Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

(No Series)
Classic, Drama

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, secondhand 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 marvelously 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.

It's strange, but I agree with the tagline of this novel for once. Usually it's just there for dramatic effect. "You'll never forget this story, this story will haunt you for life....,etc", but this one actually has proven true. I read this months ago and now that I'm adding the reviews to the blog from Goodreads and my mental reservoir, I have to say that this book truly has never left me. I think of it at least once every two weeks. I have no idea why really, but I think there's such a total genuineness about it that it really gets inside you.

The book isn't perfect because of the bizarre writing style, which would turn some off. I know some don't even keep going. You should push through any awkward growing pains, though, as it did prove to be so rewarding.  The main character of Holden Caulfield is hard to get into at first, since he initially seems to be a smart-alek, dirty-mouthed, negative kid who doesn't care about much. It becomes clear after awhile he's troubled, lonely, compassionate, and actually a sweetheart.

You end up feeling for him, caring about what happens, and trying to figure out how he can turn himself around, or if he even wants to and has reason enough to try. He is certainly not the typical character to read about, and this type of character is another reason I feel reading fiction encourages the growth of empathy in people so much.

The scene that really stands out to me is the sadness of the hotel room scenario between Holden, the girl, and her pimp. How tragic and I felt for him as his youth really came through.

It's a completely character-orientated novel. There's a strange opening to the book where not much is going on, and little ever happens action-wise. It's mainly an introverted thinking novel. You don't get the sense that the boy is troubled until a few chapters in, other than he's failing out of school. I would have liked a longer ending also, to see his parents reactions and more details of what happened next.

Overall this is a worthy classic - I felt for the character and thought it held interesting insight. Language is pretty graphic so some parents may not want their kids reading it if too young. There's no sex or anything violent, although their are several adult implications. For the life of me I can't understand some of the blame from criminals on this book - the person is troubled, fragile, and lonely, but they are not violent, twisted, or evil.

I rated this four stars after I read it because of some of the overly long paragraphs and ramblings got a bit much sometimes, and I would have enjoyed a little more action and thought editing slightly would have helped. However, if I rated it now from memory alone would have went for the big 5-star label. It's just one of those books that truly stays with you.

   Book Quotes:

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.” 

“Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.”  

“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.”

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