hurriedly leaves the apartment, while Antolini makes some feeble excuses for his behavior.  Holden’s physical reaction is telling:

“Boy, I was shaking like a madman. I was sweating, too.  When something perverty like that happens, I start sweating like a bastard. That kinda stuff’s happening to me about twenty times since I was a kid. I can’t stand it.”

Though he has a penchant for exaggerating his numbers, his claim that he has had multiple encounters with pedophiles throughout his childhood is a major alarm bell.  Holden seems to want to forget about it, but he can’t.  Like many victims of child sexual assault, he start to doubt himself — perhaps he was wrong — wonders if he should return to the Antolini household, and blames himself for what just happened.   In Penn Station, he becomes unreasonably afraid to cross the street, has a bout of diarrhea, and collapses unconscious to the floor of a public bathroom.

Although Salinger doesn’t explicitly say so, Holden shows all the signs of having been drugged with a sedative, perhaps in the coffee served by Mrs. Antolini.  Rereading chapter 24, Mr. Antolini’s rambling advice on opening up the size of his mind through education.  It becomes clear that Antolini is grooming Holden and, through innuendos, leading him into considering the homosexual lifestyle.

“‘Once you get past all the Mr. Vinsons [a reference to Holden’s “Oral Expression” teacher, i.e., an inferior instructor] , you’re going to start getting closer and closer – that is, if you want to, and if you look for it and wait for it – to the kind of information that will be very, very dear to your heart.  Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score.  You’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now.  Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them–if you want to.  Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.'”

What the hell is Antolini going on about? He pretends to be talking about scholarship, but this is a very abstract and confusing conversation to have with anyone in the early morning hours. Like a typical pedophile, Antolini believes that Holden, who he calls a “handsome boy,” wants to be sexually awakened by an older man.  Antolini is reassuring Holden that the man-boy sexual experience, though initially confusing, frightening, and even sickening, is actually beautiful and poetic. He even offers to share erotic literature with Holden.

Antolini touts his own superior qualifications.

“‘I do say that educated and scholarly men, if they’re brilliant and creative to begin with–which unfortunately is rarely the case–tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than men who are merely brilliant and creative.  They tend to express themselves more clearly, and they usually have a passion for following their thoughts through to the end…. Do you follow me at all?'”

Read as a pedophile appeal, Antolini is boasting of his broad and sophisticated knowledge of sexual practices.  Why bother with having sex with “brilliant and creative” amateurs, when you can have sex with a scholarly man? “Do you follow me at all?”

Holden obviously doesn’t. Even if he were not dealing with the effects of his drugging, Holden is clearly attracted to women.  He wants to have sex with young women such as his sometime girlfriend Sally Hayes, stripper Faith Cavendish, his brother’s girlfriend, Lillian Simmons, the prostitute Sunny, and numerous bar flies. Holden is unable to consummate any of these relationships which leads the reader to believe he is probably gay.  But in the context of homosexual sexual abuse, Holden’s fantastic obsession with having sex with a woman becomes a form of compensation, a way to “prove” to himself that he not “a flit.”  To Holden, these women are props, girls that he doesn’t really care about.  He is not really interested in having loveless sex. Holden is bothered by how his roommate Stradlater routinely has forced sexual intercourse with women in the back of Coach Ed Bankey’s car.

Holden has an abiding love for his childhood summer friend, Jane Gallagher.  Jane and Holden are the same age, play checkers, tennis and golf, and hold hands on walks and in the movie theater.

“I got to really know her quite intimately.  I don’t mean it was anything physical or anything –– it wasn’t ––but we saw each other all the time. You don’t have to get to sexy to know a girl.”

Unlike the self-centered, outspoken, and somewhat frivolous Sally, Jane is introverted, but sincere and scholarly.  And they share a secret. Jane is being sexually abused by Mr. Cudahy, her step-father, a failed playwrite and drunken lout who walks around in his underwear and even naked in front of Jane.  Holden relates how Jane becomes oddly unresponsive in his presence.

“…all of a sudden this booze hound her mother was married to came out on the porch and asked Jane if there were any cigarettes in the house. I didn’t know him too well or anything, but he looked like the kind of guy that wouldn’t talk to you much unless he wanted something off you. He had a lousy personality. Anyway, old Jane wouldn’t answer him when he asked her if she knew where there was any cigarettes. So the guy asked her again, but she still wouldn’t answer him. She didn’t even look up from the game. Finally the guy went inside the house. When he did, I asked Jane what the hell was going on. She wouldn’t even answer me, then. She made out like she was concentrating on her next move in the game and all. Then all of a sudden, this tear plopped down on the checkerboard. On one of the red squares—boy, I can still see it. She just rubbed it into the board with her finger. I don’t know why, but it bothered hell out of me.”

Holden sits down next to her to comfort her in her distress. This intimate moment is followed by an explosion of passion between them, including kisses all over her face, “except her mouth and all. She sort of wouldn’t let me get to her mouth.”  Like Holden, Jane wants a true love making, not the abuse that involved forced kissing about the mouth.  Holden claims not to know what was bothering Jane, but, in the same breath, he imagines that Cudahy “tried to get wise with her.”

Holden is unable to bring himself to see or call Jane, even though she is visiting Pencey, literally in the building next door.  This can be explained in terms of his own distressed state of mind.  He doesn’t want Jane to see him in his agitated state.  What is perhaps harder to explain is why he allows Stradlater, a known womanizer, to go out with Jane in the first place.  Holden could easily have offered to take Jane out himself. Instead, he attacks Stradlater only after he returns from his date with Jane.

The answer is that Jane knew him “the summer before last” when Holden was thirteen or fourteen, shortly after the death of his brother Allie, and presumably before Holden experienced his own string of victimizations.  Jane is an icon of innocence, a bruised flower.  He hasn’t seen her in a year and a half. Has she retained her innocence, or has she become a slut, a woman who gives away her sex favors to the BMOC?  Does Jane still love him?

When Stradlater returns from his date, it becomes clear––to Holden at any rate–– that he indeed had intercourse with Jane.  Stradlater doesn’t boast about his conquest, leading Holden to think that “something had gone funny.”  Jane had resisted Stradlater’s seduction.  This is why Holden explodes in anger.  Stradlater has made her a victim yet again.

All throughout the narrative, Holden hints at his victimization.  Holden calls practically every adult and school mate “a phony,” a person who pretends to be something that they are not or who is hiding a shameful truth. Holden’s journey begins long before his adventures in New York. He first encounters sex abuse while he is at the Whooton school.

It is not clear from the narrative who abused him first, but Carl Luce, Holden’s student advisor at Whooton may have been involved. Holden considers calling Luce when he first arrives at Penn Station, but changes his mind, saying “I didn’t like him much.”  However, he changes his mind when his date with Sally Hayes goes badly.  Holden notes that Luce, who is three years older (19), is an intellectual who had the highest IQ at Whooton. Still, he considered him to be a “fat-assed phony.”

Luce was well-versed in perverse sexual practices, and would enterain the younger boys with titillating stories:

“The only thing he ever did was give us these sex talks and all, late at night when there was a bunch of guys in his room. He knew quite a bit about sex, especially perverts and all. He was telling us about a lot of creepy guys that go around having affairs with sheep, and guys that go around with girls’ pants sewed in the lining of their hats and all.  And flits and Lesbians.  Old Luce knew who every flit and Lesbian in the United States was.  All you had to do was mention somebody–anybody–and old Luce would tell you if he was a flit or not.”

Holden suspects that Luce’s sex talk and carnal knowledge was a cover for his own secret homosexuality. As counselor to the younger boys, Luce was also unusually obsessed with the details of their sex lives:

“He said that you could turn into one [a flit] practically overnight, if you had the traits and all. He used to scare the hell out of us. I kept waiting to turn into a flit or something…. When we were at Whooton, he’d make you describe the most personal stuff that happened to you.  But if you you started asking him questions about himself, he got sore.”

On meeting Luce at the Wicker Bar, apparently a meeting place for homosexual men, Holden attacks Luce sarcastically.

“‘Hey, I got a flit for you,’ I told him. ‘At the end of the bar. Don’t look now. I’ve been saving him for ya.'”

“‘How’s your sex life?'” I asked him.

“‘What are you majoring in?’ I asked him. ‘Perverts?’ I was only horsing around.”

Luce, visibly annoyed by this questioning, reveals that he has a Chinese girlfriend, who is in her thirties, a sculptress, and a new immigrant from Shanghai. When asked why, Luce says he prefers “Eastern philosophy” which regards sex as both “a physical and a spiritual experience.” Holden mocks him, suggesting that he, too, should go to China to improve his sex life.  Regardless if Luce is gay, he is in an unusual relationship where he is serving the sexual needs of an older, dominating woman.  Given Luce’s background, this is just another sexual adventure and possibly a cover for his preference for gay men.

While at Elkton Hills, Holden witnessed the murder of an introverted, and possibly gay student, James Castle. Castle has called another student, apparently a bully, of being “conceited.”  The bully and his friends confront Castle in his room to extract an apology:

“…he wouldn’t do it. So they started in on him. I won’t even tell you what they did to him––it’s too repulsive––but he still wouldn’t take it back, old James Castle.”

Castle then “jumped out the window” rather than take back the insult.

The account is hard to understand the way Holden tells it. To call another student “conceited,” meaning excessively vain, is hardly an insult to warrant a severe response leading to a death by suicide.  It’s easier to conclude that James Castle was anally raped and the thrown out the window.

This interpretation is reinforced by the appearance of the Elkton Hills teacher and secret pedophile, Mr. Antolini. He verifies that Castle is really dead, picks up the body, and then carries him to the infirmary. In re-reading these passages, it seems likely that Mr. Antolini and Headmaster Hass, “the phoniest bastard I ever met in my life,” concocted the suicide story to prevent the details of his murder from reaching the parents. But the other students would have known what really happened.  It was an open secret.

As a teen, I was led to see Holden Caulfield as a rebel against … something.  Something was wrong in Holden’s universe.  As teenagers would, we took it to mean that there was something wrong with the world as a whole.  As in the movie, “A Rebel Without a Cause,” where James Dean’s character Jim Stark is rebelling against something unnamable, maybe his parents, maybe his middle-class suburban upbringing, maybe conformity.  But none it makes much sense. If you read “Catcher” in the same way, you will come away with this vagueness.  Holden is looking for love, tenderness, real relationships.  But everyone he knows, except for his sister, Phoebe, is purely self-centered and is only interested in using Holden.  He sabotages virtually all of his relationships and takes on personae of being more mature and sophisticated than he really is.  He is as big a phoney as all the phonies he despises.

So, there it sits… until you realize that Holden Caulfield has been sexually abused by his trusted teachers. Holden is a victim, not of society, but of real predators, many times over.  He can’t talk about it directly with anyone, not even you the reader.  He is revealed in the end to be the resident of a mental hospital.  He has constructed the story you have just read for another psychiatrist.  Yet, despite his opportunity to be truly honest, he does not mention the cause of his distress directly.  He represses his homosexual feelings.  He may have even taken pleasure in his repeat sexual encounters.  He cannot bear the thought that he might be the very pervert that he rails against.

The phoniness that Holden condemns is caused by our desires to see the world as perfect and perfectable.  We resist having open discussions about things that we are ashamed of, but that occur with some regularity.  Holden does his best to expose the seamy underside of life among the urban upper middle-class, but he is being unfair. The story is clearly not accurate. The timeline of the story unrealistically packs a month’s worth of experiences into a few days. The encounters seem just too pat, intended to impress and manipulate. We don’t even know if his encounters were partially real or totally imaginary. (Holden boasts about his ability to fool people with his tall-tales.)

Presuming that Holden is not being entirely dishonest, I see this narrative, as manipulative as it is, as a reaction to abuse.  He is a teenager whose psychology and personality have been tragically damaged by pedophilia and our tendency to condemn those who expose uncomfortable truths.

Students should read “Catcher in the Rye,” not as a tale of mindless teenage rebellion “against society,” but as an example of how teachers and other trusted adults can manipulate children into madness.

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