In the American classic The Catcher in the Rye, we follow the 16-year-old Holden Caulfield and his battle against depression, alienation and shallowness. The author J.D. Salinger created a popular icon for teenage turmoil and this coming-of-age novel continues to be controversial and popular even today.
I was told that The catcher in the rye was a huge controversy in its time. It was even the most censored book across American schools between 1961 and 1982. The protagonist Holden Caulfield isn’t too fond about his exclusive private school, the shallowness of the phonies, the social expectations and so on. He’s fed up with everything and everybody and just wants out. The whole book is a monologue about these subjects and his attempt to escape while he is being treated in a mental institution.
Throughout the book, the reader encounters 237 times the word “goddamn”, 58 times “bastard” and several other blasphemous phrases. But to say that this puberty turmoil was shocking or controversial? Nope! Or am I so adapted to the current zeitgeist that his behavior seems to be nothing more than your typical teenage rebellion? Are the times a-changed that much?
Tell me one thing you actually like
After being expelled from school, Holden decides to leave his campus and take off to an unknown place and become an einzelgänger. But not after saying goodbye to his beloved sister Phoebe. He checks into a shady hotel and waits for the right moment to sneak into his house without his parents knowing and surprise his 10-year-old sister. Phoebe seems to be the only thing in his life that makes him happy and gives some kind of purpose in his mental labyrinth. When Phoebe unexpectedly confronts him with his cynical view on life, things start to get dark. The simple sentence “tell me one thing you actually like” turns out to be a trip down memory lane where everything went wrong in his life.
Golden classic or golden kitsch?
So the main question obviously is: would I recommend this book to you? Well, The Catcher in the Rye is a classic. It was written in 1951 and it has its very own entertaining and typical lingo. The only dislike I had was the SLOW pace of the story. Nonetheless, the story is very captivating and has a remarkable “rhythm” in it which makes this a page-turner. So to answer my question in the beginning regarding if the times are a-changed: yes, they are, but the struggle in Holden’s coming-of-age story is definitely not outdated.
If you’re planning on reading more classics, make sure you get your hands on this one. And if you don’t like classics: try it either way, because J.D. Salinger is an American legend and one sentence in the book really hits right in the feels of all book-nerds:
“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.”
Preaching to the choir, J.D. !
This review is written by Bored to Death book blog contributor Ikram Taouanza. You can find more of here writing on her own blog http://pursuitofsabr.
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