Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Book: J.D. Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

Please excuse the following obliquatory slimy introduction. This is one of the most famous American novels of all time and has permanently claimed a high spot on all those all time top lists. The author, J.D. Salinger, recently passed away so his masterpiece is suddenly in focus again. It’s one of those books that get ruined because students have to read it against their will on schools, but it is actually an exhilarating read for everyone older than fifteen. End of introduction.

The Catcher in the Rye is about a loudmouthed teenager named Holden, who has some real problems with the adult world. He is no child anymore but wants to protect all that is childlike and innocent, that what he has lost himself. But the adult world waiting for him is fake, phony, a goddamn joke. For about 24 hours we look through his eyes while he tells us how he raves like a cussing madman through the streets of New York, disliking everything that crosses his path.

Holden is a worst case teenager and we all recognize some part of ourselves in him. His memoir is funny as we sympathize, because yes, we have been there and we know the world can be phony place, and we admire his skill to dislike almost everything. But his view of the world is also a bit of a trap that pollutes your own, because it isn’t very optimistic. It isn’t the answer to life, but Holden has yet to learn that fact.

J.D. Salinger delivers it all in sharp, witty, crystal-clear prose. Holden is a unique character, and one of the best ever written. The story feels straightforward, simple, but the writer is a master of dialogue and hides just beneath the surface a depth and complexity that you don’t even consciously notice upon first read. It is easy to read and to relate to, funny and sad. It will not leave you unstirred.

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