Monday, April 7, 2008

J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
Recommended Age: 14+

A reader named Daniel S. recently [EDIT: as of March 2006] suggested that I read this book. Actually, I have read it several times already... just not since I started doing the Book Trolley! Anyway, I thought he had a point, so here is my review of this American classic – to the best of my ability to remember it!

I first read The Catcher in the Rye as an assignment in 12th-grade English class. I re-read it for pleasure, more than once, when I was in college. I have heard the book called many things: a coming-of-age novel, a teenage 1950’s slice of life in the big city, a fairy tale about a magical land created in the mind of a confused young man (caused by a sense of displacement from the world, either because he is crazy or because the world is). Films like Conspiracy Theory and Six Degrees of Separation depict the book as a Bible for wackos and terrorists. My favorite theory, thanks to my high school English teacher, is that it is a Zen Buddhist parable, complete with contemplative koans, renunciation of the material world, and a very young bodhisattiva.

Pretend you didn’t just read that paragraph. Now go read this book. All that you need to know is that it’s a heartbreaking story about the point in a teenager’s life when he realizes that the world is not going to go the way he expects. I think it is about the pain that comes when the harsh realities of grown-up life break in on your youthful ideals and innocence. You experience this pain through the vividly charismatic young voice of Holden Caulfield, a prep-school runaway who is confused about girls, grown-ups, adult role models, friendships, and the weird things going on inside himself.

I recommend this book. I really do.

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