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J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Aging Gracelessly
Washington Post ^ | October 19, 2004 | JONATHAN YARDLEY

Posted on 10/23/2004 6:55:30 AM PDT by jalisco555

Precisely how old I was when I first read "The Catcher in the Rye," I cannot recall. When it was published, in 1951, I was 12 years old, and thus may have been a trifle young for it. Within the next two or three years, though, I was on a forced march through a couple of schools similar to Pencey Prep, from which J.D. Salinger's 16-year-old protagonist Holden Caulfield is dismissed as the novel begins, and I was an unhappy camper; what I had heard about "The Catcher in the Rye" surely convinced me that Caulfield was a kindred spirit.

By then "The Catcher in the Rye" was already well on the way to the status it has long enjoyed as an essential document of American adolescence -- the novel that every high school English teacher reflexively puts on every summer reading list -- but I couldn't see what all the excitement was about. I shared Caulfield's contempt for "phonies" as well as his sense of being different and his loneliness, but he seemed to me just about as phony as those he criticized as well as an unregenerate whiner and egotist. It was easy enough to identify with his adolescent angst, but his puerile attitudinizing was something else altogether.

That was then. This is half a century later. "The Catcher in the Rye" is now, you'll be told just about anywhere you ask, an "American classic," right up there with the book that was published the following year, Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea." They are two of the most durable and beloved books in American literature and, by any reasonable critical standard, two of the worst. Rereading "The Catcher in the Rye" after all those years was almost literally a painful experience.

(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Government; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: awfulbooks; bookreview; catcherintherye; childabuse; hemmingway; salinger
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

Tbe best of Hemingway IMHO, in order:

1. For Whom the Bell Tolls
2. A Farewell to Arms
3. The Sun Also Rises

I enjoyed his short story collections too.


51 posted on 10/23/2004 7:50:24 AM PDT by Rummyfan
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To: Scarchin

My life was formed by my 5th grade english teacher, Mr Cockey (and yes we had fun with that) who assigned these books for the year: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, and Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge. Pretty heady stuff for 10 year olds and I thank him for it. This was in a public elementary school in Md.


52 posted on 10/23/2004 7:52:41 AM PDT by wildcatf4f3 (out of the sun)
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To: livius

You're almost right. Teachers force these books down kids' throats as "literature" and it lowers their expectations of what's possible with the written word for life. Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, was shocked when he learned his book was being taught in public schools. He said, "Nest isn't even a pimple on the a@@ of American literature. They should be reading Moby Dick!"


53 posted on 10/23/2004 7:53:23 AM PDT by durasell (Friends are so alarming, My lover's never charming...)
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To: Savage Beast
I'm an adult and I would would read Catcher in the Rye ten times in a row before I would read anything by Hemingway. And that unlikelihood would only occur with a gun to my head.
54 posted on 10/23/2004 7:53:54 AM PDT by CaptainK
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To: jalisco555
I tried to read CITR, lost interest in it. The guy was a lifeguard or something like that?

In high school, my teacher assigned books like Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

55 posted on 10/23/2004 7:54:56 AM PDT by csvset
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To: elli1
All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren is the best novel I have ever read. ATKM stands at the pinnacle; nothing else even comes close in my reading experience.

Pretty much have to agree. It's in my Top 5 for sure.

56 posted on 10/23/2004 7:56:48 AM PDT by NYS_Eric
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To: NYS_Eric

What are the other four? I'm begging!


57 posted on 10/23/2004 7:59:17 AM PDT by elli1
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To: jalisco555

I guess I'll have to read it to find out what all the fuss is about. Don't know how I got to age 51 without having done so, but I guess I was never in a 'rebellious' enough frame of mind.


58 posted on 10/23/2004 8:03:05 AM PDT by SuziQ (Bush in 2004-Because we MUST!!!)
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To: jalisco555

I suspect Catcher made a huge impact on Kerry. Count how many times a day he rails against his foes as phonies. (Talk about projection!)

Phony was my favorite word, too, after I read the book. But then I turned 14.


59 posted on 10/23/2004 8:03:48 AM PDT by Norman Conquest (What happened to theAmerican dream? You're looking at it.)
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To: madprof98

Theory on left vs. Right---Right --- individualism without the self-centeredness creating a strong community of commited moral people. Left-----groupism feeding on victimization and self-pity leading to social decay. Just a thought.


60 posted on 10/23/2004 8:05:56 AM PDT by wildcatf4f3 (out of the sun)
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To: jalisco555
Like most high school students I had these books inflicted on me and I've yet to forgive my teachers.

My ninth grade english teacher had us read Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy.......if I ever run across her I'll slap her silly.

FMCDH(BITS)

61 posted on 10/23/2004 8:09:09 AM PDT by nothingnew (KERRY: "If at first you don't deceive, lie, lie again!")
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To: zook
"I read Franny & Zooey, liked it much more than Catcher."

I've read that as well as "Catcher" but my favorite by far is "Raise High the Roofbeam Carpenters."

It really catches the flavor of a family get together.

62 posted on 10/23/2004 8:09:34 AM PDT by Mad Dawgg (French: old Europe word meaning surrender)
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To: nothingnew

Kid stuff, I had to read Tobias Smollett. I believe forcing young people to read TS is a felony in many states.


63 posted on 10/23/2004 8:12:26 AM PDT by durasell (Friends are so alarming, My lover's never charming...)
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To: CaptainK

I agree with you. I have never understood the magic of Hemingway. I love William Faulkner and Albert Camus, and I like Scott Fitzgerald, but Hemingway just leaves me wondering what am I missing?


64 posted on 10/23/2004 8:13:53 AM PDT by Savage Beast (9/11 was never repeated--thanks to President Bush!)
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To: elli1
Darn you (LOL)! Somehow, I knew you'd call me on that statement.

The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas) has to rank right up there. Even the unabridged version is nearly impossible to put down.

For 20th Century literature, Invisible Man and Brideshead Revisited are among my favorites. I also have a weakness for Tolkien-- I re-read Lord of the Rings every 4 or 5 years.

For modern fiction, I love almost anything by Richard Russo (Empire Falls, Nobody's Fool, The Risk Pool).

All the King's Men, however, stands in a special class. I think you just talked me into taking it off my bookshelf! (I do need SOMETHING to take my mind off all these polls for the next 10 days.)

65 posted on 10/23/2004 8:18:21 AM PDT by NYS_Eric
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To: NYS_Eric

What did you think of the movie version of Nobody's Fool?


66 posted on 10/23/2004 8:19:48 AM PDT by durasell (Friends are so alarming, My lover's never charming...)
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To: durasell

I know it didn't do too well, but I enjoyed it. Bruce Willis did some real acting in that film-- loved that character. And Paul Newman turned in another great performance (WHY does he have to be a leftie?). I may be biased because of the "upstate NY" background.


67 posted on 10/23/2004 8:24:48 AM PDT by NYS_Eric
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To: NYS_Eric

Ha! My sentiments exactly Bruce Willis can actually act. Who knew? And having spent time in upstate NY, I think they nailed it, exactly. I watched it in July and still felt cold...as for Newman and his politics -- I don't ask my dentist (and he's a really good dentist) to program my computer, why would I look to actors for political advice?


68 posted on 10/23/2004 8:28:08 AM PDT by durasell (Friends are so alarming, My lover's never charming...)
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To: durasell
If you are older than the 11-14 year old window for Catcher, then don't bother

Hehehe. Oh, yeah. Waaaaay older.

69 posted on 10/23/2004 8:29:12 AM PDT by .38sw
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To: .38sw

Yeah, sorry to say, you missed the boat. I love books as much as anyone, but I still find grown up adults reading Catcher a little creepy. But that could just be me.

Try Stop Time, This Boy's Life or Duke of Deception -- all of which are excellent reads. Note: The last two should be read back to back, as they were written by brothers covering the same period of time.


70 posted on 10/23/2004 8:33:15 AM PDT by durasell (Friends are so alarming, My lover's never charming...)
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To: durasell

Are they excellent enough reads that a woman (that's me) would enjoy them? I don't read as much as I used to, can't find much time, except when I'm travelling and stuck in airports and sitting on planes. So lately I've tended to buy the sort of book that reads quickly and easily, but isn't necessarily intellectually stimulating, or takes much of my brain power. Sad, huh?


71 posted on 10/23/2004 8:38:47 AM PDT by .38sw
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To: jalisco555
I shared Caulfield's contempt for "phonies" as well as his sense of being different and his loneliness, but he seemed to me just about as phony as those he criticized as well as an unregenerate whiner and egotist. It was easy enough to identify with his adolescent angst, but his puerile attitudinizing was something else altogether.

I have always felt Salinger was well aware that Caulfield was not much, if at all, better than those he so disdained. When I read the book I actually felt that was what made it worthwhile.

That said, Old Man and the Sea is truly Hemingway's worst work, and I am a huge fan of his writing. The awards were "Lifetime Achievement Awards" because his early work had been too masculine for the literary elite. I angered my honors English teacher when she assigned it because I told her it would make much more sense to read something he had written that was actually readable.

72 posted on 10/23/2004 8:42:41 AM PDT by sharktrager (The masses will trade liberty for a more quiet life.)
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James Michener
73 posted on 10/23/2004 8:45:05 AM PDT by Jakarta ex-pat
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To: .38sw

This Boy's Life and Duke might be a little tough for a woman. They portray an extremely dsyfunctional household --in brief, when the parents divorced, one boy went with the father and one went with the mother. The father was a con man and the mother had emotional problems, and married the wrong guys, etc. etc. etc. No hilarity ensues.

On the other hand, Stop Time remains an excellent book of a very strange childhood with a happy ending. Though not short, it's also a very quick read.

All these books are nonfiction, though Stop Time may be billed as fiction.


74 posted on 10/23/2004 8:46:12 AM PDT by durasell (Friends are so alarming, My lover's never charming...)
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To: LadyDoc
I never read it, nor did I ever think about reading it. "Old Man of the Sea" was read because it was assigned by Mrs. Uteck, the ancient English teacher everyone thought should have retired after our parents had her. I can still hear her going on & on & on about "irony". She cured me of any further interest in Hemingway.

Wasn't Catcher in the Rye the book in Conspiracy theory, i.e. that was the clue you had been programed by the evil CIA or whatever?

Yes it was.

75 posted on 10/23/2004 8:47:34 AM PDT by GoLightly (If it doesn't kill ya, it makes ya stronger.)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
Try True at First Light. It was published just a few years ago and I truly enjoyed it. His son went through the unfinished manuscript and got it ready for publication.

The setting is much smaller than his earlier works, so it is more personal (and even more autobiographical) than his better known works. But the main character (essentially Hemingway himself) is a natural extension of his early work. More reflective of the natural progression of those protagonists much later in life. (Assuming they had either become wealthy or maintained the wealth described in the early works)

Plus, it is about big game hunting which has to piss the hell out of anyone on the left.
76 posted on 10/23/2004 8:48:54 AM PDT by sharktrager (The masses will trade liberty for a more quiet life.)
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To: GoLightly

Holly is that you?


77 posted on 10/23/2004 8:48:55 AM PDT by durasell (Friends are so alarming, My lover's never charming...)
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To: jalisco555
I would also like to add that I think Moby Dick is not only an abuse of the English language, I believe it is truly the worst book I was ever forced to read. Melville writes as if he got a good deal on adjectives and had to use them all up.
78 posted on 10/23/2004 8:55:41 AM PDT by sharktrager (The masses will trade liberty for a more quiet life.)
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To: MadIvan
I hated CITR. Bored me to tears in HS. Now Lovecraft was my favorite author for a while. Then I discovered Heinlein, Asimoov, C.S. Lewis....

L

79 posted on 10/23/2004 8:56:22 AM PDT by Lurker ( Rope, tree, Islamofascist. Adult assembly required.)
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To: sharktrager

MD is a masterpiece. Unfortunately, you have to find a free month in which to read it at a leisurely pace. This is difficult for a lot of people


80 posted on 10/23/2004 8:57:45 AM PDT by durasell (Friends are so alarming, My lover's never charming...)
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To: durasell
I think the problem with Moby Dick is that some people can come up with great story ideas, and some can write well. Those who can do both are rare, and, in my opinion, Melville wasn't one of them.

As they said in the movie Taps, "It's the wrong execution of the right idea."
81 posted on 10/23/2004 8:59:51 AM PDT by sharktrager (The masses will trade liberty for a more quiet life.)
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To: NYS_Eric

Thank You! I've not read any of those, so looks like I'm in for a treat.


82 posted on 10/23/2004 9:00:22 AM PDT by elli1
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To: sharktrager
I think Moby Dick is not only an abuse of the English language

I tried to get through that book several times, because I felt I should like it. I never made it.

83 posted on 10/23/2004 9:02:08 AM PDT by Friend of thunder (No sane person wants war, but oppressors want oppression.)
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To: sharktrager

The guy had a 19th century sensibility. Plus, he was a very odd guy. I can't hold him to 21st century standards of "get to the poiint, already." I read the thing after being "at sea" over an extended period and loved it. I haven't re-read, but do go back and dip into it every once in awhile.


84 posted on 10/23/2004 9:02:58 AM PDT by durasell (Friends are so alarming, My lover's never charming...)
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To: durasell

LOL Do I know you?


85 posted on 10/23/2004 9:05:51 AM PDT by GoLightly (If it doesn't kill ya, it makes ya stronger.)
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To: durasell
I believe that great writing stands the test of time. Shakespeare, while not an easy read for most in this age, still can be seen as not only great in idea but in execution.

But for any book their is an audience. I think my main complaint with Moby Dick is like that the author of this article. I think it is held up to be more than it truly is. I like the story very much, but the writing leaves me cold.
86 posted on 10/23/2004 9:11:59 AM PDT by sharktrager (The masses will trade liberty for a more quiet life.)
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To: LadyDoc

"...I just couldn't feel sorry for a rich kid slobbering over himself in a rich boarding school...I mean, get a break. I had to work part-time and study hard."

Amen. b.


87 posted on 10/23/2004 9:12:41 AM PDT by Barset
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To: IronJack
As for Salinger, I suspect his opinion of himself is higher than merited by a single work, regardless of how relevant it was to an angst-ridden generation in 1951.

Worse than Catcher in the Rye were his books Franny and zooy and Raise High the Roofbeams Carpenter, all of which I read and reread because I kept searching for the reasons others thought they were great books. Never have found the reasons.

88 posted on 10/23/2004 9:19:29 AM PDT by rock58seg (I will vote as kerry directs, when he says, "vote for Bush.")
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To: sharktrager
I had to laugh when I read your post. I forced myself to read it a few years ago, because it was supposed to be one of the best novels ever written.

Just when the story started to get good, Melville would start waxing poetic about a species of whale.
89 posted on 10/23/2004 9:36:18 AM PDT by Francis McClobber
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To: NYS_Eric

I'm off to the library to check out "All the Kings Men".

If it stinks, I coming looking for you. :-)


90 posted on 10/23/2004 9:38:04 AM PDT by Francis McClobber
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To: durasell

John Cheever wrote great short stories, as well.


91 posted on 10/23/2004 9:48:38 AM PDT by annyokie ("I have a plan" )
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To: sharktrager

Can't believe i said their instead of there...

man, I am losing it.


92 posted on 10/23/2004 9:52:05 AM PDT by sharktrager (The masses will trade liberty for a more quiet life.)
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To: durasell

Ah yes, the Beat Generation produced such giants as Allen Ginsberg, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. More akin to trolls than giants.


93 posted on 10/23/2004 9:55:23 AM PDT by O.C. - Old Cracker (When the cracker gets old, you wind up with Old Cracker. - O.C.)
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To: jalisco555

I'd toss 'Catcher in the Rye' on to the same bonfire with such modern entertainment as 'South Park'. Same genre of garbage.


94 posted on 10/23/2004 9:57:45 AM PDT by O.C. - Old Cracker (When the cracker gets old, you wind up with Old Cracker. - O.C.)
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To: Diva Betsy Ross

Ok I'm not the only one who's crazy. I loved Catcher In the Rye and Franny and Zooey. I think there is a statement to be made for conservatives to like this book. It's about disillusionment with establishment. Remember, even Holden's liberal teacher makes a homosexual pass at him. The author is a pervert, but I still like both of these books, and I'm an English teacher.


95 posted on 10/23/2004 10:03:12 AM PDT by ruthles
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To: jalisco555

I've never read "The Catcher in the Rye," and, now that I've read the brief excerpts in this review, you may be sure this won't be one of the "neglected classics" I pick off the library shelf! YUCK!


96 posted on 10/23/2004 10:48:29 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Don't underestimate the power of a muffin and a prayer card.)
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To: Rummyfan
I enjoyed his short story collections too.

I forgot about "Big Two-Hearted River."

Just a short story, but my favorite of all.

97 posted on 10/23/2004 10:55:27 AM PDT by E. Pluribus Unum (I actually did vote for John Kerry, before I voted against him.)
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To: jalisco555

Jeesh, I loved "Catcher in the Rye". I've read it 4 or 5 times and have gotten something new out of it with every reading. Sure, Salinger is no William Faulkner, but then again, who is?


98 posted on 10/23/2004 11:17:43 AM PDT by Elephino
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To: jalisco555

I guess I don't get it. I loved those books.


99 posted on 10/23/2004 11:24:08 AM PDT by Melas
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To: IronJack

Apples and oranges. Old Mand and the Sea is a character work and cannot be compared to For Whom the Bell Tolls which despite the strong lead of the protagonist of Jordan, is still an epic with it's subplots within subplots. OMS stands the test of time as one of the best character works of any author, ever.


100 posted on 10/23/2004 11:27:14 AM PDT by Melas
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