Story of Holden Caufield with his idiosyncrasies, penetrating insight, confusion, sensitivity and negativism. Holden, knowing he is to be expelled from school, decides to leave early. He spends three days in New York City and tells the story of what he did and suffered there.
Love? There are the 16-20 year old boys (or men that read it when they were 16-20); they think that just because they feel
Then there are the people who know that, while not Salinger's best book, Catcher is still a great literary achievement. So if you do not just like the book because you are a moody teenager and can't find a reason for your depression so you think "Yeah! Everyone is fake seems like a good reason to justify why I'm angry all the time. " -if you really, truly enjoyed this book, then do yourself a favour and look for Salinger's other works as well because Catcher is by no means his best. My personal opinion: The Catcher in the Rye is a great book and a landmark in the history of American Literature. A lot of people won't agree with that. Which is why I'll move on to the haters...
It's been like that in the entire history of great books: someone will have to say "I really don't see what the fuss is about". Which is perfectly okay. It's okay not to like the book, and it's okay if this is not a book that speaks to you. That's the first category of haters, the ones that simply have different tastes. The second category of haters - and the most vocal one - consists of, ironically, the people that have fallen completely into Salinger's trap. And by that I mean this: Catcher is without a doubt Salinger's most accessible book - and possibly the only book in which he doesn't "show off". He doesn't show off his vocabulary, he doesn't show off his wit, he doesn't write 6-line sentences that make your brain hurt - in other words, he tries to make the narrator speak like a teenager. And people fall for this deceptive simplicity of the novel. The people that fall for it the most are the ones that will say the book has bad grammar, limited vocabulary and a simplistic writing style. And the joke's on them. Because that's exactly what Salinger wanted to achieve. First there was Catcher and people said Salinger was being too accessible, writing for the masses, or for high-school students. Then there was Raise High the Roof Beam and Franny and Zooey and people said he was being "too clever". That's how these things go - you can't have everyone love you at the same time.
I don't particularly enjoy Hemingway or Fitzgerald or Joyce or Thompson but I acknowledge their literary merit - and in the perfect world everyone would do that much for Salinger. But this is not a perfect world. And there will always be dissenting opinions.
Sixteen-year old Holden Caulfield, hailing from a wealthy American family, is
My sister Phoebe was named after Holden's sister, a fairly important character in the book, so I suppose that makes me Holden. I had this discussion with my friend Chris, who hasn't read it:
Mitch: The main character's kind of a dick. He passes judgement on absolutely everyone he meets.
Chris: So do you.
Mitch: Yeah, but he constantly shares it with you.
Chris: So do you.
Holden is the entire point of the book, and your opinion of him as a character is your opinion of the book in its entirety. And I thought he was okay. Usually likeable, occasionally annoying, always interesting. You can tell that he's got the wrong opinion on a lot of things, but they're always amusing to hear anyway. Given the above exchange I suppose this is my opinion of myself as well.
I've heard that apparently a lot of people love this book when they're young and can identify with the protagonist, and then read it again fifteen or twenty years later and think "Wow, what an asshole." I'm sort of hovering between those two viewpoints myself and wondering whether 19 was entirely the wrong age to read this.
With regards to the former view, whilst it is correct to say that Holden does have some points of similarity stereotype rebellious teenager (consider the red hunting hat worn backwards), I also believe that there is much more to Holden. Indeed, he displays an insight into the behaviour of those he encounters at odds with the spotty tenager schema. Holden's conerns are not exclusively related to his status as a teenager. One would imagine that people of all ages could empathise with his indignance toward social injustice, his feelings of horror toward what he considers to be the dehumanising effects of military life and regimentation, and his perennial existential angst, expressed famously in his fear that he will disappear before he crosses to the other side of the street.
With regards to the latter view, the novel's prose style, far from being vapid and commonplace, allows Salinger to create, in Holden, a plausible, almost tangible character. Holden, as real life teenagers are generally, has difficulty expressing himself and consequently falls back on the same trite, hackneyed fragments of lexicon ('phoney', 'shoot the bull' etc). But happily, Salinger's mastery of the immediate post-war teenage vernacular is such that Holden's reminiscences aren't dull. They are perceptive, amusing, and display a particular gift for understatement ('very... big... deal'). Those willing to settle for nothing else than the stylistic finesse of Conrad or Nabokov are thus overlooking one of the cheif merits of the novel.
Similarly, accusations that the novel is without structure seem to be wrong-headed. The novel is based on a two day journey - albeit in some ways a pretty pointless journy - around New York City followed by a moment of epiphany; a structure found amongst some of the greatest works of literature ever written. I'm thinking of various works by Chekhov, and Joyce's Ulysses.
The Catcher in the Rye has it's faults. There is a certain degree of precocity found in many of Salinger's younger creations that can be quite irksome; the notion of a five year-old writing poety somewhat detracts from the overall realism of the novel. More serious is the lack of congruity been the scene involving Holden's former teacher, Mr. Antolini, and the rest of the novel.
But the novel is packed with memorable scenes; Holden's encounter with the pimp, the catcher in the rye dream imagery, the concluding scene in which Holden stands in the rain, watching his 'kid sister' on the carousel. But there are moments, especially comic momemts that one may have forgotten that are equally as important; Holden's 'bullshitting' the girl in the hotel disco, telling her of the presence of movie star, only to hear her comment to her friends on his physical appearance, and his belief that someone will come along and write 'fuck you' on his gravestone.
The Catcher in the Rye is a great novel. Read it, and if you've read it already, you should read it again you phoney bastard.
I finally read Catcher in the Rye (your copy with all the underlinings and a king's ransom in sticky tabs) and you’re away on vacation so I can’t ask you why you’ve hated it all these years, well, except for the obvious reason that being assigned a contemplative and reflective
It’s not a great novel, I don’t think, but it’s such a specific one that it makes me think of so many… things. Or maybe it’s being so damn hot all the time or cleaning out all my mother’s hoarding junk or the just plain old that summer feeling of nothing happening because you’re supposed to be figuring out the rest of your life or something and maybe that’s just a symptom of our generation’s permanent arrested development or something else that would show up as the coverline of Time magazine. Any explanation except that I’m getting nostalgic, which will be the sure sign that I’m OLD, ‘cause I definitely remember people telling us high school were going to be the best years of our lives and me thinking “o god Just kill me now then” if life doesn’t get any better than this.
What I guess I’m saying is it’s an evocative book. Like I read the words with my eyes but my brain elsewhere was thinking—remembering of something else the entire time. Like all of Holden’s “killed me” (which seems to mean nothing and everything in particular) and “crumby” and with a few brain cells in a corner I spent the whole book trying to decide if it meant “crummy”, but it reminded me of declaring our exasperation with everything “Hhow” and all the non-exasperating things as “interesting” until “interesting” stopped meaning interesting and starting meaning “In.ter.REST.ing.” and so we had to switch to declaring things “awesome!” instead and then “AWEsome” when they were.
Or when Holden’s talking with his one decent teacher slash his secretly pedo teacher and I remember I always hated seeing teachers as people while you loved doing very little in class but staying behind and chatting about their kids especially our Spanish teacher who lived two blocks away (and I’d graciously ignore even though he was always going to the park on his bicycle or to the supermarket). And darn, isn’t all teacher/student relation fraught like that. Like at least it’s somewhat bearable when they’re the don’t-give-a-shit-just-you-show-up-and-I’ll-do-the-paperwork-and-say-my-lecture-and-not-pretend-it’s-been-for-the-last-ten-years-and-the-next-twenty. But then there’s the other kind with their eyes imploring you their eyes ‘I wanted to make a difference in the world but now I’m here and you, you dear student I’m going to shape you and you’re going make my difference’ and I’d feel bad but I’m also want to smash them in the face because ‘isn’t it enough that I’m supposed to be living enough for the rest of my own life’—and ‘I just want to go out and eat my chicken strips’ (because the high school cafeteria never accepted debit cards and its menu never let you forget you weren’t too far off kindergarten). And then there’d be the very small minority of the cool, assured teachers and their circle of students-I-actually-give-a-fuck about and out of five, all of them were I-actually-really-really-love-my-subject crazy but also the fourth one would be I’m-actually-certifiable crazy and the last one inevitably would be sleeping with said students (as evidenced by the arrest of the choir teacher my junior year).
And it’s not like we hated life or anything, or at least I didn’t. Certainly I wasn’t all sensitive and feElinG like Holden and I didn’t do interesting things like he did like go out and drink and date. And I remembering looking back on pictures of when I was twelve and thinking: ‘wow I totally should’ve gone out and broke hearts over the punch at the school dance’ except I’d never wanted to. And I was only offered pot and alcohol once and I didn’t take it, even though my next-seat neighbor in Spanish reeked every day (that he showed up). And it wasn’t because I was a Good Girl, except I was, except I wasn’t trying to be, we just felt bored of it all. Bored of the suburbs and waiting for the bus system that barely existed because everyone’s middle-class parents drove two cars and bored of things the world kept telling me I was supposed to care about as a teenager like having me standard rebellion that ended in a couple nights of throwing up and first loves and things. (We weren’t alone; as I recall senior year, the class thunderously voted against having a prom king/queen.)
And I guess looking back on all that I Should have done all those things (like teenage me and the school punch). Except right now this night I’m an hour into writing this and in another time jump future-I would definitely say I Should have, well, something, I don’t know, been expanding my mind or saving the world or something and Oh my god, is this what happens to you when you read too much? Like forever living a copy of a memory that someone else wrote but maybe if I were a smoothtalker I’d call it something nicer or make a metaphor about jazz riffing on a human theme.
So I didn’t have to be angry because I was sensitive and empathetic (‘cause I’m not and don’t I always wonder on the “pathetic” in that). Instead I was bored because I was scared. Oh and we were Silly. We talked about fanfic all the time and stayed up to three every morning on AIM and slept through math class instead, but still never felt tired as long as we had sugar. And Catcher in the Rye was not my bible though maybe it would’ve been if I grew up in the ‘50s (though you’d say then you’d be a Red and I’d say I’d be an anti-Red chicken farmer ‘cause that’s how conveniently ethnic we are when we it behooves us). But there was probably a whole solid year I didn’t speak a sentence that didn’t have the gospel Buffy in it somewhere until I’d used up all the quotes and all the stories on everyone in my radius ‘til they knew them by heart and then I didn’t anymore. Except now that sounds remarkably like now except with Books instead of Fanfic (except when we talk about Movies, except when we talk about the Internet) and this year I’ve got Parks and Recreation, because I’ve always been remarkable about being silly because I was serious like my parents were divorcing or I was simply sad.
It’s weird it’s like it’s all those words you use over and over when you’re a teenager, but you get older and you learn more words. But knowing more words just means you get better at hiding what you mean like you’re growing layers like a ripening onion. Like Holden Caulfield he says nothing but it’s all right under the surface you can see it behind the white but I’m older now and you could put me right in front of a mirror and all I’d see is flaky yellow skins.
And it’s late(/early) here, and I guess what I’m saying is that I’m sending you a mental postcard and it has a picture of the town water tower (painted like a peach can), a mental one because my suburb doesn’t even have the dignity to have its own postcards anymore, that says this:
“Dear F; It’s not as hot here anymore, how’s been the tourist-ing? It’s been P driving me crazy up the wall as usual here, and I read the dreaded Catcher in the Rye and I actually thought it was alright (don’t disown me! You might like it more again, though to be fair I’ve never changed my mind about a book ever. :P). Treat the grandparents good and get tanner and can you believe they don't even make town postcards anymore? *and squeezed under the address line* (Five days in London! You have to lie to me and say DWJ was there signing books in the store).”
My daughter disliked this book, saying that the main character was too whiney for a rich kid. I, however, found Holden Caulfield a believable and rather likeable fellow, despite his rants and lack of responsibility. I thought that The Catcher in the Rye was simply a way of presenting how just one teenager viewed the world. Some parts of this book seemed hilariously funny. I enjoyed watching Caulfield’s interactions with others, most of those being very tentative. At one point in the story, though, we see that Caulfield can indeed hold someone very close to his heart. I liked Caulfield’s attitude that, if at first he failed, he would just proceed down another track, but one of his own choosing. We all can learn from failure. So is Holden Caulfield really that different from most of us?
I assume this book was a first of its kind during the decade in which it was written and published. For that reason and because it’s such an entertaining read, I’d recommend this classic be put on your “must read” list. It would work especially well for someone with a close relationship to a teenager or even for someone who likes to think back on how difficult being a teenager really was.
Concerning the mythology of this book which (following a number of high profile events in modern history) have overshadowed the novel itself; I found myself growing up at a time when 'Catcher in the Rye' had achieved cult status more for its
During the 80's in terms of making a statement about yourself; this was one of the books (along with 'A Clockwork Orange' and a handful of others) that you owned if you wanted to affirm your status as one of societies outcasts; a rebel without a cause; a lone warrior wondering the urban sprawl, paperback in hand, shunning the modern world and all it's shallow trappings (Holden Caulfield would have been proud!).
According to urban legend; this was the book which drove unstable men to acts of madness, turned week minded individuals into assassins and mindless killers.
To read it was an essential right of passage for certain like minded teenagers of my generation.
In contrast to all these assumptions; when I discovered that the book was NOT on the banned list and that copies were freely available in all the main book stores, it still felt a little risqué and exciting as I ventured into Foyles bookshop and anxiously paid for my own copy in untraceable cash (you have to laugh).
There it sat pride of place on my bookshelf, unopened and unread for at least a year before one day I finally decided to find out what all the fuss was about - and 'boy' was I disappointed!
After reading the first chapter, I wondered if I had picked up the right book?
Perhaps there were two Catcher in the Rye's by different authors?
This was not the dark subversive epic I had been lead to believe!
There appeared to be no secrets concealed within the pages on overthrowing the establishment or blueprints to raising a rebellion?
This was not the essential anarchist's bible! It turned out to be just a childish story about some looser middle class kid with a chip on his shoulder - what a let down!
I shoved the book back on my book shelf and there it sat for the next ten years or so ignored and forgotten till one day the red and black cover caught my eye, and this time slightly more mature and open minded, I opened it at the beginning and started to read:
Its not a long book, nor is it heavy reading and so I aquaplaned through it in no time; not until I was about half way through did I actually begin to enjoy what I was reading and become interested in how the character would resolve all his issues; and there lay the real disappointing climax to the book - you never really find out.
The story does have some very good merits; it does capture the angst of youth and the struggles of growing up and coming to terms with your place in the world. The way the main character challenges almost everything around him is spot on; but, it is not one of those books you should feel you must read before you die.
I think early controversy and the fact that the story was much ahead of it's time created a big fuss which lasted long after the matter lost it's novelty; and in today's society it has lost all and any shock value it may have once had.
Read it if you are interested in discovering what is going on in the disillusioned mind of a mid-1940s teenager during three days of crisis in his life where his whole world appears to be falling apart. In reality he is so wrapped up in himself that he is incapable of seeing the wood from the trees as he crawls back home after being rejected from a top school in Pennsylvania and slinks back to his parents apartment in New York City via the many bars and flop houses he finds along the way.
If nothing It did shatter my illusions that life must have been somehow less stressful for teenagers fifty years ago than in my day? or, that society must have been much simpler several decades back?
In that respect I think it would have been useful to have actually read the book when I originally purchased it, just to give the younger me a reality check.
The book is short enough to warrant a re-read, and since I appear to be in the minority of people who disliked it, I may keep it on my book shelf for another time in my life when perhaps I may appreciate it more? But for now, I'll leave it at that.
What I found most amazing was that, although it was narrated by a self-pitying teenager with a lot of repeated
The other great achievement was to communicate a lot of ideas through the mind of a narrator who doesn't have access to a lot of wisdom or perspective. He's a teenager, and he's grappling with feelings of alienation and revulsion, but doesn't really understand why. Yet Salinger lets us understand more, partly by filling in back-story like the death of his little brother Allie, and partly by having adults speak to and about Holden, suggesting possible reasons for his position.
Holden is presented in some reviews as just an annoying, privileged kid who hates the world for no reason and should grow up and get over it. It's easy to see why people would think that, but for me the story of Allie and his relationship with his little sister Phoebe give a much more interesting perspective on his character. Losing a brother is a horrible thing for any child to experience, and it seems to be the root of Holden's hatred for the world. Allie died of leukemia at a young age and so is always preserved in Holden's mind as a perfect, innocent child who went for walks with him in the park and wrote poetry on his baseball glove. Holden compares everyone else to this idealised picture of Allie, and it's not surprising that he finds them all to be phony or dishonest. It's also not surprising that he hates them, because they lived and Allie didn't. He's a child trying and failing to understand death and injustice. He holds the world up to impossible standards because in a way the people he meets have to prove why they deserve to live when Allie died. They, of course, fail to live up to his standards in various ways, and so he hates them.
Holden also fails, and he's aware of it - he's a coward himself, and phony sometimes, and he hates himself for it. He invites pain - the bloody nose from his school roommate, the roughing up from the elevator boy/pimp in the hotel, the cold in Central Park. He invites it perhaps because he feels he deserves it. Again, he's comparing himself to Allie and finding himself wanting. Phoebe is the only person in the book he likes, because she's still a child and so still innocent. He wants to protect her, to keep her frozen in childhood, a cute kid on a carousel. He hates the idea of her growing up and getting corrupted - when he goes to her school and sees someone has written "Fuck you" on the wall, he is furious and scrapes it off. Whenever he sees a child, it makes him happy - for him they are the symbol of purity in a dishonest world.
The title of the book ties all this together. When it's first mentioned, on page 115, Holden is walking along Broadway feeling depressed as usual when he sees a young boy walking along the curb singing a song, "If a body catch a body coming through the rye". The effect on him is instant: "It made me feel better. It made me feel not so depressed any more." Then near the end of the book Holden is talking to Phoebe and she asks him what he wants to do in his life, and he can only think of one thing, based on the same song the boy was singing:
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.
This is characteristic of the whole book - Holden doesn't really understand, but expresses something in a confused way, and Salinger gives the reader enough information to understand and piece it all together. When you know about Allie, and see how Holden behaves around other children, this passage makes perfect sense. He wants to protect the children, and also to go back himself into a purer, happier time, before Allie's death, before he started moving towards adulthood. He wants to catch them and preserve them as they are, happy and innocent, to save them from becoming adults or, worse, from becoming Holden Caulfield.
PS. That imagery? Of the catcher in the rye? Is SEARED INTO MY BRAIN as one of the most raw-hearted, beautiful things I've read. It's achingly simple but touches some primal nerve. (bawling)
I've taken the subway and had prolonged conversations on the street with prostitutes (not concerning ...more Sometimes truth isn't just stranger than fiction, it's also more interesting and better plotted. Salinger helped to pioneer a genre where fiction was deliberately less remarkable than truth. His protagonist says little, does little, and thinks little, and yet Salinger doesn't string Holden up as a satire of deluded self-obsessives, he is rather the epic archetype of the boring douche.
I've taken the subway and had prolonged conversations on the street with prostitutes (not concerning business matters), and I can attest that Salinger's depiction is often accurate to what it feels like to go through an average, unremarkable day. However, reading about an average day is no more interesting than living one.
Beyond that, Salinger doesn't have the imagination to paint people as strangely as they really are. Chekhov's 'normal' little people seem more real and alive than Salinger's because Chekhov injects a little oddness, a little madness into each one. Real people are almost never quite as boring as Salinger depicts them, because everyone has at least one original insight into the world.
Salinger's world is desaturated. Emotions and moments seep into one another, indistinct as the memories of a drunken party. Little importance is granted to events or thoughts, they simply pass by, each duly noted by the author.
What is interesting about this book is not that it is realistically bland, but that it is artificially bland. Yet, as ridiculous a concept as that is, it still takes itself entirely in earnest, never acknowledging the humor of its own blase hyperbole.
This allows the book to draw legions of fans from all of the people who take themselves as seriously as Holden takes himself. Since it is not a parody of bland egotism but a celebration, it was poised to inspire all the bland egotists who have resulted from the New Egalitarianism in Art, Poetry, Music, and Academia.
Those same folks who treat rationality and intellectual fervor like a fashion to be followed, imagining that the only thing required to be brilliant is to mimic the appearance and mannerisms of the brilliant; as if black berets were the cause of poetic inspiration and not merely a symptom.
One benefit of this is that one can generally sniff out pompous faux intellectuals by the sign that they hold up Holden as a sort of messianic figure. Anyone who marks out Holden as a role-model is either a deluded teen with an inflated sense of entitlement, or is trying to relive the days when they were.
There are those who appreciate this book because of the unfocused mood it creates, the moral greyness, the fact that it doesn't comment on or judge its characters, and makes no pretension to present its protagonist as either heroic or sympathetic. There is a sort of elegance in the lack of authorial intrusion.
Yet the book is not so pure: it was still written by an author, who chose the characters and moments he represents here, and by eschewing his own authorial intent, merely opens the book up to whatever interpretation the reader feels is appropriate. This seems especially troublesome when the general gist of the book is 'people are self-centered, and their lives are pointless'.
One begins to wonder what Salinger's purpose really was in writing a book that caresses the egos of the conceited and yet demands no thought from them. Perhaps there is more than previously recognized to the oft-remarked connection between The Catcher in the Rye and trust-fund emo hipsters with a deep-seated sense of entitlement.
Despite the apparent randomness of the prose, a mild scrutiny reveals that it is actually beautifully structured. The repeated use of certain parts of speech, the forceful numerical exaggeration, the stream of 'that killed me', are all testimony to this point. Incredible amount of thought has gone to the structural aspect of the book. It is evident, right from the beginning, that Salinger is working with something very close to his heart, and he carries it out with intricate care and detail.
The novel traces out two hapless and ultimately memorable days in the life of Holden Caulfield, but its actually two days out of the life of humanity on the whole. Hope pervades Caulfield's genuinely dark perspective of the world around him, again and again. The end result is that you recount this as a foreboding drama which is occasionally thought-provoking, seldom funny, and yet, never too depressing.
Caulfield finds the world around him to be full of phonies, flitties, liars, pretenders. And when he rambles on them, it does make you wince and move uncomfortably on your seat. But fittingly, the message of the novel, which, to be fair, isn't as impressive as the context itself, comes from a stray character, one Mr Antonioli, Caulfield's English teacher.
But Caulfield has the ability to love, just like you and me. He was perhaps in love with Jane Gallagher(Caulfield's apparent incoherentness of thought is revealed here as he fails to grasp the difference between lust and love, the former more dominant in the case of Sally Hayes), but Jane never comes into the novel, and remains a figure, infact one of the few figures presented in a positive light by Holden. The other, ofcourse, is Phoebe, Caulfield's baby sister, perhaps his biggest care, and also the most delightfully positive character in the entire novel. The narrative thus fittingly ends with Phoebe having fun on the carrousel, with Holden watching on, out in the rain, tired after the two days in which nothing and yet everything happens.
Thus, if we ever have the fortune of walking past the pond in Central Park in New York when it's snowing, we might just wonder for a moment, 'Where do the ducks go during winter?'. By the looks of it, they ultimately go somewhere where there is some hope at the end of the day. But the author leaves it open. Fittingly.
First of all, if Holden was even alienated, it was by his own doing. Everyone was a moron. Everyone and everything was STUPID! Everyone was a phony. Everyone, but Holden himself, of course. Holden was the most real guy that you will ever meet. Or at least he is, according to his delusions. Holden was a hypocrite and the biggest phony in The Catcher in the Rye. He was a pathological liar. Was THIS the point of the book...to show how alienation affects teens so bad that they become flaming hypocrites, and issue-infested liars?
Holden Caufield was also bratty and pretentious. His so-called "astute" observations were average and typical (were they supposed to be some inner look into the mind of an unapplied genius? Because I so didn't get that) and more often than not kind of boring. His observations also made me roll my eyes quite a bit. And man, was he repetitive! He mentioned the same sentence twice (and even three times) in the same paragraph.
So why did I give The Catcher in the Rye two stars instead of the dreaded one? Well, this book was written in a fairly breezy, easy to read style. That's important to me when I'm reading a classic. Sure, it's all fine and dandy to admire the semi-dry writing of the classic writers, but if it takes me a half hour to read a page, some of the pleasure fades. That was the good thing about this book. It was easy to understand. Too bad that my understanding is that this book is a bit overrated. In fact, I understand why it's heralded as the book of the sociopaths. I'm not saying that everyone who enjoys the book is a sociopath, but I can see why sociopaths love it.
The classic coming-of-age novel where 17-year-old Holden Caulfield recounts the weekend he drifted away from his life.
It’s evocative of the 1930s when Salinger was a teen, and of the 1970s when I was a teen, and of now. I re-read it during Banned Books Week and it angers me that it’s frequently challenged/banned because that only denies reality -- the reality of teen angst that will pass, and the reality that this teen narrator isn’t experiencing angst, he’s damaged in a way that might not pass. A contemporary version of this novel might be about a school-shooter.
"The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one."
Here is an example of phrase that popped up every page or so:
It really is (or was)
I (or they) really....
Depressed me Or Depressing
Kill me (or you)
I don't know if my dislike for the book come from the fact that I can't relate to sixteen year old boys or was it the character and story style, but whatever it was. It wasn't working. It got to the point where I would have to take a break after each chapter. Not because the storyline was hard to follow but the style just wasn't working for me and I needed a breather.
Overall, the concept is good but the main character just messes it up for me.
This is an authentic voice doing something for the first time that has now been much repeated. It deserves its classic status because of what it does. It speaks of that teenage angst at a time when teenagers were just being "invented". It speaks into a changing culture, and it has been much studied and much copied in the following years.
But whilst recognising this was a seminal work, and one that thoroughly deserves its fame, I have to confess that as a reader I was less than fully engrossed in it.
Holden Caulfield is a wonderful protaganist because he is so human. He is dropping out but he is not a nasty character. His love for his sister in particular was a powerful antidote to a kind of dark nihilism that might otherwise threaten the work.
Nevertheless I did not really enjoy reading about this snippet of his life. There was no grand story here - the book is really all about the character and viewpoint. Many people will love that, but for me it did not click. That is perhaps a reflection on my own tastes though, rather than this work.
So whilst I will score this at between 3 and 4 stars, your mileage may vary. It is one of those books that the reader will probably enjoy more, the more they have to bring to it.