The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in the Rye – A Literary Mashup

Imagine how the ‘The Hunger Games’ might have read if it was co-written with J.D. Salinger

As we welcome the film Catching Fire (installment #2 of The Hunger Games trilogy) to movie theaters throughout the country, let’s not forget the critically acclaimed novel that was the progenitor of the disaffected, first-person, young adult genre. So imagine how the The Hunger Games might have read if it was co-written with J.D. Salinger …

Hunger Games: Catching Fire in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
J.D. Salinger.

Catching Fire in the Rye:


Suzanne Collins and J.D. Salinger

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is what it’s like to live in District 12, and what my lousy childhood was like before the reaping, and how my mother sat blank and unreachable while her children turned to skin and bones, and all that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory kind of crap. But I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth, and my mother is touchy as hell about anything like that.

I’d rather tell you how Gale went to Hollywood, co-starred with Robert Downey XIII in Ironman 17 and got a Jaguar; and how I made Haymitch stop pinching my butt and enter AA; and how Peeta finally fixed the spelling of his first name (any moron knows it should end in “er” – unless they want to be mistaken for an animal rights group) and dropped the “y” from his last (no moron wants to be called “Mellarky”).

Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas, in the far-off city called the Capitol, just before I got pretty run-down and had to come back to the Victor’s Village.  The Hunger Games. Very big deal. Not exactly little kids playing some game in this big field of rye.

Where I want to start telling is the day of the reaping, just before I left District 12. There were never many girls at the reapings. Old Madge showed up quite often, but the chance of her name being drawn is very slim compared to those of us who live in the Seam. She was a pretty nice girl, though. Being Mayor Underwear’s daughter you’d expect her to be a snob, but she’s all right. What I liked about her, she didn’t give you a lot of horse manure about what a great guy her father was.

I also want to tell you why I went to the Hunger Games instead of Prim. When I got back from hunting with Gale (“Gaol,” as I think of him), my mother laid out one of her own lovely dresses. Mothers are all slightly insane; but she was worried because this was Prim’s first reaping. Prim was the nicest, in lots of ways. She never got mad at anybody. You’d have liked her. I was older and had gotten my period. (I don’t mean menstrual period. I mean the mark indicating the end of a sentence, without which my words would run on endlessly for three books or more.)

Still, Prim’s name was one slip of paper in thousands. I’d not even bothered to worry about her. So when her name was called, I immediately volunteered to be in charge of fencing equipment. But they thought I was volunteering to take her place, and by the time I realized the mistake I was District 12’s next female tribute. To the everlasting credit of District 12, not one person clapped; but this guy Edgar Marsalla laid this terrific fart. It was a very crude thing to do, at a reaping at all, and damn near blew Haymitch off the stage.

The other thing I want to talk about was saying good-by to old Haymitch. (They say his real name was “Mitch,” but because he was always drunk and people had a hard time getting his attention, he went from “Hey, Mitch” to “Haymitch.”) When I went to his house he was sick with the grippe. Plus he was drunk. Very. There were pills and liquor bottles all over the place, and everything smelled like vomit mixed with Vicks VapoDrops – the soothing, mentholated cough drops favored by Michael Vick.

 “Hey, Catnip,” says Haymitch. My real name isn’t Catnip. It’s Catfish. Catfish Everyday. “You’ve got as much charm as a dead slug.” I am not pretty. I am not beautiful. But I can be radiant as the goddam sun. And when a girl does something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, you fall in love with them. I was counting on that at the Hunger Games.

Suddenly Haymitch falls into a Capitol accent as he mimics Effing Triscuit, the maniacally upbeat woman who reads out the names at the reaping and performs with the Capitol Steps. “So you’re leaving us, eh?” he asks. Then he hollers that he’ll be my mentor at the Hunger Games, staggers around the room and falls into a chair. Then what he did – it damn near killed me – he reached into my pocket and took out my mockingjay pin and stuck it in my forehead. “The Hunger Games are only a game, girl. A game one plays according to the rules.”

As they say in the Capitol, may the goddam odds be ever in your favor. Moron.