Friday, November 20, 2015

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger



This book has been on my radar for years. I think the first time I heard about it was that Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts movie, Conspiracy Theory, in which Gibson's character can't calm down unless he has a copy of it, and in which the government apparently uses library patron histories to identify serial killers based on who borrows The Catcher in the Rye. Or something?? I haven't seen that movie in years, so I may be wrong.

Anyway, I put off reading this book for YEARS because a tiny part of my brain was convinced that if I borrowed it from my local library, I'd be flagged as a serial killer. But basically, all I knew about the book was that the main character is called Holden Caulfield, and it's J.D. Salinger's only novel.

And I kind of wish I'd left it that way. I was on the struggle bus with this book essentially from the get go. The opening few chapters - the stuff before Holden leaves school - reminded me a lot of Dead Poets Society, and more specifically Charlie. Seeing as Dead Poets Society is one of my favourite movies, I was moderately interested in the story.

But then Holden left school, and things went rapidly downhill. We're trapped in Holden's head for endless pages with few other characters to break things up. And this was hard for me, because I didn't like Holden AT ALL. He's full of rich white boy problems, where everything is someone else's fault. Holden always thinks he's in the right, despite however much evidence is stacked up against him. Essentially, I couldn't stand him or the narrative style.

I REALLY didn't like the writing. Admittedly, it's a product of the time. It's set in the late 1940s and is told by a teenage boy, so the amount of misogyny that comes through in the story is almost to be expected. But the amount of repetition in the writing drove me up the wall. Holden will make an observation about another character, then insert an anecdote about that character doing the thing he observed them doing, then repeat his observation. Like, "The girl could dance. [Insert long winded anecdote about said girl dancing here] I tell you, the girl could dance."

YES. WE KNOW. YOU LITERALLY JUST TOLD US.

By the end of the book, I just flat out didn't care, and when it featured a total non-ending on top of all the repetition and angst and misogyny that I'd already had to wade through, I was tempted to throw the book across the room.

I feel like this is a book that's more enjoyable if a) you study it in school and can unpackage all the things that Salinger is trying to say, or b) you're an angsty teenager when you read it. So maybe if I'd read this as a teenager, I'd see the appeal. But as an adult? NOPE.

On the plus side, this book marks the half way point for my Classics Club project!

Have you read it? What did you think?

K xx

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