Fighting the Phonies 1919-2010

“I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes. That way I wouldn’t have to have any goddamn stupid useless conversations with anybody. If anybody wanted to tell me something they’d have to write it on a piece of paper and shove it over to me. They’d get bored as hell doing that after a while, and then I’d be through with having conversations for the rest of my life.”

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex makes recurring references to the work of legendary American recluse JD Salinger, whose judgemental Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye bears some similarity to the Laughing Man, and even supplies the quote for his logo. The tune, ‘Comin’ Through the Rye’, is a regular feature of daily life in Japan in everything from elevator doors to pelican crossings, and has cropped up before in the anime Vampire Hunter D and Grey: Digital Target.

Salinger’s short story ‘The Laughing Man’ was first printed in the New Yorker magazine in 1949, and featured a tale within a tale, about a boy kidnapped by Chinese bandits, and vengefully tortured by having his head partly crushed in a vice. Left with a gaping hole where his mouth should be, he takes to obscuring the lower part of his face with a mask. He proves a fast learner, even comprehending the language of wolves, and becomes a bandit with skills he had learned from his former captors. But his whole existence is a case of misdirection, for the story is actually about something else entirely, the tales of banditry and derring-do merely the means employed by a character to distract the reader from the real story going on around him, a thwarted romance.

(Excerpted from Jonathan Clements’s sleeve notes to the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex box set, released in the UK by Manga Entertainment, and reprinted in the collection Schoolgirl Milky Crisis).

3 thoughts on “Fighting the Phonies 1919-2010

  1. As I see it, GiTS:SAC takes the two elements from Catcher in the Rye-
    1. Holden (rebellious youth) and his wish to sulk away from the world.
    2. The disfigured youth in the “Laughing Man” sub story, who is a hero type figure, over-coming his disabilities to help others.

    And mixes this together to make the GiTS:SAC Laughing Man character who has become disillusioned with society and wants to just watch, but still requires a hero to fight the injustice.

    Still, a point I muse over is that youth Laughing Man in GiTS:SAC says he’s not the original Laughing Man, he came across someone else work in this area… now was original Laughing Man the anti-hero in GiTS:SAC 2nd GIG?

  2. And yet, even though Salinger was this monastic-style recluse, he still managed to attract ta few young women to share his life of austerity. I suppose being considered a literary genius helps…

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