The Catcher In The Rye (J D Salinger)

book cover(This post is dedicated to Holden Caulfield. Within these pages is the story he wrote. Can you dig it?) A tale about two days in the life of a recently expelled sixteen year old youth. Not wanting to face the wrath of his parents, he decides to avoid home for a few days (until he’s expected back), living on his own in the city. The premise is merely a foundation for his simplistic views and disintegrating reasoning process. He considers everyone around him to be fake and undeserving of his time, yet it is obvious that Holden is just as`phony’ as the rest of them. He goes on dates, gets trashed in bars, sneaks off to visit his sister, imposes (or does he?) on a former teacher and even has a run in with a pimp. What a boring little bastard!

Our young ones are just as misplaced and confused as Holden Caulfield was in 1951, in fact they have it much more difficult in today’s world. So his tale of apathy – masked – as – desperation is one that we could all learn from; but Salinger loses my patience with his redundancy. The story is crucial yet the delivery makes this a difficult read, conveyed in Holden’s uninteresting and, at times, aggravating communication style. The Catcher in the Rye’ lacks the emotional connection needed to make it worth suffering through. In the end the novel’s brilliant moments (like Holden’s confession as to what it is he really wants to be) are masked by all of the mediocre (or just plain uninspiring) ones, leaving us with a novel that feels incomplete and a concept that deserved so much more than it got.

I merely shrugged off every part because I didn’t really care what happened next. One might protest that is the point, that we aren’t supposed to care about Holden, thus furthering the poignancy of Salinger’s point. But to them I have only this to say: you have to care for it to matter. You cannot reach an audience if they are not moved. If we adopt the same apathetic attitude of the main character then we simply have not achieved the desired response. If this novel is to mean anything then we have to be stunned, mortified and moved to action because of the protagonist’s delivery. For me, Jerome D Salinger completely fails to do that. I would have loved to read a book that captured teenage angst and the dread of growing older and making compromises. But Holden just repeats the same thing incessantly: “They’re all phony and depressing.” He doesn’t in any way seem representative of what most teens go through.

Instead, he comes off as nutty as a fruitcake. It feels more like an early picture of mental illness – of someone dealing with depression or OCD – than anything to do with the human condition. He then goes on to lie to virtually everyone, killing any of hope of the reader being able to sympathize with a main character who is so deceptive. There is no plot. How can you have a story without a plot? The character has no desire (except perhaps pedophilia) and no purpose, no problems to solve, no goals. Basically, the entire book is about what a lazy slacker he is. No wonder it was banned! It was viciously anti-social and has no redeeming value or moral that might reward the curious teenage reader. If anything sums up “un-American” it is this overrated novel and its unwholesome author…I want my money back.

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Comments

  1. I have often heard that sociopaths absolutely love this book and have been curious to read it to try and find out why. But other folks said it can only be enjoyed as a teenager. Your review seems to support it. I guess it is perpetually going to stay in my to-buy list. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a very lucky author indeed. It doesn’t deserve all the acclaim and profit it made. Maybe the catchy title helped it to succeed or just right place right time. Perhaps you should give it a try, just make sure its for free. As always, I appreciate your comments Ana. 🙂

    Like

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