REVIEW: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction/ Classic, Pages: 277, Level: Easy/ Intermediate

Book Description from Goodreads:

“Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger’s New Yorker stories ? particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme ? With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is fully of children. The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.”

THIS IS MY OPINION! Please keep that in mind as you read this review. If you love The Catcher in the Rye, I am happy for you. Obviously I did not.

After going through the torture of reading this book, discussing it with others and contemplating a bit, I have come to the conclusion that the entire point of The Catcher in the Rye comes down to:

Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them- if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. p246

Which means, if you are or were a troubled youth, Catcher may sing to you. It may comfort you to know you are not alone. If you have a child or know someone who is a troubled youth, maybe Catcher will give you a little insight into the thoughts behind some of his or her actions and thus help you sympathize.

However, for those who do not fall into the troubled youth of some sort category, be prepared to hate J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. I’m not saying you will, but maybe if you are prepared, you will not be disappointed if Catcher does not live up to its Great American Classic reputation that is touted over and over and over again.

First, allow me to comment on the description, which is from Goodreads. And it is unedited; I copied it exactly how it appeared on Goodreads.

The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story.

Watch me.

There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all.

NOT!

Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure.

Eh? First, how do you transcend your own vernacular yet remain marvelously faithful to it? Doesn’t transcending it mean you have improved upon it, recognizing its inadequacy? Second, considering what a blithering jerk Holden is, I would hope he transcends it. SPOILER! He doesn’t.

However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself.

You mean besides verbally assaulting and insulting people, cussing all the time and not even cussing well by inventing crazy new combinations, and torturing the reader with his oh-so-witty monologue? Well, yeah, if you ignore all that, and more that I left out in the interests of time and space, you are absolutely right, he does keep most of the pain to himself.

And Holden Caulfield a poet? Here is an example of his poetry:

“Sometimes my mother braids it and sometimes she doesn’t.” p88

Sheer genius.

Alright, onto the book…

The book was awful. It was boring. I consider it a form of torture that should be banned under the Geneva Convention.

Holden Caulfield is probably the most miserable, insufferable, boring person I have ever read about. I don’t like hanging out with people like HC and I certainly don’t want to read about them. His own sister sums him up perfectly:

“You don’t like anything that’s happening.”
It made me even more depressed when she said that.
“Yes I do. Yes I do. Sure I do. Don’t say that. Why the hell do you say that?”
“Because you don’t. You don’t like any schools. You don’t like a million things. You don’t” p220

HELLO! The whole book is one long list of things Holden Caulfield does not like. I’m not kidding. Here is a partial list:

“I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it” p7.

“I hated that goddam Elkton Hills” p19.

“I hate the movies like poison…” p38.

“…I hate it when somebody has cheap suitcases with them” p141.

“…I hate actors” p152.

Okay, I’m already bored, and those are just quotes with “hate” in them. Trust me, there is a lot of stuff that Holden hates, or that annoys him, etc. In fact, you could probably randomly open the book and there will be a part about him hating something. Ooh, let’s try it!

Page 184-

If you sat around there long enough and heard all the phonies applauding and all, you got to hate everybody in the world, I swear you did.

This is kind of fun. Let’s try one more. Page 102-

I didn’t know him too well or anything, but he looked like the kind of a guy that wouldn’t talk to you much unless he wanted something off you. He had a lousy personality.

That’s close. Enough of the games, although this is a great way to pass time.

I struggled with this book and forced myself to read it just because it is a Classic. What a load of cow manure. Catcher does not deserve to be a Classic, in my humble opinion of course. And before you go all off on me and say that I am just too dumb to get it, allow me to summarize the it- Holden Caulfield epitomizes teenage angst.

I know that is a bit simplistic, but I promise you, I get it. However, Catcher portrays it rather poorly. In 2013, all the goddamnits and prostitutes and religious criticism and all the rest of what is in this book, just isn’t controversial anymore. So while teenage angst is timeless, the message gets lost in all the boring monologue.

Why on earth did I actually give this book two stars?

One, because it was better than The Great Gatsby. Although:

I was crazy about The Great Gatsby. p183

I like irony.

Two, the following quote:

I took her dress over to the closet and hung it up for her. It was funny. It made me feel sort of sad when I hung it up. I thought of her going in a store and buying it, and nobody in the store knowing she was a prostitute and all. The salesman probably just thought she was a regular girl when she bought it. It made me sad as hell- I don’t know why exactly. p125

That was the second most eloquent part for me. And finally, three:

About a museum-

The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move… Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you… I kept thinking about old Phoebe going to that museum… I thought how she’d see the same stuff I used to see, and how she’d be different every time she saw it” p158

That was the most eloquent part, in my opinion. And quite frankly, this quote also just happens to describe why I am revisiting the Classics. The Classics themselves have not changed, but I have, and maybe my opinion of them will change as I change. So far, not so much…

I know there are many, many readers out there who love Catcher. For some, it is an all-time favorite and had a lasting impact on their life. I respect that- whatever floats your boat… I love that two different people can read the exact same book and walk away with opposite reactions. It makes for great conversation and debate. What distresses me is when people take others’ opinions personally and attribute dislike of a work to lack of comprehension or intelligence, i.e., they just don’t get it, and feel it is their duty to defend the book with personal insults.

I have a higher education and am very well read, and I am exercising my freedom of speech by stating my opinion that The Catcher in the Rye is boring cow poop and does not deserve to be a Classic. Rather, it feels like a boring, tedious date who drones and drones, making you want to excuse yourself to the restroom and escape out the window.

Reviewed by Christina
July 27, 2013

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

  1. Pingback: 2013 New Year’s Resolution | Book Expectations

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