Monday, May 17, 2010

# 12 The Catcher in the Rye

I spent the last week on a family vacation to Disneyland and so did not have much time to read at all despite having packed several books in my luggage. I was hoping to knock out a couple of books during the 10 hour drive but traveling with two 4 year olds and a 6 year old with extreme ADHD, who are all excited to go to Disneyland, is not conducive to novel reading. The first chance I got to read all week occurred on the drive home when the excitement was gone and the Benadryl kicked in and I had a few hours of silence. I decided to take onThe Catcher in the Rye The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, mostly because it was the smallest book I had with me and the one I figured I had the best chance on finishing. I was right, I managed to knock out half the book while the kids slept and then finished the rest in between restrooms stops and explaining that we still had 4 hours left to go.

I had fairly big expectations for the books since it's so well known and always being touted as a great coming-of-age/ teen rebellion type of book. I really didn't enjoy it that much. As I read I kept thinking that something was going to happen and it never did. I actually got a little sick of listening to Holden whine about 'phonies' or school or whatever. Nothing is ever good enough, or worthy of his time and he thinks he's just the wittiest, smartest, most important thing to ever grace the planet and nothing else can measure up. He just whines through the whole book and I wanted to tell him to just "shut up". It could be that my reception of the book was slightly skewed in that I had spent the last week listening to my daughter, niece and nephew whine and my whine tolerance level had been maxed out but I had a hard time with it. Holden obviously comes from a wealthy family and I hate nothing more than rich kids bitching about being bored rich kids.

I wonder if maybe I missed my time frame for reading this book. Maybe if I had read it ten years ago in the height of my own teenage rebellion it would have had more significance. Now, the mom in me just wanted to tell him to quit wandering NYC by himself and get his ass home. It's winter in New York and he's a kid. GO HOME! Yes, I know, it defeats the great saga of teenage rebellion if you just go home but at some point you have to realize that your safety is more important that 'sticking it to the man' (i.e. pissing off your parents).

I also felt it was a little anti-climatic. As I read I kept thinking that something big/exciting/horrible was going to happen to him and it never did. Sure, a pimp punches him the stomach but it's not like he got his ass kicked. Yeah, a creepy old man patted his head but that's it, he didn't get molested or anything like that. He spends a couple of days drinking and wandering around New York after failing out of school and somehow this lands him in a psych ward? Come on! He's just a lazy, whiny, self-important teenage boy. I can throw a baseball down my street and hit 5 boys just like him.

Overall, it was an okay book but I just didn't see what made it worthy of all the praise it gets. Even the writing bothered me a bit. I get that it was written as if Holden was thinking it, but it drove me nuts. So, there it is, I'll probably be caned for not loving the book but it is what it is. Maybe I'm just a bitchy old woman who "doesn't get it".


Jump_Raven said...

I read that back when I was a teenager and I don't remember it resonating with me then either. I think I got more of a kick out of On The Road. However, I don't think you just have to put yourself into the mindset of a person of Holden's age, but also of Holden's time. This book came out in the 1951.

-The role of every woman was to be a paragon of virtue until she married somebody whether she actually loved him or not, started popping out babies, chained herself to the house, and did everything you would expect short of immolating herself after her husbands passing, but everything else that goes along with it was applied. Oh, and becoming addicted to Valium.
-The role of every man was to marry a virgin quickly, although sleeping with a few "sluts" was expected prior to marriage, impregnate her, and spend the rest of his life being a slave to providing for a family he may or may not have wanted.
-Children were supposed to be preparing for the above mentioned roles.

Anything else and you were an exile in your own country. Why? Largely because it was believed that if they didn't the Communists were going to take over. You can understand why this book, which probably doesn't hold up based on your comments, could have been so popular and is still important.

Pat Tillett said...

Rachel, I hadn't thought about this book in a long time. I remember thinking that the book could be summed up in a remark Holden made to somebody. He said he was from “the other side” of life." It hit home with me because I often felt that way myself as a kid.

My mom had the book and I read it when I was pretty young. I heard somebody talking to her about how it was banned in schools because it would cause kids to question everything and rebel. Based on that fact alone, you know I had to read it.

As an adult I thought it would have made an offbeat kind of movie. Something only an idependent studio could do.

anyway, great post! ROADTRIP!

Josette said...

Ooh, perhaps you read the book at the wrong time, when you had too much of a whining atmosphere going on? hehe..

True, Holden seemed aimless and everything and even though he's smart, he opted not to do well in school. I thought that was pure laziness. But he probably had idiosyncratic reasons of his own.

Anyway, it's one of my favourite books actually. :D

Here's my review of it.

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