Today I'm going to be reviewing, "Catcher in the Rye" by J.D Salinger. This may or may not be short, but we'll just have to see!
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them."
His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation."
Okay...now, after having read this, and discussing the book with Mara a bit, and then reading reviews on it...there seems a pretty clear conclusion to how to feel about this book.
This is one of the reviews on Goodreads-
"My theory as to this book's unusually polarizing nature: either you identify with Holden Caulfield or you don't.
Those who see themselves (either as they were or, goodness help them, as they are) in Holden see a misunderstood warrior-poet, fighting the good fight against a hypocritical and unfeeling world; they see in Salinger a genius because he gets it, and he gets them.
Those of us who don't relate to Holden see in him a self-absorbed whiner, and in Salinger, a one-trick-pony who lucked into performing his trick at a time when some large fraction of America happened to be in the right collective frame of mind to perceive this boring twaddle as subversive and meaningful"
And Here's another -
"As a child, we are protected from life. There really aren’t many choices available, and we are certainly sheltered from a lot of the harder parts of life. It seems like children don’t feel the need for meaning quite like adults do- maybe because they aren’t forced to face the daily grind. There’s boredom, but that is not what I am talking about. Kids don’t really have to compromise like adults do. As you enter adulthood you could start to see things and people as phony or fake. Maybe not people, but certain tasks or events certainly are. There’s a constant struggle in all of us between the meaningful and the mundane; the temporary and the eternal. There is a conflict, simply of time and energy. We desire the intentional and struggle towards spirituality; all while trying to earn a paycheck, wash our dishes, and sleep each night. It kind of reminds me of what I picture an AA meeting to look like. I think, rarely could someone find a place where people are more vulnerable, open, and honest with each other. Even if they win over addiction… how could life ever feel as full after that brief moment shared with others who completely understand? At the same time, the point of those meetings is to help people live- not just free from drugs, but maybe free to live in the mundane? Free to enjoy the dance of life, the needs of the soul balanced with the chores too. This doesn’t have to be depressing, but it does require compromise- or a sense of a time and place for everything- including the day-to-day.
Catcher in the rye touches on some of these questions. Holden struggles with growing up. He sees everything as meaningless and adults as predictable and fake. I think he is mourning the loss of his innocence… maybe not just right from wrong, but the loss of dreams growing up seems to require. Holden, while at the museum that is exactly the same as it was when he was a kid says he likes it, because each time you visit "the only thing that would be different would be you…" and goes on to say "certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that's impossible, but it’s too bad anyway." One thing I thought of to help explain Holden's struggle with growing up is this: Coffee. When I was a kid, I used to smell my dad's coffee- that strong sugary-sweet smell of roasted beans. You wait for your chance to be let in on this excellent secret. Thinking it is just the caffeine that is preventing your parents from giving you a taste. Finally, they do and then all your dreams of that sweet flavor come crashing down! It's wrecked! Coffee isn't at all what you thought it was! That is, until the day you give it another chance, you start to be able to smell and taste the different tones coffee has. You can appreciate it for its varied, and almost living flavors. You see… Coffee isn't bad- it just wasn't what you always thought. The key is in finding the hidden flavors and getting over the fact that it will never taste as sweet as it smells. I think Holden struggled with the initial shock, that although life is more bitter than it "smells", or than you think it will be, there are the hidden joys and sweet flavors that make it almost better!
This book doesn’t really set out to answer any of the questions it raises. Holden experiences the extremes of entering into adulthood and relates it in a way everyone, maybe especially, teenagers can understand. He is a flawed character who is desperate and depressed. As the reader, you can see why he feels the way he does, as he explains it so well you almost feel it with him. However, you can also see the flaws in his thinking. The author doesn't romanticise Holden's life, you don't read it thinking he has some special key to life that we all need. You simply feel his struggle to fit in and hope eventually he can learn to play the game and see the beauty that is there, hidden a little."
For me personally, I'm half and half. I liked the novel, and the inner struggles that Holden deals with throughout the book without even realising it. When I first began to read it, I just thought of Holden as someone who I probably wouldn't be able to stand being around. Pretentious, almost hipster/hippy like in terms of talking about everything poetically, then in a few seconds in a completely different sentence tells everyone that they are fake and they should wake up to themselves about being fake. There were plenty of times in the book where I thought, "Gah, what I wouldn't give to just give you a slap or to shake you by your collar!" but then, in that same train of thought, I tried to empathise with a person who didn't fit in, couldn't connect to others very well, and seemed to just be kind of fading through life because he wanted to see the beauty in it, without all the boring, tediousness that is a part of it.
I'm rating it a 4 out of 10!