Ring Lardner (1885-1933) is an American author and journalist. He is very famous for his short stories. He was born into a rich family, attending a prestigious private school. Later, he attended an engineering school when pushed by his father, but flunked out in 1902 to pursue his career as a journalist. He moved to Chicago in 1907 to cover sports for a few of the city's newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune.
The Catcher in the RyeEdit
I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot. My favorite author is my brother D.B., and my next favorite is Ring Lardner. My brother gave me a book by Ring Lardner for my birthday, just before I went to Pencey. It had these very funny, crazy plays in it, and then it had this one story about a traffic cop that falls in love with this very cute girl that's always speeding. Only, he's married, the cop, so be can't marry her or anything. Then this girl gets killed, because she's always speeding. That story just about killed me. What I like best is a book that's at least funny once in a while. -J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, page 18
Lardner is notable in The Catcher in the Rye because he is almost the favorite author of the narrator Holden Caulfield, second only to his brother, D.B. Holden mentions this in chapter 3, along with the fact that he is "quite illiterate". This creates confusion for the reader, as Holden in fact often references a wide range of literary books both within his narration and to other characters. However, by making this unintended juxtaposition, Holden establishes himself as an unreliable and very self-conscious narrator.
Holden received a book by Ring Lardner from D.B. for his birthday. Presumably, this is The Best Short Stories of Ring Lardner. The fact that it was from D.B. and that Holden has a familial connection to him, if not respect for him, may contribute to his love of Lardner in particular. This book also contained Holden's favorite story, There Are Smiles, about a cop with a forbidden love to a recklessly-driving teenager; something about this story "killed" him.
Similarities With Holden Edit
Holden also mentioned that Ring Lardner is one of those authors who he wished he was good friends with, so he could just call him up and have a chat, if he weren't dead. Why is Holden so attached to Lardner? Throughout the book, Holden only really gets close to people who he doesn't think are deserving of the "phony" label, and Lardner is no different. In the end of There Are Smiles, the girl the cop continually let go eventually died of speeding. This morbidity alone fits into Holden's view of things: that if something adult is kind or 'nice', it must be phony. Also, Lardner's life matches surprisingly well with Holden's. Both Holden and Lardner seemed not to be in their right places when they were younger: Holden has dropped out of several private schools and doesn't know what he wants to be in life, while Lardner flunked out of the engineering school pushed on him by his father.