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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: 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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