Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger
Genre(s) | Coming of Age, Young Adult, Classic
Goodreads Rating | 3.8
Humpo Rating | 2.5
For 2017 I am attempting to read more books deemed to have a “classic” status, and for my birthday last year I received The Catcher in the Rye, and in December I finally got around to reading it. To say I was very disappointed with what I ended up reading would be an understatement. Billed as a classic of American literature, this coming of age tale concerns a school drop out who heads back to New York City to let out some of his teenage angst, and to spend his money in whatever way he pleases before reality comes back and he has to face the real world.
I recently listened to a podcast about the differences between commercial and literary fiction. I think Catcher was aimed at being the latter as there is not much plot, and I think Salinger has attempted to make Holden Caulfield (the protagonist) and his feelings the main event. However, I feel that Catcher is a classic for that period, in terms of the new and unheard of teenage angst that was unconventional in literature during that period, in a much similar fashion that A Rebel Without A Cause became a hit. Both Catcher and Rebel are pretty average as we read and watch them in the 21st century, but at the time of their release they were deemed significant, and have subsequently become classics. Nowadays, the behaviour of the angry teenager is viewed as just plain weird, with many of the emotions and actions quite simply unrelatable.
Salinger wrote unconventionally, but the writing style bored and irritated me very quickly as he only uses 20 words in the whole book…that may be an exaggeration, but I lost count of the times I had to read the words “phony”, “killed me” and “intellectual”.
My favourite chapter was when Holden visits Mr. Antolini. Antolini’s assessment of Holden is very good and well presented, and his prediction for Holden’s future is believable considering what we have read in the preceding 200 pages. I did like the quote of Wilhelm Stekel that he used:
“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
But even the eloquent words that Mr. Antolini gave to Holden were soon forgotten after he wakes up with Mr. Antolini’s hand on his head. I read the situation in a totally different way than Holden did, as was the same for pretty much every situation in the book, I thought he was tenderly watching over him and hoping that the words he said to him would have a positive impact and that Holden would turn his life around.
I read this due to the classic status that it has, but having finished it I will only read classics that can claim to be”timeless”, those that can survive the test of time rather than reading them during a context that isn’t relatable. For many classics that are written in different eras, from ww2 to Cold War, to the 90’s, there is something about books set in these times that lasts to this day. For this book, the teenage angst is unlike anything I can relate to or can fathom, the absurdity of his actions and thoughts just bewildered me. I feel like that this teenage angst is felt by a minute minority of people. I never studied this book at school, it is perhaps studied more in America, but I suppose the reason it is studied is to provide a different writing style and topic in comparison to the well written, eventful and meaningful classics.
The Humpo Show | Richard