Well, There’s Liminality and There’s Liminality: On the Marginalized Writer and the Cult of Outsider Status (with a few digs at J.D. Salinger)

Holden Caulfield is no one I’ve ever cared about.

For readers inhabiting multiple planes of marginalization and erasure, the idea of liminality or outsider status takes on a different tone than those who might see it as a side effect of their unique selfhood, their own rebellious nature.

For many of us, we did not rebel against society and the family. From the start, society/family rebelled against us. We were pushed to the margins or were driven there by the grief of being asked to subdivide and censor our beings.

The marginal writer (the targeted writer) is no Holden Caulfield, for we understand the preciousness of human society, we love and are invested. Unlike Caulfield—the icon of the normative, white, male artist—it is our very engagement that forces us to relentlessly observe, to criticize, to reflect society back to itself. Most importantly, we demand an unflinching ethic not only from society, but also from ourselves as artists and ourselves as individuals. What divides us here from the propaganda-distributionist or the evangelical minister is that we don’t presume a goal of purity or the achievement of an ideal world. Rather, we strive to see, to see more clearly and to act in accordance with that sight. Not a fixedness (that which has marginalized us in the first place), but a flexible, progressive envisioning, that works to encompass an increasing truth, holding each to the same standard of rigorous observation.

Caulfield could afford the adolescent irony which he used to disguise his own sadness from himself. The writer who has had liminality thrust upon her, must craft characters and plots, wield language, with deadly authenticity. If she can learn anything from arch, young Holden, it is how good a lie feels in the mouth, how much truth it can reveal. Unlike Holden, we have been watching a long time. We know (or teach ourselves to believe) that the stories that collect in our mouths are significantly more accurate than any possible recitation of facts.

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One comment

  1. davkadeergirl · December 2, 2011

    wow, never looked at holden caulfield this way. thanks

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