I was thinking tonight that what I’d like to do would be a writer in residence at the Tate Modern. I had the idea that it would allow me to be alone with the art before the place opened and after it closed and that then I wouldn’t have to scrum round like being at Sainsbury’s on a Saturday. I could probably write something good, too, I was thinking. I was in the shower by now. Even though literary writing is dead – according to an agent who visited the UEA Creative Writing dept only this week – I’d still probably write something literary, because I believe in that stuff. I was almost thrilled by the idea. It would be like, not like, I would be going back to my roots. Almost as soon as I’d had the thought (I was drying myself down now, vigorously) I remembered this piece from the Catcher in the Rye. It’s near the end, where you learn what the title means: I was never really bothered about that; before I arrived at this passage I thought the Catcher in the Rye was just something that sounded great, like the Guns of Brixton or White Man in Hammersmith Palais. It’s a lovely job that Holden wishes for himself; I’ve always wanted to do it. (Incidentally, I’m sure Sigur Ros lift the idea for the video for Glósóli from this.)
“You know that song ‘If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye’? I’d like—”
“It’s ‘If a body meet a body coming through the rye’!” old Phoebe said. “It’s a poem. By Robert Burns.”
“I know it’s a poem by Robert Burns.”
She was right, though. It is “If a body meet a body coming through the rye.” I didn’t know it then, though.
“I thought it was ‘If a body catch a body,’” I said. “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around— nobody big, I mean— except me. And 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. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.”