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The Catcher in the Rye Paperback – 4 Aug 1994
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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 16-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 haemorrhages 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. --Amazon.com
From the Inside Flap
Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories ? particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme ? With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is fully of children. The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Long story short, I think this is amazing. Right from the first page I was hooked. I'm very much on the same level as Caulfield. His mind set is similar to my own, and he came to life right before my eyes. It's difficult to put my finger on why I love this novel so much, I think it's because of how introspective it is. I spend a lot of my time thinking, and I suppose that aspect of my personality transcends the form of this story. For my own reasons, this is one of my favorite novels. I think that the majority of people can relate to this, as there will always be things in this world that anger us, and this is a brilliant indulgence in the cynical side of ourselves.
From what I've experienced in other reviews, there's a divide between those who think the character is unappreciative and the novel simply boring, and people who say it is a brilliant classic. It's the detractors which I will address. The beauty of the novel (at least for me) is the cynicism. Don't let this criticism put you off.
Holden's stream of consciousness is fascinating. He is a well meaning, flawed eccentric. He's looking for meaning in a meaningless world of 'phonies'. His search for meaning, and need to connect, causes him to ask seemingly crazy questions about 'where the ducks in Central Park go in winter and why the fish don't die when the lake is frozen over'. He is transcending the ordinary visceral selfish world of the material and the flesh and looking for fulfilment. He is of course looking for a reason for the death of his innocent teenage brother although this is never made obvious by the author. Holden is trying to be grown up by drinking, dating and engaging a 'gas cooker' but his heart is firmly ensconced in childhood, hence his desire to save youth and innocence enshrined in his 'catcher in the rye' myth.
Catcher in the Rye becomes a companion. A book to keep by your bedside and dip into when you need to be reminded that you are not alone. That there are millions of others crying out to make sense of a senseless existence. That's why it's a classic. It perfectly sums up the position we find ourselves in: the human condition.
JP (not JD ;)
(I have not discussed the fact that the book contains swearing and other rebellious features that might have made it shocking and popular to rebels 50 years ago because I'm reviewing its relevance in 2011, and it is still very relevant.
As ever, a solid Penguin edition, with good typeface. Well worth the money, and for me, level with Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby as towers of American literature.
Not being the most avid reader, I asked an American colleague of mine for a recommendation for a book. Her first response was that over all other books I need to buy and read this one. 2 days post purchase I have finished this book and it has changed my life. I now love reading, especially the classics such as this. Best book I have read for years.