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The best novel ever written?,
This review is from: The Catcher in the Rye (Paperback)
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.