Twelve years ago, my history teacher in High School sang the praises of a book that, in his own words, every adolescent should read at some point.Three days ago, and twelve years later,Santa finally did what I hadn't in all those years,and brought me a copy of The Catcher in the Rye.
I read it in a couple of nights. The first night I felt like someone I had thought my friend had let me down in some way. I started to suspect that it might be the typical overrated classic.The boy starts a story from some place he's confined in, but he doesn't elaborate. He then starts the telling of what happened last Christmas, which eventually led to his being where he is. As much as I tried, I could find nothing especial there, just the boy and his school mates and troubles and the crazy decision of flee to avoid parental confrotation and an immature teen with a lot ot maturing to do. He most probably would end up doing something stupid and being caught and all. Perhaps it was too late. Perhaps I was too late, and should have read it just when Mr. Montejo told me to.
Yesterday night, I picked the book again. Sadly, more out of the respect I had been brewing for the last years than out of real interest, but I picked it anyway. And then IT happened.
At some point of Holden's account,everything just clicks. Where he was, why he was there, what was going on with him. So I had to read other's thoughts about this amazing character.
I wasn't really surprised at the bunch of negative reviews, and neither I was at the bunch which considered it a masterpiece. What really surprised me is that many of them, good or bad, seemed to miss something that to me was crucial to the story: that Holden is not the teenager boy going through the difficult task of coming of age and doing stupid things and leaving the innocence of childhood behind, as I had previously suspected and feared. But that his problem, his real problem, is deeper and more dangerous than that. That he is tired of everything and everyone, in serious need of help, immersed in a serious depression, inestable and anguished to a dangerous extreme.
When he first mentions his brother Allie's death of leukemia when he was 13, or how he broke all the widow glasses of their garage afterwards,he does it in an almost eerily casual manner. But later you realise that perhaps that day was the day Holden Caulfield started his race toward the very same precipice he wants to save those children of his dreams from. Unfortunately, as he says, there's no one big around to catch him.
It's not that this book leads to violent acts or has the power of perturbing minds. More like perturbed minds recognise what's really going on with Holden. That he's not only coming-of-age, but he's coming of age immersed in a depression no one seems to see or care about. When his sister confronts him, he ends up crying and clinging on to her like she's the only thing that can save him. Perhaps she is, and she literally saved him without knowing it.
Perhaps I'm in the minority, but as caustic and sad Holden's thoughts are, I don't feel his story is pessimist, but rather the tale of a catharsis that was both necessary AND urgent for him. He is conscious of many things about the world, but also about himself, contrary to many opinions I've read. And he has a good heart, and not an agressive nature. It can end well.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book, but with some warnings. If you need things happening all the time to feel there's something going on, this is not your book. If you expect a coming-of-age narrative, you won't like it either. If you are looking for different tones in the voice, you'll be dissapointed and find it lineal. And if you are an adolescent, I can't tell. You might or might not like it; you might or might not feel it.
As for me, I'm truly thankful for not having read this book when I was Holden's age. I wouldn't have liked it, and so I would have missed this amazing feeling I'm having today. The feeling of having been touched by something. It doesn't happens often, nowadays.
My apologies for the rant! :D