review: catcher in the rye

28 June 2013

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: book trade at school library
pages: 277
review written: 15/6/13-
edition read: First Back Bay Paperback Edition
originally published: 1951

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, second-hand 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 marvellously 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.

My thoughts:
This is the one book, apparently, that everyone has to read once in his/her life. I didn't know how to feel going into the book, knowing that it was summer reading. I hate required reading because I have no choice in  whether or not I want to read it. If I had picked this off the shelf and flipped through it, I would've put it back right away and browsed the shelves for something more interesting. Unfortunately, I had to read this and it was shitty.

It took me WAY too long to read this, even when I was trying every single night. I got a page done a day: that's how bad it was. There were, however, good parts to this book that I would have enjoyed a lot were it not written so poorly. Holden made observations of people on his journey through New York and he described them in a way that I completely agreed with it. His observations apply to modern day as well, and despite being from the first-person point-of-view, I felt as if it were third person.

"..Arthur Childs. Old Childs was a Quaker and all, and he read the Bible all the time. He was a very nice kid, and I liked him, but I could never see eye to eye with him on a lot of stuff in the Bible, especially the Disciples. He kept telling me if I didn't like the Disciples, then I didn't like Jesus and all. He said that because Jesus picked the Disciples, you were supposed to like them. I said I knew He picked  them, but that He picked them at random. I said He didn't have the time to go around analysing everybody. I said I wasn't blaming Jesus or anything. It wasn't His fault that He didn't have any time. I remember I asked old Childs if he thought Judas, the one that betrayed Jesus and all, went to Hell after he committed suicide. Childs said certainly. That's where I disagreed with him. I said I'd bet a thousand bucks that Jesus never sent old Judas to Hell...." (131)

I don't like all the comma splicing. And the way he keeps saying "and all" and "Anyway" and "old" behind everything. The entire book is written in colloquial language, as if Holden were talking directly to me. I found it a bit anything, with all the repetition and rambling. I was confused for the greatest time at what the point of this whole book was, and whether or not a plot actually existed.

The story begins in Pencey Prep, a very "preppy" school that Holden absolutely loathes. He's been expelled for poor grades and his parents are completely unaware of this. They just expect him to be home for break on Wednesday, but Holden can't wait until then. So he gathers up his vast amount of money and leaves the dorms early on a trip through New York. Holden is really the only ever-present character. He has no "side-kicks" or foils or anybody to keep him company. He simply walks around and complains. Holden reminds me of a condescending, aloof Frenchman that observes the world for far-away eyes. To me, Holden felt detached, thus my early note that the book appeared to me to be written in the third person, not the first.

The actual story itself I did not enjoy. I don't know what else to "review" in this review, so I'll keep it brief. As a standard "classic" that almost every high-school student must read for school, my recommendation of "Don't read this for pleasure, it's worthless" will go to waste.  If you haven't read this already, and you have the choice to, don't read this. It's not worth your time.

3 thoughts:

  1. I loved the Catcher the the Rye when I read it in high school. It's one of the very few classics that I read all the way through on my own. I picked it up later as an adult, and Oh God I hated it. I must have read it at the right time back in high school. Who knows?

    Also, this was never required reading in either high school I attended. In my Florida high school...I'm really surprised we never read it. I was in AP classes so maybe my teachers didn't consider it advanced enough? My Michigan school damn near banned it. My 12th grade English teacher wanted us to read it but the principle told her No because there was a prostitute in the books. Telling a bunch of 17 and 18 year olds they're too young to read about prostitites is laughable. So we read Shakespeare instead which is usually laced with sex jokes.

    -Jackie

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  2. In my experience, Catcher in the Rye is one of those love it or hate it classics. And, strangely enough, I fall into the former category (to the eternal incredulity of my friends). I feel like this isn't a good book to have kids read by themselves during the summer because it's an easy book to hate. I only ended up liking it because of the great class discussions.

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