WINTER READING TO KEEP YOU WARM –
April, 2020 – Holden’s taste in food is pure postwar American. Bacon, eggs, hamburgers and steak all feature in the book. Mainly, however, this 16-year-old survives on cigarettes and Scotch and sodas. But he has an antidote to debauchery: “When I’m out somewhere, I generally just eat a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted milk. It isn’t much, but you get quite a lot of vitamins in the malted milk. H.V. Caulfield. Holden Vitamin Caulfield.” All the other food in the book fails to stir the appetite, including the school cafeteria’s take on Brown Betty “that nobody ate,” but that malted sounds good, certainly better than a protein shake. And that Swiss cheese sandwich is still—69 years after the book’s publication—terrifically appealing. Holden has great respect for fashion. He gets it from his mother, whose taste in clothes is “perfect.” But he doesn’t brag; we discover his classy wardrobe items when his prep-school cohorts borrow or steal them. There’s the camel-hair coat and fur-lined gloves missing from his closet, the houndstooth jacket he reluctantly lends his roommate, his turtleneck sweater a classmate wears as he commits suicide and the Mark Cross suitcases a less affluent roommate pretends are his. But Holden intuits that personal style, not fine clothing, is what defines the truly fashionable. Hence his signature red hunting hat, which cost a dollar. “I swung the old peak way around to the back—very corny, I’ll admit, but I liked it that way. I looked good in it that way.” He wears it with his pajamas and bathrobe to compose his roommate’s essay. It’s his thinking cap and magic shield. Now’s the time to find your own totem in your closet.