The Catcher in the Rye

“Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.”

There are classics I have always been curious about. You see them on t-shirts, referenced in popular culture and discussed in literature classes but no one really says, "You should read this, you'll love it." So at Powell's in Oregon, I purchased my first copy of The Catcher in the Rye, having really no expectations for it.

It surprised me. I started out so confused by it - who was this rambling, depressed teenager? It is written in stream-of-consciousness which I have read before, but not like this. Because Holden Caulfield holds nothing back, you really do feel like you are in the mind of a teenage boy at first - which is equally entertaining as it is frightening. All I can say is, give it a chance because the first few pages are rough and you wonder where it is going.

The more I read though, the more I began to see what a beautiful person Holden is. He notices things - small things about human nature and records them. He kept saying, "That depressed the hell out of me." I began to notice that things depressed me, too. Seeing a grown man holding a sign in the Arizona heat for a furniture liquidation, a mother slap her three year old in Walmart and people who are waiters their whole lives. All of these things depress me too, but I didn't let myself feel them, or think about them because they depress me. Holden is not afraid to feel things, in fact, he feels too much. Sometimes I wonder what is worse, but I definitely know that I try to block things out so I don't have to feel them. Sometimes feeling things is way too much for me, but like Holden, I would rather feel something instead of nothing.

It was full of bad language, didn't have much of a story line, and you don't fall in love with any of the characters, but I still liked it. I decided after reading it that I did like it because it made me think above all else, and made me more aware of the things that made me happy and sad. The reason it is called "The Catcher in the Rye" is really beautiful too, but not something I feel I can just share because it was the best hidden gem of the book.

I'm not sure if I'm recommending it right now or not. I guess the best way to say it, is that I'm really glad I read it and I don't feel like I wasted my time. Take it for what it's worth. In the words of Holden Caulfield, "I don't exactly know what I mean by that, but I mean it.”


Claire said...

I love it :). Holden is lovely.

larajanepark said...

One of my favorite books...There is nobody like Holden Caulfield. I have a friend who always keeps spare copies on his person, in his car, at work, etc. Whenever he meets someone who has not read it, he presses one into their hands and says "you will not be sorry if you read this book". I'm so glad to hear you savored it.

Mallory Camille said...

My feelings exactly. I will never regret reading this book. Your descriptions are spot on. The catcher in the rye metaphor resonated so deeply that I still see it when I feel that sense of hopelessness Holden explains.

Strange how a book seemingly pointless in plot can say so much about the human experience.

Brissa said...

i'm almost done reading this one! it's my first time and i wasn't sure what to expect. i felt like everyone read it in high school (except for me) so i thought it would be boring and a traditional "high school english" book. it's not and i like it. it leaves you feeling empty, but the good kind. i can't describe it, but i like it.

annie said...

What a thoughtful description of Salinger's book! I thoroughly enjoyed "Catcher in the Rye" when I first read it in high school, but I also remember being confused: Holden felt so different from me, so foreign. Now I understand that's the beauty of a good book: introducing us to things we may not have understood before. Have you read any of Salinger's short stories? They left me feeling the same way you described, and I'm glad. I think that feeling of confusion, of speechlessness, can be the mark of something wonderful.

Alycia (Crowley Party) said...

This was a required read for us in high school. It is a book I probably would have never read on my own, but so happy I did. I loved reading something that seemed so different, so hard to understand, I like a book that makes you think! That challenges your thoughts, which at the age of 15, this surely did!