This book has been challenged and banned in many places since its publication. It is amusing to think that, nowadays, as if it were given an age rating it would probably only get a PG, or a 12.
Critics have described Holden as a cynical teenager, but maybe we should reconsider that thought and turn it back on itself? Holden is an innocent, he can barely cope with the cynical world at all. He is so innocent and alone that he tries to get a prostitute to just chat and keep him company.
He has been through some awful things, and he is desperately lonely. Nobody seems to notice he is falling apart, he is adrift in an uncaring world.
The book is somewhat dated, but it is still something that teenagers could get a lot from. In fact, anybody who feels they can relate even a little to the protagonist should pick it up too.
The lack of accountability by his teachers about his disappearance really do mark this as reaching out from an earlier era, as do things like the causal racial references. So why has a book which in many respects is outdated stayed as one of the major books set in English classes across the world? It must surely be the strength of emotion and the poignancy that shines through; Holden is still a character that can be identified with, even by todays adolescents. He is an exquistitely rendered character, and through his story you can learn a lot about yourself as well.
on 9 January 2006
Given this as a present from a friend, I felt obliged to read this alleged 'classic'. Initially, I felt burdened to read what the popular consensus deemed as a book to be remembered in the ages to come.
The first few pages eased me in, with little event to give an impression of what the book would be like as a whole. But, with every paged turned, the book became so engrossing which lead to that 'don't want to eat, drink or sleep until I have finished this book' feeling.
The book is short and thrives in its simplistic thought patterns of the narrator. Simplistic but actually with deep feeling and meaning. The book is simply fascinating, following the decisions and thoughts of a boy seeking fulfilment in his life away from school, having been expelled from school.
J D Salinger style of writing is natural and fluid with great communication of a boy struggling with his insecurities, enjoying his objects of happiness and feeling around for a grasp of his own personality. It is a natural and, to a certain extent, slow moving and limited in spectacular and dramatic events. But, don't let this put you off, it is part of the purposeful magic that J D Salinger spills into this fantatic book.
I can only recommend this book and praise it for what it is. Get reading it, even if its people telling you its good - because it is!
on 28 December 2008
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
on 22 January 2008
This is, without doubt, easily my favourite book of all-time, and yet I cannot generally fathom why. It's just my perfect book, in every concievable way, from style to form and characterisation, and absolutely nothing anyone could say against it would ever make me think otherwise.
I can't say exactly in plain and reasonably simple words what makes this novel so fantastic, for I feel that it is really a personal experience for each reader, to make an emotional connection with it. All I can say is that I feel that I connected with Holden, and that is it. I firmly believe that those who dislike (or hate) this novel are simply missing the entire point of it. You have to have experienced emotions similar to what Holden is going through to get a full grasp of this novel, and for those who find Holden moronic and egotistical, this is impossible to do as they cannot empathize through him.
This is the only book that has often made me laugh and cry, often both at the same time. It has no other political or social meaning, and is viable for every generation. I hope they never make a film of it, because, as J.D. Salinger put it: "it wouldn't be what Holden wanted".
Overall then, it seems that "The Catcher in the Rye" is truely a book of literary Marmite: you either love it or hate it. But whatever your view, you should still read it, simply because of the widely varied opinions of the novel.
on 23 December 2004
"The catcher in the rye" is the story of some days in Holden Caulfied's life, as he tells it in the hospital where he was taken after his "meltdown". In his own words, "I'll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy".
The plot is quite simple, mainly what happens when a particularly sensitive teenager gets kicked out of school, and decides to travel alone a little bit instead of just telling his parents what happened. However, even if the main premise is common enough, the way it is delivered is what makes this book so special that it has become a classic. Salinger makes us get to know Holden, giving the reader interesting insights into his musings, likes and dislikes (yeah, generally mostly dislikes).
You want some examples?. For instance, and regarding teachers, he says that "You can't stop a teacher when they want to do something. They just do it". Or when he starts to think about the things we say over and over again, without giving them any actual meaning: "I'm always saying `Glad to `ve met you` to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though".
Holden's views are interesting, and different readers will interpret them in diverse ways, specially if their age isn't the same. To teenagers, Holden reflects the highs and lows they have to deal with, and their struggle with the "phony world" of adults that sometimes seems so weird, so wrong. To adults, Holden is a part of themselves that they somehow lost with the years, the innocence and the shock before things they have grown accustomed to with time.
There are quite a few symbols in this book, but you will able to understand it even if you don't know a thing about symbology (or aren't interested in it). Despite that, I'd like to share with you a specially important symbol, the catcher in the rye that gives this book its title. Holden wants to be the catcher in the rye when he grows up: "Anyway, 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." . He doesn't know why, he just wants to come out from somewhere and catch little children before they fall from the cliff. In a way, that shows how much he wants to preserve their innocence, against a phony world that tries to corrupt them...
I really liked this book, and I found it engaging and very easy to read. I'm not from USA, so I didn't have to read it as obligatory reading material for school, but I ended up reading it all the same mainly out of curiosity because many of my American friends recommended it to me. After reading "The catcher in the rye", I must say that they were right, and I would like to recommend this book to you, if you haven't read it yet. And if you are forced to read it for school, please JUST GIVE IT AN OPPORTUNITY. I know it is hateful having to read something merely because someone says so, but in this case that will work to your advantage... What can I say?. This book, unlike so many others, is really WORTH YOUR TIME.
on 25 September 2006
I read this when I was 17 and just didn't get it. I found the style irritating and the plot thin on the ground. I have just read it again aged 27 and was totally blown away. For me, it wasn't the rebelliousness or the cynicism that made it great - it was the incredible (unreliable) first person narration of a sensitive young person, clearly suffering from Manic Depression (or similar), through his inevitable breakdown.
I can only guess that I missed the point as a teenager because I didn't share Holden's dissatisfaction and lacked the emotional maturity to appreciate what was happening beyond his actions.
on 15 March 2005
There's a tendency for reviews of The Catcher In The Rye to speak of it as a teenagers' book, a story 'about' the problems of being a misunderstood school kid in a cold adult world. But Salinger's novel didn't become a classic by catering for the teen market. Its universal appeal stems from its universal theme. At heart we are ALL misunderstood school kids, and it's a cold old world out there. Holden Caulfield is just a human being in very deep trouble.
Specifically, he's been sacked from yet another school, he's too distressed & frustrated to stick around to the end of term but too frightened to go home, so he spends the entire book floundering around the city looking for somebody to talk to and generally making an idiot of himself. It's the age-old theme of a troubled soul wandering in the wilderness - never mind that in this case the wilderness is the East Side of Manhattan, and Holden's wanderings include a midnight raid on his own home to talk to his own sister.
What is really going on, is that Holden is having a nervous breakdown - not provoked by some post-adolescent navel-gazing; he recently lost his kid brother to leukaemia, and none of the adults in Holden's wealthy, privileged world has bothered to wonder how he will cope with the tragedy. The answer is, he isn't coping. He is on the edge of the abyss, and its odours permeate the bitter humour of the novel.
It is wonderfully comic, and hauntingly painful. Holden Caulfield is the best and the worst, the kindest and most exasperating, the most intelligent and the least rational of people. He is the human condition, in other words. That is what immortalized the author. The publication of this book changed literature for ever. For any of us to say we don't like it, makes no more sense than saying we don't think much of 'Hamlet'. It will simply go on for ever without us and never notice.
on 15 December 2006
Well, I don't know whether it is the best novel ever written, but it must definitely be up there.
This novel is about the original rebel without a cause, Holden Caulfield, and the period in his life when he decided to turn his back on society in disgust. From the opening lines, the first person narration sallies forth in what turns out to be almost 200 pages of rant at post-war society. The thoughts, memories and language of the novel are clearly those of an adolescent refusing to be "phoney" and speaking out in his own natural voice. However, his musings on the squalid state of New York society, on frustrated desires in modern life, and on the need for the individual to construct one's own morality amount to a satire worthy of a place on the shelf next to Swift or Pope.
Caulfield's voice is so distinct, coherent and consistent, that it really draws you in. Although the character is clearly adolescent, and his language throughout is crude and colloquial, this does not ultimately detract from the literariness of the novel. It is deceptively simple language, that makes for an easy, though thoughtful read. For example, his slang set phrases, such as "goddam" or "it killed me", become motifs, and are used in a variety of applications, emphasising the tonal richness of English and suggestive of the ineffable that lies beyond the compass of language. Listen not to what Caulfield says, but to what he in his immaturity is trying to say. The young still speak the language of God. His progression from failure and disillusionment, to his realisation of a moment of happiness in the simplest thing is one long epiphany.
Salinger's observations are perceptive and his expression is witty and humorous. It will make you laugh out loud, though the laughter is nervous, as you are never sure to what extent you are the object. So it is with all good comedy and satire: it will make you laugh at the ridiculousness of humanity, and will hopefully make you wish to reform your own "phoney" or "perverty" behaviour. It is about creating a space where you can make your own rules in a society where order is disintegrating.
I think I was too old when I first read this book. This is a book which should be read in one's late teens, preferably alongside the discovery of Sylvia Plath. It is one of the classic novels of disaffected youth, a young man, lost in his own life, wanders aimlessly making chance encounters which force him to look at his experiences and potentially make meaning out of what seems empty and vacant. It just really doesn't cut the mustard in your early thirties with three small kids.
I'm afraid that I had little time or sympathy for the protagonist and found the whole thing faintly boring. It is undoubtedly well written, and as I say, if I had discovered it at the age of seventeen it probably would have deeply affected me. I'm quite disappointed that I missed the boat on this one.
on 13 March 2007
I chose to read this book as I had heard about it in the past but never actually knew what it was about, so when I saw it in the bookshop one day I decided to give it a go. I must say that I found it fantastic.
I can see why this is billed as one of the modern classics, as it is a timeless tale that will continue to have an impact for many years to come. It maps out that journey from childhood to adolesence, a confusing and troubling time, in a very realistic way. Although it could be said that there is no main plot to it I think the way that it has been written to just follow 3 ordinary days has so much more impact than if any major life events had occured to the main character during the novel. Indeed, it captures the essence of this time of life and everything that comes with it.
I really enjoyed the narrative style as the use of the first person meant it seemed as if Holden was a real person whose life I was watching. It meant it was really easy to relate to him and that we got a real sense of his personality. It was truly an insight into a slightly disturbed but ultimately very interesting character.
I would recommend this novel to anyone as it is a refreshingingly different type of novel to many of the others that are out there today. It is thought provoking and is something that will remain with you once you have finished it. You will be both amused and saddened by Holden's opinions and altogether very negative views of the world which seem much older than his years. He is a teenager trying to be a successful adult in a world he just can't seem to relate to, which makes the plot very interesting. Ultimately it will make you challenge your own thoughts and ideas and so will have an impact on you.
It is good to see a realistic portrayal of young adult life and all the tribulations that come with it in trying to learn and form your own opinions on the world. This is put across in an excellent way here so if you are a teenager yourself or just want to look back on that time in your life I would pick up this book. In my opinion it is well worth a read.