Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book 57: Finished.

Since I read this all in one sitting, one post with all of my thoughts will have to suffice.

I haven't read the whole novel since that magical experience in eleventh grade, but I have read bits and pieces over the years to get my fill of Holden.

During this reread, I was struck with a huge wave of nostalgia for what life was like for me as a teenager. I think every one of us feels like we are all alone at some point and have no one to turn to. At times, I still feel that way as I battle feelings of depression. For that, I love Holden.

While he does complain about the phoniness of the people around him, I really feel what his character is saying. There have been many times that I have pretended to be something else to get through a rough situation, or something uncomfortable. I can think of a few moments of my short teaching career where I have felt that "phony" quality coming out as I spoke to students. It never sat well with me and when I sense people are being fake it certainly bothers me.

I know that many of my peers thought that Holden was the one being phony when we read this way back when, and while it may be true that he is, I don't think it takes away from what Holden is trying to say. He's alone and has dealt with heavy things at a young age (although, it seems many kids are dealing with things now that they "shouldn't" have to). There is a part of him that wants to shelter who he really is, so he creates an image and lives it out.

The scene with Holden in New York and the prostitute is an example of that. (For those of you who haven't read it, Holden hires a prostitute, but once she arrives, he freaks out). Holden wants to have this carefree image, but the person inside can't live up to it. He might call that phony in other people, but to me, that's just life.

In terms of writing, the novel flew by. The narrative voice is almost soothing it feels so natural. I was reminded of a male student I had a couple years ago in the way Holden speaks, and that took a little bit to get over. But I have to give props to Salinger for developing a true, angst ridden teen voice. And while I don't know if Salinger truly intended this novel to be solely for teens, I can see why adults would pull little from it, or find Holden Caufield to be irritating. By the time we reach adulthood and maturity, we don't have to pretend to be something we're not for other people. Most of us have figured out our identities and who we are meant to be.

In any case, I still loved the novel. I think that had I never read it at a younger age I would have hated it. So instead of irritating me, it reminded me of who I once was and who I am now. I loved that. It was a great and fast read and yet another check off of my list.

Anyway, I'll leave you with a passage of the book. I would leave you more, but since I marked about 50, here is one of the most well known:

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."


  1. I'm really glad you still enjoyed this book. I know a lot of people who loved it as teenagers, but not when they re-read it later in life.

  2. I honestly wish I had any feeling at all on this book...

  3. Ha! Here's one that IS on my list. :-)

  4. I hated being a teenager, so maybe that's why I hated rereading it. Too many reminders of a miserable time in my life!!

  5. I finished reading this book last week and I was utterly heart broken, I loved it so much!
    This is a lovely review :)
    I think Holden's hilarious, and even though the novel leaves us with a cliffhanger at the end as to what will become of him in the future - I'd like to think that Holden finally "applied" himself and major in creative writing, just like J.D. Salinger himself.

    I hope I can read this again in a couple of years and still look at this novel as a favourite :)