The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This is so many people’s favourite book. I am not going to slate it but I personally don’t see why. Ok, so it encapsulates a rebellious teenage angst. Great. An idea towards why it was so popular was because at the time people liked it because it was banned and they felt slightly naughty reading it. I’m not completely naive I don’t believe that theory. Others have said that it is because Holden Caulfield is “so relatable”. Come on, his over use of the word “phoney” and completely dislike for everyone and everything is relatable?

I did enjoy this book. I read it twice. Once when I was about 12 because it is my mother’s favourite book and she insisted that I did and another time when I was 16 as I actually couldn’t remember what had actually happened in the book. After re-reading it I realised why I couldn’t remember, nothing actually really happens in the novel. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the novel, but it follows Holden for 24 hours and manages to take up about 200 pages. No one is that interesting surely.

I did dislike the main character not as much as I disliked Pip, I’ll give it that. The overuse of the word “phoney” and the way he just always seemed to criticise but didn’t think he could do any wrong. I hated his attitude towards himself and others. He was arrogant. He always measured people on how good they were at making conversation but I don’t think he would have been entirely interesting to talk to, he was too self-absorbed. In the first sentence he says “none of that David Copperfield crap” and it just sets the tone for the whole book, it definitely left me wondering, ‘can I actually be bothered?’ Believe it or not that is one of the reasons why I like it. It may sound silly, I enjoyed a book because the main character annoyed me but it isn’t really. It proves that the book is well written as it provokes such a strong emotion within me. Yes, I found him incredibly whiney but it wouldn’t stop me from reading it again, although let’s not get too excited, it’s nowhere near my favourite book. But it’s definitely a good one.  

Although I have just slated this book, I liked it. I don’t really know why, you know when you just can’t put your finger on it. There is just something about it that draws the reader in, perhaps the imperfection of Holden and the way he views the world. I don’t know. Perhaps even his relationship: good or bad. The relationship he has with his teacher and his sister. I don’t know. To an extent maybe the reader sees a part of themselves in Holden and that is why the like it. Maybe because it is different, it was unique at the time and to an extent it still is.

While researching this book I was surprised to find out that the author only died two years ago and that I didn’t even hear it in the news. Maybe you all knew that but he only died in 2010, aged 91, so he lived a nice full life. I’ve heard the question asked for ages, “why isn’t there a film?” and the answer is because Salinger refused to let them make one, there has been interest amongst film producers to make one but let’s face it the only person who should ever have played Holden would be Salinger himself. However possibly now that he is dead perhaps there will be. I personally think it is perfect in the form it is in. Considering it is set in the 1950s do you not think it’ll look too modern nowadays or just look totally fake?

This book has been the subject of controversy for numerous years, Salinger has said he wrote the novel as it reflects his boyhood, so that is one man who can relate to the novel, I suppose. It has been banned numerous times and is somewhat controversial. A diligent parent at the time went through the whole book counting offensive words. She counted 237 “goddams”, 58 of “bastard”, 31 “christssake and 6 of “fuck”. In the 1970s teachers who assigned this book were either sacked or forced to resign. This portrays just how harmful people thought it was.

Whether you like this book or not you can’t deny that it was successful. After writing Salinger never had to write another novel as he had made so much money from the first, and there aren’t many authors who can say they’ve done that!


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