We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Catcher in the Rye: The Review

"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" p. 16

Sometimes I wish that when Salinger was alive I had the opportunity to do just what he wrote in The Catcher in the Rye, as I have quoted above. But knowing what we all do about Salinger he would not have liked that, and well that is why I would never even have thought about looking for his number.

It worries me that since he has died someone - I won't even bother to look up their name to place here - has gone and done what Salinger did not want. This unmentionable person has gone and written - and dared to have it published might I add - a sequal to Salinger's masterpiece. I could go on and on about it, but that is not what my post is about.

The Catcher in the Rye has been my favourite book since I read it for the first time in 2004. I loved that I loved this book knowing that I would have to read it for school, because then you could get really passionate about it. I have not read it since 2006, and thought that it would be interesting to see whether my feeling about this often controversial novel have changed. I can say with great conviction, that it has not. The Catcher in the Rye is still as magnificent as I remember it to be.

I don't want to psychoanalyze the book, as I could very easily do that, but rather want to look at what Salinger wanted to say through writing it. But maybe that cannot be done without a degree of psychoanalysis. Having been published in 1951 it is not wrong to assume that the Catcher in the Rye was written after Salinger returned from fighting in World War II. Having stated this, and having read about Salinger's life we can say that Salinger was broken by the war. He must have suffered from PTSD and was obviously disillusioned by life. We could even venture a guess that he might even have had some form of depression.

Bearing all this in mind, it is obvious that to a certain extent Holden is based on Salinger. The difference between the two being their age differences and what brought about their disillusionment. Salinger was disillusioned by the war whilst Holden was disillusioned by the death of his brother Allie. But I think I may be getting ahead of myself a little bit here.

The Catcher in the Rye is a book that starts in the present and recounts the story to how the narrator - in this case Holden Caulfield - got there. It is clear from the way that Holden speaks that he has had a break down of sorts, and the way he tells his story and the way he describes things, it is clear that he is suffering from depression. This is obviously not stellar insight, but as a sufferer of depression, I can greatly identify with the way he sees and perceives things. His description of so many things as phony, is well something that I experienced too, you listen to how people speak about the most shallow and insignificant things as though it's the end of the world. I completely identify with Holden on that. So I would say that rereading it after the major depressive episode I had it is almost introspective.

It is a great comentary on the time that it was written, and if you look at what Salinger experienced during the war, the things that people experienced then was almost a joke. Life was superficially filled by those of Holden's social class - as noted in his encounter with the nuns - and then you had people that were recovering from what the war had done to them. Two completely different ends of the continuum.

What really gets me everytime I read the Catcher in the Rye, is that Holden is particularly depressed by the way that through other people's carelessness and crassness children get pushed into things for adults too quickly. Case in point being the swear words he finds at his old school and at the museum. His wanting to be the Catcher in the Rye, wanting to stop children falling off of a cliff - is his wanting to keep children children for as long as possible. That is such a great thing, and had the Catcher in the Rye been set in the 21st Century, well I don't think Holden would just have had a break down, he would have committed suicide. There are so many things that take Childhood away from children, and that is the saddest thing of all, and what I think Holden wanted to prevent by being the Catcher in the Rye.

Many books get referenced in the Catcher in the Rye, such as David Copperfield, Out of Africa, The Return of the Native, Of Human Bondage, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Beowolf, Lord Randal my Son, Oliver Twist, A Farewell to Arms and The Great Gatsby. I have only read two of them - Romeo and Juliet and The Great Gatsby, and as such cannot deliver great insight on the intertextuality. Maybe I should do that once I have read them all?

I think I have gotten out much of what I wanted to say without digressing too much. The Catcher in the Rye is a book that I can talk about for hours. So I hope that I have not scared you off with this post if you have not yet read it. If you have not yet read it, go read it now because it is a literary rite of passage. It is remarkably easy to read for a stream of consciousness novel. If you have read it, please let me know what you think about the Catcher in the Rye; the book that's popularity forced Salinger into seclusion. The book that should never be made into a movie because Salinger didn't want it to be, and if it ever is it should be boycotted.

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