“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.”
The Catcher In The Rye is not only a classic, but also one of the many banned books out there. I never had to read it at school (the focus was mainly on Dutch literature), so when I saw a copy I thought it was about time to read this classic. Now I have, I’m not sure what to think of it. Sure, the prose itself is good and goes together perfectly with the main character, even if he is not exactly likeable. Holden Caulfield comes over as a spoiled brat who swears too much rather than the ‘cynical adolescent’ J.D. Salinger supposedly was aiming for. I don’t mind swearing as long as it adds to the story, but in this case ‘goddam‘ is mentioned way too many to be taken seriously. That said, with the slang Holden uses throughout the novel, Salinger has created a colorful language that can be offensive even nowadays; probably one of the reasons The Catcher In The Rye is still on the banned books list. There is no real plot development; the novel seems to be about Holden’s inner thoughts rather than actions. Which in a way is interesting because he is a total nutcase. Still, I’m having mixed thoughts with this one, and I’m not sure whether to recommend it. I suppose it will be an interesting read if you don’t mind the swearing and don’t take the story too seriously.
Holden Caulfield has just been expelled from yet another prep school, and he doesn’t know what to do with his life. He doesn’t want his parents to find out yet and he is afraid to go home before the Christmas holidays start, so he decides to stay in a hotel in New York for a few days. Being a teenager alone isn’t easy in New York, especially if you are Holden. He hates all the ‘phonies’ out there and doesn’t seem to be able to escape them in the big city. We follow Holden on his days in New York where he goes from hotel to hotel, dates a girl, goes to bars and tries to visit his younger sister without his parents finding out. But more than that, it is a journey inside his head where we learn more about his thoughts, problems and vision on life in general.
The plot itself is extremely uneventful and I cannot say I liked the main character. Still, Salinger was able to create something special with Holden. Even if he is a complete nutcase who swears more frequently than he talks, Holden does show us what it is like not knowing what to do with his life and being unhappy with his life as it is. I guess The Catcher In The Rye has to be seen as a little journey inside a (messed up) teenager’s head and has to be read that way to be enjoyed. Maybe next time, if I decide to to a reread some day…