Why I want to write

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Book Review

It felt as if Holden Caulfield, 17, was having a conversation with me.

When it was time to pick up where we left off, I could see his cigarette drooping from the corner of his mouth. I googled his iconic red hunting hat after our first few meetings. Our cultural differences made it difficult for me to imagine his favourite accessory, for his look was incomplete without his hunting hat.

Since the birth of his character, Holden has unknowingly allowed many a generation into the crevices of his mind. He has solidified his place in twentieth century literature as a symbol of teenage angst and alienation. Some have been disturbed by his eerie thoughts and never-ending condemnation of society. It seems as though nothing is good enough for Holden. Not even Holden is good enough for Holden. While some have gladly given up the venture into Holden’s life, others have embraced his thoughts as their own and found solace in his dry sense of humour.

I have often stopped to wonder what Holden would think of me. If he gave me a chance to tell my story, would he see that he is not alone in this awkward period of transition? Perhaps he would realise that there is an entire generation of adolescents who can identify with him. However, Holden does not seem like the type who would want to lean on others for support. Even if for a moment he felt the need for companionship, he would abandon the idea of calling up a friend to offload his feelings.

In J.D. Salinger’s novel, Holden walks alone. Before he shares the pages with other characters, he warns us about their personalities, which makes you understand why he chooses to walk alone. He is somewhat obsessed with the word “phony” and even uses it to describe his parents. The truth about Holden is that he does not make you look at the world any differently. He does not even seem to be aware of the significance of his own story. You just feel isolated with him as he pulls you deeper into his thoughts. He can be repetitive and monotonous at times but this is as much a curse at it is a blessing. Contrary to what he believes about himself, Holden is actually very honest, even with himself. He can be self-deprecating because he is aware of his failures and his flaws and often points them out. However, even when he is telling you his story, you get the feeling that there is more to what he is telling you and that perhaps he doesn’t even realise it himself.

The “aha” moment of Holden’s logic is embedded in this quote: “I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”

It is the most famous quote of the novel and it is at this moment that you realise that there is a point to Holden’s ramblings. If you were a psychologist, you would perhaps understand the source of his misery. Holden is in limbo and like the rest of us, has to find his feet as he transitions from childhood to adulthood.

The Catcher in the Rye has inspired me because of Salinger’s use of first person stream consciousness. Holden’s is the sole voice in the novel and in my opinion this gives the book its poetic feel. It also makes the character much more three-dimensional, even if you are only being given a snapshot of his life. Salinger’s novel is quite unconventional for me and I appreciate the fact that it is unlike any other book that I have ever read even if there are more like it. As a writer, I am tempted to follow Salinger’s example and write books where you have a very close encounter with the character. As an aspiring features writer, I am keen to use the devices he has used to make the reader feel very close to the subject and to feel as if they are walking with them.

 

Waiting to Become

I am not sure of the headline that I have used but this is meant for the eyes of those who would like to know a little bit more about me and my writing life. I am a journalism and media studies student, specializing in writing and editing. In the document attached is a reflective essay that I wrote for my lecturer. A metaphor runs through this essay about trying to become someone. I used quotes from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot to add more meaning to the metaphor. If you dare to understand me and my thoughts, then take a look at my essay :). Journ Reflective Essay

The “selfie”: art or addiction?

Excuse the pun, but let’s face it, the selfie phenomenon is unstoppable. Unless you’ve been absent from social media, you shouldn’t be surprised that 2014 has been dubbed “The Year of the Selfie”. But is the selfie a sign of narcissism or is it a “revolutionary” form of self-empowerment? Check this curation on Storify to decide for yourself! https://storify.com/NandiThembela/social-media-obsession

The conquest of the ‘It’ girl

For Bonang Matheba, 27, the world must have come to a standstill when the billboard featuring her as South Africa’s first brand ambassador for Revlon was unveiled.

The self-professed ‘Queen B’ was surrounded by her fans who ceremoniously lifted red balloons into the Johannesburg sky after an adrenalin-inducing countdown. Commuters would be constantly reminded of Matheba’s reign as she gazed down on them from her  sky-scraping throne.

“Ladies and gentleman, my time has come…and I am ready,” announced Matheba to her loyal subjects. On 13 June 2013, it was clear that Queen B’s royal conquest had just begun.

In the South African entertainment industry, Matheba is synonymous with the term ‘It’ girl, which has been in use since the 1960s in the UK an the USA. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as ‘a young woman who has achieved celebrity because of her socialite lifestyle.’ However, as far as lay definitions go, I would define an ‘It’ girl as a young woman who stands out because of her charisma, confidence and desire to create a lasting legacy.

My definition is at least applicable to the South African context where most of our female celebrities are labelled as ‘It’ girls because of the recognition they get for taking the entertainment industry by storm. They are stereotypically television and radio personalities who are also celebrated for their beauty and fashion sense. Their sole aim is to make an impact in the industry by ticking off as many dreams on their to-do list as possible.

Matheba who is supposedly the trailblazer of South African ‘It’ girls has paved the way for the likes of Minenhle ‘Minnie’ Dlamini, Pearl Thusi, Boitumelo ‘Boity’ Thulo, Lalla Hirayama, Nandi Mngoma and Dineo Moeketsi. However, make no mistake in labelling each of these ladies as ‘It’girls because although fame comes with the embellishments that add to their brand and status, each would like to stand for something different.

Dlamini, 24 and Thulo, 24, who aside from presenting are aspiring actresses have both expressed their dislike for being referred to as ‘It’girls. Aside from her blossoming presence on social media networks and her role as a presenter on Real Gobhoza (SABC 1), Swaziland-born Amanda Du Pont is also steadily following her dreams and makes her film debut in Between Friends this August. Mngoma, 26, who was noted in Elle Magazine (SA) as a fashion icon is also a musician signed to Universal Records and released her debut album, Mnandi in 2012.

The South African ‘It’girl is a brand of excellence for the woman of colour with big dreams and aspirations. She can be beautiful inside and out (or just beautiful) and the world is her oyster.

We look at the Mathebas and Dlaminis of this world as the next generation of women who will wave the South African flag high as they add to their list of achievements.

I love our ‘It’ girls because they stand for individuality and perseverance. Many of them have wisdom because of the struggles they have faced in order to get to where they are.

Whether we love them or don’t care about them, I think that these women have earned their place in this country’s history because they are quite clearly it.

It’s wine ‘o’ clock on the dot!

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The bitterness was unexpected. An anti-climax to the rich, burst of flavour I had been anticipating.

The taste rivalled a tablespoon of castor-oil and that was always unpleasant.

I was six years old and I did not imagine that the wine that reminded me of red grape juice would taste as horrible as it did.

Nonetheless, I continued to act like I was enjoying it even though I could not bear to swallow the second sip that swished around in my mouth.

My sister and I were playing a game and tried to act ‘posh’ as we drank from the glasses that we were given to us with our parents’ permission.

Although I am a Durbanite at heart, my early childhood memories of living in the Western Cape involve the nostalgia of wine. My Dad who collected wine, would often order different varieties from a catalogue.

My favourite thing to do when I was bored would be to page through his coffee table book that had the most beautiful photographs of the Cape Winelands. The rustic energy of those pictures stick with me today and remind me of my childhood.

My next wine tasting experience was one I looked forward to every Sunday. My excitement of being in church would peak when it was time to receive Holy Communion. I loved the sweet flavour and the warm/burning feeling in my chest after sipping from the cup. Amen!

Since reaching the legal drinking age, I have not considered myself to be a wine person. I was haunted by the bitter taste that I knew from my childhood. Until I went to Spier Wine Farm for a close friend’s twenty-first.

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Investigating the various wine flavours was like being at a magic show. First, swish the wine in your glass then smell it. Let its aroma drift into your nostrils. Then smell the piece of chocolate. Smell your wine again…Do you notice the difference?

YES! I could not fathom the difference which actually made all the difference to the way in which I would at wine thereafter.

Every sip after that was a serendipitous moment on my taste buds.

I feel that I have come full circle since my first experiment with wine. The enriching wine-tasting experience has been like engaging with a new art form and not only helped to me to acquire a new taste but also helped me to learn something new.

I can’t remember what Pinotage and Chardonnay mean but one day if my bank account allows it I would be more than happy to learn again.

I now look at a bottle of wine with reverence after my visit to Spier.

What are you?

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For most of us, ticking the ‘appropriate’ box on a form that requires our racial information is simple.

Without giving it much thought, your pen might instinctively make a mark in the ‘African’, ‘White’, ‘Coloured’ or ‘Asian’ category.

But what happens when you do not fit into either of these categories and you are required to tick ‘Other’?

I often reflect upon my own heritage and although I am black, I am proudly the product of an isiXhosa mother and an isiZulu father. Fortunately, the differences between these two ethnicities do not manifest themselves physically even though they are over-emphasized socially, sometimes to my dislike.

In other words, I rarely have to find an answer to questions such as ‘what are you?’ in reference to my race.

For Tori Leder, an exchange student from San Francisco, USA, this is not the case. As a second generation American, facing questions about her race and heritage is nothing new. I spoke the very intelligent 20 year old to find out about her thoughts on racism and racial classification.

 

Nandi Thembela: So, what’s your name? (Laughs)

Tori Leder: (Laughs) Well my full name is Victoria Paige Leder, but I go by Tori. I’ve always gone by Tori since I was born. So really the only person who calls me Victoria is my mom when she’s mad.

NT: The first time I met you I noticed that there was something different about you besides your accent. I noticed that you looked a little bit Asian but not quite…

TL: Yes, so I am  multi-racial. I am Japanese, Turkish and White. Both of my grandfathers were White and American and then both of my grandmothers were immigrants. My dad’s mom came from Japan and my mom’s mom came from Turkey.

NT: What was it like growing up with parents from different cultural backgrounds?

TL: I always say that my nationality is American. I have always lived in the city where there is a lot of diversity but at home I embrace the quintessential American lifestyle, you know like going to baseball games etc.

In terms of culture, I went to a Japanese elementary school because my parents wanted me to learn about my heritage and I also visited Turkey often where the people are predominantly Muslim. I grew up thinking that celebrating another culture is normal and I am grateful for this because I think it made me more accepting and knowledgeable. It all helped in lessening the prejudices I could potentially have against people because of their race, religion or culture.

NT: Does your racial background have an impact on your interaction with people in your hometown?

TL: No, San Francisco has a predominantly Asian population and the people there are very used to diversity. In my Japanese elementary school, having a Japanese heritage was obviously not unusual. Most of the other public schools I went to were also at least sixty percent Asian. I did not go to a predominantly ‘White’ school until college.

NT: What do your studies have to do with your identity?

TL: I am a double major in Politics and American Ethnic Studies which is the study of racism and civil rights in America. I have always wanted to study politics because I was involved in it in high school. I did not know that I wanted to do ethnic studies until I went to my university which is predominantly white. People at college always pointed out that I was multi-racial and until then I did not know that I was ‘different’. I got questions like ‘what are you?’ and that was the first time that I had been asked that question in such a consistent way that it made me notice it.

I first took ethnic studies as a general elective and one of the things that struck me was ‘micro-aggressions’. A micro-aggression is a comment that is indirectly directed towards a marginalised racial group. An example of it is when someone says something like ‘you are so exotic’. The person saying it might mean it as a compliment but it subconsciously tells the other person that they are different. This tells me that I don’t fit in because I don’t fit your expectations of the racial group that I categorise myself in and makes me feel ‘Othered’.

Our world is constantly trying to put you into a racial box but I identify as a lot of different things. Putting me in a box is not fair. On a form, I usually check ‘Other’ but people will still look at your name and where you are from and try to put you in a box no matter what.

Ethnic studies made me realise how unique my upbringing was in contrast with my experiences at college because I would be the ‘exotic’ or ‘ethnic’ friend and tokenising me did not make me feel that great so it was something that I became very passionate about.

 

“Our world is constantly trying to put you into a racial box but I identify as a lot of different things. Putting me in a box is not fair.”

 

NT: Racial politics is deeply embedded in South African history. What brought you here?

TL: I was very interested in seeing how the race relations were here compared to the States. To be honest it is different but really it is not that much different in the sense that in the States it is still very divided and segregated and this is a shame.

NT: Any last thoughts?

TL: Race is a very uncomfortable subject and people avoid talking about it because they do not want to hurt each other’s feelings but that is really how you learn. You have to ask those uncomfortable questions. For example, in my history class I called the Zulu people a ‘tribe’ and that is not politically correct over here and I did not know that because in America we say that. But that is the thing, it is being allowed the opportunity to mess up and be corrected and understand that correction so that you do not make the same mistake again.