Author: JD Salinger (Website)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
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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. Summary from Goodreads
I’ve wanted to read The Catcher in the Rye for a very long time. So when we decided to read it for book club, I was really excited! I don’t know what I had in mind for The Catcher in the Rye, but what I read was definitely not it.
I thought The Catcher in the Rye had absolutely no plot and was completely pointless. I’m not sure why it’s even considered a classic. And, I absolutely hated the writing style. I hated how Holden thought/spoke (other than the colloquialisms). His thoughts were rambling and unfiltered, and I had a really hard time with it. It added to my being adamant that there is no point to this story.
I understand why teenage boys would like it because they probably relate to Holden really well. But, since I’m neither a teenager nor a boy, I couldn’t relate to him very much, even with thinking back on my teenage years. With that being said, I could see why Holden felt the way he did in some circumstances. He really seemed to like kids because they were genuine and hadn’t been jaded yet. And, on the flip side, he hated adults (or anyone nearing adulthood) because they all seemed like they were phonies. I actually kind of agree with him on that point.
I hated Holden at first, but I felt sorry for him in the end. I felt like he was crying out for help and no one could see that he was. He was so depressed, suicidal even, and he didn’t know how to deal with his little brother’s death. And, of course, none of the adults in his life really showed him how to grieve, cope, or even live. I wished he had found someone to help him; I think that would’ve made the book better and at least given a point to the story.
Even though Holden grew on me a little bit by the end, I just still didn’t like The Catcher in the Rye. I tried to like it and I even tried to see why my book club cohorts liked it. And, while I agree with a lot of what they said about it, I just don’t like this book for some reason.
Probably the only thing I truly liked about The Catcher in the Rye was Holden’s colloquialisms. It was fun to read things like, “I got a bang out of that” or “shoot the bull.” I also thought it was really interesting how he used the word “hell” in some instances. He said things like, “scared hell out of me” or “annoyed hell out of me” without “the” in front of “hell.” I thought it was a typo at first, but this happens very frequently throughout the entire book, while other times “the” is in front of “hell.” So, I’m not really sure if the way “hell” is used has changed or not since 1951, but I still found that fascinating.
Even though I didn’t like The Catcher in the Rye, I’m still glad I read it. I’m glad I know what it’s finally about, even if it isn’t really about anything.
There’s an over abundance of language in this book. It mostly consists of deity swears. It also has some instances of the F-word near the very end of the book.