I’m just going to get straight to the point: I’m pretty sure The Catcher in the Rye is the best book I’ve ever read.
Most Americans are assigned The Catcher in the Rye around 11th grade, so one summer I bought a copy of it from a yard sale in Utah, just in case. And, of course, it wasn’t a part of my assigned reading. So to round out all of that YA I read this summer, I thought I would finally find out what this controversial American classic is all about. I have to say, I had no idea what I expected from it, but whatever it was, this wasn’t it.
I’m sure most of you reading this have read The Catcher in the Rye before, and so you know, there’s virtually no plot and little to no resolution. It takes place over just a few days, though with quite a lot of memories thrown in by the young, angsty narrator, Holden Caulfield. Holden annoyed me by often repeating himself, both in narration and in actual dialogue, and I wondered what was wrong with him mentally, if he had a disorder. I don’t like that I thought that though, it feels very judgmental and 21st century of me. If that makes any sense.
Anyway, my favorite quote of Holden’s was this:
“It’s full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques.” -pg. 131
Surprisingly that doesn’t seem to be one of the preferred quotes when I search The Catcher and the Rye on Tumblr. People much more prefer the one where his former teacher, Mr. Antolini, tells him that he is not the first person to be disgusted by humanity, but that education will help his views be better heard. I liked that quote, but I prefer the one I posted, because even if this book was published in 1951 and this passage is specifically about boy’s schools, reading it I couldn’t help but feel that truer words had never been said of society. It honestly made me question why I’m in school still, what my motivations are. A lot of us really are just phonies, pursing things which hardly matter to us for material gains.
The lack of resolution left me feeling uneasy, but I realize a resolution was never the point of the novel. Life goes on, whether it gets better or not. That, I think, is more the point. I came away from it feeling as though it was the best novel I had ever read and I am ashamed to even call myself an aspiring author next to that, but also like the book was a little overrated. I know that the parts of me that believed it to be overrated are the parts that spent all summer reading fantastical plot lines that twisted and turned with epic romances. The beauty of this novel is that it isn’t that, and it doesn’t need to be.
What are almost as special to me as the words on the pages are the stories my copy of this beloved novel can’t tell me, the ones of the places it’s been at the people who’ve read it. I read this book in Oslo, Norway, bought it in St. George, Utah, and inside of it are stamps from the Queensborough Community College library in Bayside, New York, and a business card of the shift manager of emergency services at the Orlando Regional Sand Lake Hospital in Orlando, Florida. I have no idea how many places this one book has been since it was printed in the 1980’s, but not a single page has been doggy earned, and I’m tempted to leave it in a secondhand store here, so that it can keep traveling. If only I wasn’t selfish and didn’t want to keep this treasure I’ve found…
Having had my first class of the semester today summer is officially over, and this brings my total summer book count to eleven books: The Mortal Instruments series City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls, and City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare; The Maze Runner by James Dashner; The Infernal Devices series Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, and Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare; Four by Veronica Roth; and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. That makes a grand total of 5,109 pages read in 3-4 months.
What book has impressed you the most? Did you find The Catcher in the Rye to live up to it’s reputation? I’d love to hear your thoughts!