Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

"Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins,
"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."

I'll just come out and say it: this was not an enjoyable book for me. It seems like it might not be incredibly joyous for anyone, but I think the key factor between someone loving and hating this book is whether or not they identify with Holden. I didn't, personally. I couldn't stand him. From someone who's stubborn and determined to the point of insanity, the slacking, apathetic boy who throws away every opportunity and resource just doesn't appeal to me. He's kind of pretentious and obnoxious, and he's exactly the kind of hypocrite he hates. I get that it's part of the theme and the point, but when he goes around calling every single person a phony and gets offended by taking enjoyment from anything mainstream, I get a little tired. I'll point out that it isn't all bad; there are spots where some insightful and human comments sneak out from the cynicism, which are valuable, but overall it's not quite enough to make it enjoyable. Partly it's because of the plot, which never really climaxes and is very repetitive. The one plotline that I really wanted to see followed through, gets left hanging. And partly it's because there's a total of one sympathetic/likable character out of the dozens in the book (Holden's younger sister). Most are actually incredibly grating and awful; I don't find them comical or whatever, it just gets me irritated. It might be very affecting to those who relate, who feel like Salinger "gets" them, but I wasn't one of those people. Sorry for the letdown, Salinger fans. We're just not gonna see eye to eye. The copies are at Kettleson, SHS, BMS, and MEHS. I'm not going to recommend it, but I'll let you form your own opinion.

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