PREP SCHOOL PAGETURNERS
I finished reading "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles yesterday at work. It was strange, usually the phone rings nonstop in that office, but for the majority of the late afternoon, after I began reading, it was quiet. The phone rang maybe four or five times and I was able to cover the last seventy pages. Maybe the universe was conspiring to give me a moment's peace to finish "A Separate Peace." Somehow, the novel eluded me throughout middle school and high school. Honestly, I never even heard of it until this summer when My Girl and My Mom were talking about while I was rereading "The Catcher in the Rye," which was one of the few books I actually read when I was in school.
I don't think I can say unequivocably that "A Separate Peace" is a better novel than J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye", but I submit that I enjoyed reading "A Separate Peace" a whole lot more. I didn't identify with Holden Caulfield's alienation nearly as much as I felt a kinship with Gene Forrester's bout with insecurity and desire to live in a bubble. When I think back on "Catcher", I get a wintery kind of feeling of cold and isolation. On the contrary, remembering "Peace" brings up summery thoughts of warmth and comraderie. Salinger's novel is dark in tone, with Holden rejecting nearly everyone he comes in contact with by labeling them phonies, and a jolting reveal at the end that Holden has been narrating his experiences from a sanitorium. Knowles' story has dark undercurrents, such as war both external and internal, and heavy themes, like fear, jealousy, hatred, and insecurity, but is essentially an exercise in nostalgia. Obviously, I dig nostalgia. Otherwise I wouldn't be reading two classic novels set at prep schools that are routinely assigned by grade school English teachers.