The Royal Tenenbaums got me into J.D. Salinger.
I have been OD-ing on Wes Anderson. Binging on all of his films after a renewed interest in his work. I cannot stress the word ALL enough. As a fan of Rushmore and The Darjeeling Limited, the rest of Wes Anderson’s canon seemed overhyped and over-stylized to the point of annoyance. Or perhaps, I was letting the hipster idioculture browbeat me into being overly selective in film choices. The whole “I like this band but only their old/obscure/least popular but critically acclaimed stuff” mentality that I had abhorred in my self and others. As an adult, I have learned to shrug that line of thinking off, which has been an eye-opening experience. How much of my likes and dislikes are genuinely mine and not apart of a predetermined set of cultural trends?
I have been doing a lot mediating on the reason I enjoy certain things and why I set these perimeters on my personal tastes. At some point, it occurred to me that some of my choices were not purely my own but prescribed by a socioeconomic group of uber-cool young adults. While I am lucky enough to have a strong sense of taste, my point-of-view has been decidedly muddled to fit in neatly in any conversation and situation I might stumble upon. Until recently, when Wes Anderson entered my brain and demystified a myriad of personal myths and landmines with his highly self-aware and irreverent films. They are not just funny little dalliances into the tweedy world filled with ‘60s Brit pop and a rotating cast of actors.
The Royal Tenenbaums features a family of eccentric, childhood geniuses in various fields, loosely based on the Glass family found in Nine Stories (1953) and Franny and Zooey (1961). I should mention that while I studied literature in college, my primary focused was on Modern British literature circa 1900 to 1950 with only a mere smattering of American literature courses. I just was not interested in most American works outside of antebellum and beat poetry as most of my time and energy was simply elsewhere. The Tenenbaum family brought a new awareness to an American icon that I had castoff long ago. Approaching “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” with fresh eyes and an open mind this time around was an entirely new and exciting experience. The cobwebs were magically wiped away from the monumental gaps in my education and knowledge of classic American works. I just assumed that Salinger was a literary genius from the get go. However, that was not the case. “Bananafish” took a year to complete with the aide of two of the best editors in the country at that time. Not only did Salinger receive help and support from the elite but he wrote about life after wartime without romanticizing the Second World War in the voice of the Everyman.
Suddenly, many things fell into place. Things that should have clicked several years ago but diverted my interest for one reason or another. Not just about Salinger and Wes Anderson, mind you, but in the creative possibilities afforded by branching out and expanding your tiny pool of interest.