Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Classics Club: Catcher in the Rye

(about the Classics Club)

I've had Holden on my mind for some time, so I decided it was time for another re-read.

Reading Catcher in the Rye in high school was my first experience with an unreliable narrator.  I can still remember how my mind was blown when the teacher explained that not all narrators can be trusted.

I thought a lot about how amazing Salinger is.  Reading Catcher in the Rye is like having a conversation with Holden.  The flow, the speech patterns, the rambling. . . It's eerily real.  Also, the use of italics to emphasize parts of words ("I'd only written that. .. ") is brilliant.  Why don't more authors use this?

immediately fell under Salinger's spell, from the first sentence, and I wondered why I don't read him more frequently.  I've not read all of the Nine Stories, nor have I read Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.  Rereading this made me want to immerse myself in Salinger, and finish them all.

Reading this also made me want to read Ring Lardner and reread Out of Africa and the Return of the Native, since Holden enjoyed them some much.

I also wondered if Holden's voice is so typically American that it is hard for other cultures to relate to him.  

I wondered about the ending, too.  If Salinger copped out a bit by not describing "what I did after I went home".  I talked it over with Bryan and with his help, decided that, no, it was actually a wise move by Salinger and that the novel would have been weaker if all "that stuff" had been described.

 I want to help Holden every time I read this.  He is alive to me, and I ache for him.  This time, though, I'm reading it a few years after my own emotional difficulties, and it was nearly painful to read.  I've never connected with Holden in a personal way before, just felt empathy.  This time. . . I understood his motives and actions intimately, and it hurt.

I flagged favorite passages during this reread.  When I was finished, I had 31 pages marked.  Here are a few that really stand out.
Note:  You'll may not get enjoyment out of a few of these passages unless you've read the book.  Some are notable simply because they are typical Holden statements.

"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.

"New York's terrible at night when somebody laughs on the street very late at night.  You can hear it for miles.  It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed."

"Grand.  There's a word I really hate.  It's a phony."

"That's the whole trouble.  You can't ever find a place that's nice and peaceful, because there isn't any.  You may think there is, but once you get there, when you're not looking, somebody'll sneak up and write 'Fuck you' right under your nose."

"When I really worry about something, I don't just fool around.  I even have to go to the bathroom when I worry about something.  Only I don't go.  I'm too worried to go."

"The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have let them do it. If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them."

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