Wednesday 3 February 2010

14) The Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Pages - 192

First published in serial form in USA in 1945, this edition published by Penguin Books in 1994

Challenges - Every Month is a Holiday challenge,Support Your Library Challenge and Young Adult challenge

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap., but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Holden Caulfield is a teenage boy about to be flunked from a private school for a third time and on the brink of a complete mental breakdown. The book follows his life over a three day period, from when he walks out of his school until he finally goes home. He basically goes on a real bender, spending money like it is going out of fashion and try to have sex with any girl who will have him, only to find that he isn't that bothered by sex really. He spends a lot of time getting drunk and doing things that a teenage might do, before he realises that he might actually need some help.

I am not sounding very sympathetic at all, am I? I am really sorry, especially under the circumstances, I really don't want to speak ill of the dead and I know this book is a real classic, and that millions of people have probably read it and loved it and lived their life by it, but personally I didn't enjoy it.

I didn't like the voice of the main character for a start. I found Holden to be obnoxious, rude, hormonal and a liar with a very limited vocabulary. Throughout the book, I don't think I encountered one chapter where he didn't say the word 'goddam', and by the end of the book I found myself saying it to my family! I didn't warm to him until very near the end of the book, when I then felt perhaps I should reach out and help. I found that my maternal instinct wasn't showing a signal on this book.

I think if I had read this as a teenager, I would have been much more sympathetic to Holden's feelings. I would have been in a position to relate to the way he felt, so I am blaming myself for being too old to understand him anymore and that is the reason why I don't appreciate this classic.

Even though Holden came from a wealthy family, no love and affection was ever showed to him. He was still grieving over the death of his brother and I felt that perhaps his parents had not noticed his grief and had assumed that they were the only ones in mourning. His behaviour was definitely a cry for help, which you gather by the end of the book, that finally someone had listened to his voice. He ends up having a breakdown, and I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps, his parents had just spent some time with him, he might have been able to move on without being committed. Did he really have a nervous breakdown, or was it easier for his parents to put him there out of the way, because he wasn't acting normally. It was quite common in those days to have people committed if they didn't comply with the normal behaviour of society. What do you think?

I understand that the main character is believed to be suffering a nervous breakdown and for that I feel sympathy for him, it is just unfortunate that I didn't like him. I don't want people to think I would be callous and flippant if I was in the company of a person heading for a breakdown, because I wouldn't, I just wish I could have warmed more to Holden and been able to ignore his flippant attitude. He comes across as being really spoilt, he has everything that money could buy, except the attention of his parents.

This is one of those books that you think you should read; I know that is how I felt. It is a classic and one that many schools use as a reading text; in that arena I do think it is a suitable read as it shows the anxieties of being a teenager and it allows other teenagers to air their views and feelings and see that they are not alone with their worries about alienation and rebellion and the tentative steps towards their first sexual encounter. I can fully sympathise with the teenagers of today and wouldn't want to be back there for anything. I really wish that I had read this as a teenager, rather than a grown up, mother of two with a mortgage and bigger things to worry about than whether or not I will die a virgin?

After reading other reviews about this book, I just discovered that is is one of the most censored books in the world as well as one of the most taught books in the world. I am thinking that we fall as a divided world over our opinion of this book.

I also found this fascinating piece of information about the book over at Sides Reviews

John Lennon's assassin, Mark Chapman, asked the former Beatle to sign a copy of this book earlier in the morning of the day that he murdered Lennon. Police found the book in his possession upon apprehending the psychologically disturbed Chapman.

This book seems to have a trail of controversy following it around.

I apologise to everyone who loves this book, as I don't want to step on anyone's toes and upset them; all I can say is this book wasn't for me. I also apologise for my bad timing on this review following the recent death of J.D. Salinger. I vow to find at least one of his books that I will like, to make me feel better about this review.

If you loved it, then please feel free to try and change my opinion on this book. You can even moan at my distaste - I can almost feel you all throwing pillows at my head in disgust. Again, I am sorry, but it just wasn't for me.


  1. Hi Viv, I haven't read this book so I can't say much. I bought it a few months back and hope to get to it soon.

  2. Awww.. I'm sure no one will even think about throwing things at you. It's OK to not like a book, even a classic like this one. I read Catcher in the Rye as a teenager so I related to the story and the character more than you did *shrug* no big deal!

  3. I read this book a couple of years ago. I was okay with it, I didn't love it. I couldn't relate much with Holden and the whole runaway thing. I just thought he was a spoilt brat.

    Interestingly my Catcher review is the one that gets the most "attacks" from whom I assume are teenagers..

  4. I read this as a teen (a long time ago) and liked it. I think if I read it now my perspective would be that of an adult and maybe my feelings would be quite different from the first time I read it. So I think your reaction is quite understandable. I appreciate your review : )

  5. I don't think your comments are far out of the ordinary. Many people connect with this as teenagers and then go back a couple decades later and realize they hate Holden. I don't know what the magical age is that separates love from hate, but it seems to be one that definitely changes over time. I wonder how (if) I will relate to him when I read this in a few weeks.

  6. I have only read this book once, and it was a couple of years ago. I don't know if it's because so many people have raved about it all my life, or what, but I wasn't as impressed with it as I thought I should have been.

    Stepping outside of my lack of impressment, I could see how Holden had an authentic teenage voice, but I was still rather lukewarm about the whole thing.

    I do want to read Frankie and Zoe (I think that's how you spell it?) It's the only other published work that I'm aware of, and a little bit less "OMG YOU HAVE TO READ THIS" mentality. Maybe I'll enjoy it more.

  7. Oh I totally loved your review! I think that's the great thing about books AND classics in general, the differences of opinion. I am sure that if I read it today I would not have liked it. I know that a couple of years ago I had my husband read it and he did not like it either which I thought to be very interesting. I think it was one of those books that came along at the perfect time for me. Looking back I think I had just lost my father to cancer at the same time so I totally understood Holden's, well, his just plain pissed off mood.

    I loved that you noted that back then young adults were not treated the same way as they do now. A lot of people, women included, were thought to be mentally unbalanced because of common problems. It is sad that they were all lumped together as somehow "disturbed".

    I think some classics don't appeal to everyone. Take Jane Austen...I don't see many men reading her books and some women just don't like it. You definitely don't have to apologize for not liking The Catcher in the Rye. I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of Pride and Prejudice!

  8. I really need to read this again as it has been nearly 35+ years since I read it. I won't try to change your mind!

  9. It's been so long since I read this book, I can't remember enough to persuade you one way or the other. I remember loving the book and feeling very grown up for having read it.

  10. I probably missed my "chance" to read and enjoy this book, too, since I am long past the "age" of the main character!

    But I've always felt as though I had missed something...not reading it. Now I am afraid to do so.

    Sometimes, we just don't connect with characters, even if the book is a classic! I suspect that I might feel, as you do, that the book is just not for me!

  11. I havent read it....I have struggld with some (ok most) classics. Our book club reads one a year and often they turn out to be the worst thing we read for the year...LOL

    They are fun to review at book club though.... we love to diagnose the characters.... for instance in Wuthering heights, Kathyrn had to be bi polar..... she was happy, then furious, then happy....

  12. I havent read it....I have struggld with some (ok most) classics. Our book club reads one a year and often they turn out to be the worst thing we read for the year...LOL

    They are fun to review at book club though.... we love to diagnose the characters.... for instance in Wuthering heights, Kathyrn had to be bi polar..... she was happy, then furious, then happy....

  13. Great honest review.
    And you know, a couple of those who love it does not really love it, but it's a nice thing to say.
    Now I got hit n the head by someone, sorry all the rest of you who actually does love it.

  14. I liked it :0)

    I haven't read it in years. I might dig it out, and see if I still feel the same, goddam it!

  15. I have to admit that I'm curious about this because there is so much out there that is inspired by this book.

  16. Alice - I hope you enjoy it more than I did.

    Clover - it seems that the people who loved it are the ones who read it as a teenager. Hmmm.

    Mee - ooh, I don't want to be attacked on my blog.

    Mary - I would be interested to hear whether you enjoyed it as much now as you did then.

    Amanda - I wonder if your views change once you have children. I think you become more maternal and perhaps look at characters like this as immature.

    Christina - I think I will try Frankie and Zoe too. I would like to have a more favourable opinion of Salinger.

    Amanda - I can understand why it would have appealed to the teenage 'you', as you could relate to a lot of the issues Holden was dealing with.

    I really don't think he would have been put in a hospital if his situation arose now. He would probably be given counselling.

    Diane - I hope you see a different view to it this time.

    Bermudaonion - liked your point about feeling grown up when you read it. I think that would definitely be the way many teenagers would feel as it is such a controversial book and they would feel like they are hearing a strong teenage voice and reading about something important.

    Laurel - I am struggling a bit with the classics, especially the character; I find them difficult to connect too.

    Sheila - I like the way you look at the modern day ailments to assess the characters. I wonder how many of them would fit into modern day society.

    Blodeuedd - I just had to be honest, but my head does not feel sore yet.

  17. Anne - I just knew you would like it. Your book taste is very much the opposite of mine.

    Ladytink - it is worth a read, even if it is just to say you have read it.

  18. I reviewed this book for my blog in its early days. I actually found it quite interesting, and I kind of "liked" Holden--he was an honest self-proclaimed "liar". The book was gripping to me in some ways, as Holden's thoughts were revealed, unpolished and uncensored. But of course, it's not for everyone. Thanks for your honest review, Vivienne.

  19. I'm curious to see if I like it because I've heard good and bad things about it. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

  20. i would never try to sway you on a book that you've read and reviewed. the way i see it, there are so many books out there and i'm bound to like some that other people don't!

    as for CITR, i read it in high school, college, and more recently and have to say that i was able to relate much better when i was younger. :)

  21. I'm not going to try and change your opinion on this book but, the first time I read this, which was a few years ago, I loved it. I couldn't put it down and read it within a couple of hours.

    Then again, perhaps it's the age thing coming into play again - I was 19, suffering from pretty bad depression, and probably felt a lot more in common with Holden.

    I love characters that have huge flaws. Those that are obnoxious and rude I can tolerate because I find them much more believable as real people.

  22. Sorry to hear you didnt enjoy it.
    You made me laugh with: 'I don't think I encountered one chapter where he didn't say the word 'goddam', and by the end of the book I found myself saying it to my family!'
    I read this one in HS and did enjoy it, I wonder if it would annoy me now. I'll have to re-read it. Great, honest review.

  23. I read this twice and I liked it a lot better the first time than the second. The first time I felt sympathy for Holden; the second time I just wanted him to get over himself. I think it's just one of those books.

    From what I know, the book is very divisive. People either love it or hate.


  24. I had a similar reaction to you. I didn't enjoy this book and feel bad saying so close to the authors death, but it does seem to be a book which people seem to dislike more as they get older.

  25. I tried to read this book as a teenager and couldn't get into it; I can't imagine I'd enjoy it any more now. (I must say after reading your, Jackie's and Amanda's reviews, I'm not tempted to try!)

  26. I just read The Catcher in the Rye for the first time. I remembered you writing that you didn't care for the book, so I wanted to reread your review when I was done. I totally get what you are saying, but I personally loved the book. I understand how annoying Holden can be. I think he'd drive me nuts if I met him in person today. However having 3 older brothers myself I couldn't help but relate to him and "old Phoebe" in some way. I teared up at the end. I loved it.


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