Skip to comments.J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Aging Gracelessly
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 ...
Thank You! I've not read any of those, so looks like I'm in for a treat.
I tried to get through that book several times, because I felt I should like it. I never made it.
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.
LOL Do I know you?
"...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."
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.
I'm off to the library to check out "All the Kings Men".
If it stinks, I coming looking for you. :-)
John Cheever wrote great short stories, as well.
Can't believe i said their instead of there...
man, I am losing it.
Ah yes, the Beat Generation produced such giants as Allen Ginsberg, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. More akin to trolls than giants.
I'd toss 'Catcher in the Rye' on to the same bonfire with such modern entertainment as 'South Park'. Same genre of garbage.
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.
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!
I forgot about "Big Two-Hearted River."
Just a short story, but my favorite of all.
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?
I guess I don't get it. I loved those books.
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.