The Culture of Sleep and Holden Caulfield

It’s been a good morning for errant thought.

It all started with Anne Rice’s Facebook page, where she posted an article from the New York Times about our society’s view on sleep habits. Since sleep is something I tend to talk a lot about, I found it an interesting way to wake up.

Most of my co-workers assume I’m a victim of insomnia. I’m always at work. I get here at about 10:30am everyday, and will be here until almost midnight. But, that still leaves plenty of time for sleep. From about 1am to 9am, the perfect eight hours.

But, according to the article, before the advent of electricity, people would fall asleep just after the sun set. They’d sleep, until around midnight, and then get up for a few hours to do random stuff. Read, write, eat. Have sex.

Interrupted sleep is actually the norm in most of the world, especially in cultures where families share rooms. Now, sharing a blanket with my brothers does not sound like my idea of a good night’s sleep, in fact, I know it isn’t from previous experience.

But, interrupted sleep has its perks. For instance, when you’re in REM sleep you’re dreaming like mad. The closer the dreams are to periods of wakefulness the more likely they are to be remembered. I remember at least one dream a day, because Trevor’s alarm goes off at 7am. I wake up to hand him his phone, and then promptly fall back asleep. When I wake up around 9, I’ve got a couple dreams to consider.

It’s fun.

If longer periods of sleep were more interrupted, dreams, and the analysis of them, would still be a large part of our culture. I think that would be better than this sort of utilitarian approach we have toward sleep now.

We see sleep as a tool. A biological need that most of us are too exhausted to actually appreciate. How many nights do you collapse to the sheets, completely wiped from the day’s activities, only to pass out so hard that the morning comes much too soon?

In our society we crave that 8 hour mark. We have to get eight hours of sleep. Why? Anything less is considered deprivation, but anything more and you’re lazy. Why are we so judgmental about something as simple as sleep?

Trevor would sleep 12 hours a day, every day, if I’d let him. He has no problem sleeping most of his day away, and it’s something I’ve struggled with for the entire course of our relationship.

Me? I rarely sleep more than eight hours. My body wakes up at the eight hour mark, almost exactly, on its own. I wake up before my alarm almost every day, no matter when that alarm is set for. Even that dreaded 3:20am alarm.

I wake up at 3:18am.

But, I’m learning to let Trevor sleep, and use those extra hours of solitude to read, or post here, or maybe even get some work done. I’ll admit, it’s not usually the latter, and a lot of times I end up watching a House Hunters marathon or Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix.

But, these are the rare occasions where my hour fidgeting in bed as I try and convince myself to sleep longer doesn’t wake Trevor up. Usually, after I’ve tossed and turned, checked Facebook and WordPress, and then rolled around a bit more, Trevor wakes up and we start our day together.

So, there was the sleep thing. That was cool to think about while my brain was still muddy with the stuff.

There was another thing I read… And now I can’t remember what it was. It was interesting, and thought provoking. I was going to talk about it here, but apparently those thoughts have left the building.

I did read a BuzzFeed list of uber-critical amazon reviews of Classic Literature. Some of them made me laugh, because at the heart they’re true. If you have no sense of the craft of writing, and you’re just reading Hemingway for giggles… You’re gonna have a bad time.

But, there was one review that set my brain twitching, and I may have yelled at my phone in the solitude of my car.

The review was for ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. Now, let me say that I first read Salinger’s novel when I was 16 for an Honors English class. I loved it. I LOVED it. I loved it so much that I told my school library I lost it, and paid for it, because I couldn’t imagine parting with the sensible little red hardback.

I still have it to this day.

Years later I had the chance to read it again, this time for a Banned Books class in college. I was so heartbroken. What had happened to Holden Caulfield? He had been funny, and so right about so much! He was the boy of my inner monologue.

And then, at 22 I read his story and he was a spoiled, whiny brat. And a liar. He was afraid of failure, and so he never tried anything, and ended up truly failing, even though he had the potential to be brilliant. And, what I had once thought funny, was mostly just cruel.

But, the book didn’t change. My perspective did. Yes, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is a coming of age story, possibly the quintessential coming of age story, but once you’ve come of age, and you’ve put on a few more years, you see him not as a peer, but a child.

Because that’s what he is.

So, this person’s review was short. Direct and to the point. Although they missed the point entirely.

The man who wrote this should be in an asylum.

This book was a complete waste of paper. It had some interesting points but, it had no plot. It also turned out to be a major dissappointment because it ended so poorly. It should have been some elaborate lie that he had thought up while telling his sister. His parents should have played a bigger role in the book. The one part I did like was him talking to his brother. ”

So, obviously, this person comprehended nothing from the book. I emboldened the bit about the parents, because that’s sort of an underlying theme of the book. Absentee parents have created intelligent, mostly self-sufficient children, who aren’t entirely socially adjusted.

Another point missed in this review was that most of the story is a fabrication on Holden’s part. We watch him lie to everyone, why would you think he isn’t lying to us? Call it middle child syndrome, or boredom, or whatever. But know that he’s lying to us.

And his brother? I’m not convinced the guy even exists. I really think it’s the person Holden wants to be. So, the letters to his brother could really just have been a weird little inner monologue while he sat in a psych ward somewhere.

Glad that was their favorite part.

So, that irked me. But, it did get the old noggin pumping, so there’s that.

Yesterday was a very productive day. Emailed the Pops, shot some inquiries at caterers, finished Chapter 15, had my first dress fitting, mailed Thank You cards for the Bridal Shower, and then wrote another 700 words for chapter 16.

So, hoping to do more of the same today. If the writing flows today I’ll probably finish chapter 16. If not, it’ll get done tomorrow for sure.

Anyway, I’m gonna order some breakfast and get to work. Thanks for making it this far.

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