Chris's Reviews > The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
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Jul 31, 08

Recommended to Chris by: some crumby teacher
Read in June, 2008

**Included on Time’s List of 100 Best Fiction of the 20th Century**

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is what I thought about “The Catcher In the Rye”, and my reasons for liking it or disliking it, and possibly even how I felt about the work each of the four times I’ve wasted my time reading it, and all that 'Mein Kampf' kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. Also, I’d probably have to take the time to learn how to italicize things on GoodReads, which would probably be worthwhile, but my computer skills could easily be outshone by a resuscitated troglodyte fresh from an ice-block. Added to that, I don’t know how long I could go on trying to poorly mimic the book without wanting to puke, I mean, not only is it a crumby thing to do to, but it’s also phony as hell.

So what do I think about the madman exploits of old Holden Caufield, perhaps one of the most acclaimed protagonists in all of American literature? No terribly much, as a matter of fact: each time I’ve read this book I wanted to kill myself. Holden’s always saying things like that, I mean, if you were to wear one blue sock and one red sock, and maybe slowly skin your shrivelfig under the comforting cotton of a green sock, he’d say something like, “God how I hate how that guy messes around with his socks, it makes me want to kill myself.” In that case, you’d better hope you’re at least in possession of a decent valise, lest that bastard Caulfield spread some more wrath upon you for your clearly inferior luggage. That guy, he really cracks me up.

I never really understood why this book is so universally adored; sure, Holden is a slacker, the type of clown that every distraught kid envisions themselves to be, some gem in the rough with all the talent, but lacking the ambition to make a notable mark on the world which holds them back. But you grow up, if only to acknowledge you have no talents and still have no ambition, and instead of grabbing for that golden ring, you waste your time writing shitty reviews on shitty books here on goodreads on a ball-dampeningly warm Sunday afternoon. Come to think of it, that’s probably why so many appreciate this bumbling tale; like Holden, they probably equate themselves to that misshapen hunk of precious metal hidden beneath a untilled mound of Nebraskan soil, laying in wait for someone to unearth their sparkling brilliance for all the world to admire. Of course, when you realize Tucker Max probably felt the same way you immediately bathe in bromine and shave what remains of your flesh completely bald to scour the scourge as thoroughly as humanly possible. Perhaps it may be slightly more promising to delude yourself than resigning your life to the contemplation of just how lame you actually are.

So here’s a quick glimpse of what’s inspired so many lifelong laughingstocks. Here’s Holden fruitlessly swimming against the current, a complete nincompoop (let’s remember he’s Irish) who gets kicked out of school for being a moron and talks hard yet winds up getting the shit mercilessly beaten out of him by a crumby snob named Stradlater (a book about Studly Strad would have been far better) and a pimp named Maurice. Holden also feels the need to denounce everyone as a phony, though I find myself at a loss to imagine anything phonier than a wimpy, big-mouthed mick mollycoddled by daddy’s fat bankroll while attending prep school along with his stunning array of hand-crafted, Italian leather luggage. Let’s not gloss over the fact that Holden is probably impotent, as evidenced by his inability to lay the wood to Sally, Jane, or even a prostitute, perhaps his crowning disgrace. Either that or he’s queer, seeing as he duped poor Antolini by presenting his former mentor with the ultimate fantasy of a drunken, sexually-inexperienced youth with ‘no place to go’ and then, afraid that further action might expose his impotence, he felt the need to flee into the night, acting all startled about what just transpired. Let’s face it, Holden himself claims that similar ‘perverty’ stuff happened to him a lot as a kid, and then feigns shock when Antolini comes in to take a juicy bite of the bare bottom he so masterfully baited. All this weirdness coming from an awkward geek with a fondness for children ought to be enough to sway any who remain unconvinced thus far. You’re STILL not seeing the light?!? Seriously? Ok, last clue Caulfield is a deviant: the kid aspires to be a “catcher”. And this ‘catcher’ fantasy involves children. If you need further explanation I’ll be required to rent a jackhammer to pound the obvious into your skull.

This will hopefully be the last time that I read “The Catcher in the Rye”, as I’ve given it too many chances and always walked away completely disappointed. I will give Salinger's opus two stars, however, simply for the entertainment of laughing at it.
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Comments (showing 1-28 of 28) (28 new)

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Noelly Clever review. Salinger's style works for ya :)


Sara I agree, you immitate it well! Even though I love the book (read my review if you want) I enjoyed your review because it is true! Everyone just takes Holden way to seriously. He's a kid! All kids are punks and think they know everything at some point. I do respect your opinion though. :) Good review.


message 3: by Tyler (last edited Aug 16, 2008 07:20PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Tyler I don't even know where to begin with this book, so that's why I leave it up to reviewers like Chris. In addition to this ...

Holden also feels the need to denounce everyone as a phony, though I find myself at a loss to imagine anything phonier than a wimpy, big-mouthed mick mollycoddled by daddy’s fat bankroll

... which pretty much sums up the kid, I never figured out why the little snot didn't skin that teacher for a cool $25 for a "look but don't touch" session. Oh wait, his Dad's well off. He doesn't need the money, that's why! Well, he did need that ass-kicking he got at the start of the book, in the worst way. I enjoyed that. But not much else in the book inspired me. That dumbass Holden, he just kills me.


message 4: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy Don't hate what you don't understand.

=)


Tyler Jeremy created an account in order to say that. He just kills me.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

i like your review, chris. not just any pompous dick could have written it.


Mister Snugglefcuk perfect review.. this book was a total waste of time.


Andrea Delesdernier I also thought Catcher was way overrated. I kept waiting for something to happen. I would have been happier if he'd gone on a killing spree in the third act. But NOTHING ever happens.


message 9: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe I really enjoy the Catcher in the Rye every time I read it (and I've read it a lot), in fact it is possibly one of my top 10 favorite novels of all time.

I can understand how one can hate it as much as Chris does. It is definitely an acquired taste, it hasn't aged well, and Salinger's writing style has been imitated countless times by myriad writers. However,I can appreciate it on many levels.

If one reads it bearing in mind the time frame in which it was published, you may appreciate it more. When it was published in 1951 there was nothing else out there like it. Salinger was a trailblazer single handedly creating a new style of fiction that is now trite and commonplace in today's world. In that regard alone, it's an important novel and deserves the praise it receives. Not to mention, to this day it's possibly one of the most widely banned books ever.

I like your review and respect your opinion but I love this book. I think it's brilliant.


Chris Hey Joe,

I'd compare a book like this to The Beatles or The Rolling Stones; extremely influential, just not my taste.

At the same time, the fact Salinger has inspired so much bad work to come even makes me like it less, if that makes any sense.


Basha1971 I'd way rather read your review again than this stupid book.

Bravo.


message 12: by Bill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bill O'Connell Boring and dramatic review.


message 13: by Troy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Troy Ironically, I enjoyed your review for many of the same reasons I like the book. While you admittedly imitate Salinger's style, you often creep into a clearly authentic rant and roll, which is still not terribly unlike one of Holden's tirades. You might ponder a psychological "projection" at play.


message 14: by j (last edited Feb 10, 2010 01:33PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

j No judgment intended, but all the negative reviews of this book have a common thread: the reader doesn't like Holden, thinks he needs a good kick, is a loser, etc.

When, exactly, is Holden ever held up as a character we are supposed to respect? He's clearly miserable and insecure and confused, and it seems pretty clear to me that Salinger feels empathy for him, even pities him... but he certainly doesn't think Holden has the right of things. He's just as phony a character as all the phonies he calls out - of course, that's the point. He thinks he knows it all, he thinks he knows nothing.

I find Holden loveable because he's so mixed up, but I don't think we're supposed to read the book and praise him for being an outsider and an individual. We're supposed to feel for him because he has no idea where he is in life, and doesn't seem to realize that no one ever really figures it out.

I can see disliking the style but most critiques I've seen of Holden as a character seem to ignore what it means that he is written that way.


message 15: by Rick (new) - rated it 1 star

Rick Roemer I have to agree. Thanks for putting my feelings into words.


message 16: by Chris (new)

Chris Bloom @Joel --

I don't hate this book because of Holden -- at least not directly. That caveat is necessary because in a very real sense the book is Holden; he's such an insufferable, self-centered little jerk that any story he tells in the first person can't help but be about nothing but himself.

What really drives me up the wall about this book is the way it's been held up as great art for sixty years, inspiring so many insipid imitations and lowering the quality of literature immensely. The fact that "serious" literature these days consists largely of narcisistic, plotless, "subversive" whining isn't entirely the fault of this book, but it certainly didn't help matters.

Yes, it was shocking in 1951. Yes, it appealed to people who didn't like the mainstream values of 1951. Guess what, though? It hasn't been 1951 for a good long time. Can't we move on from this juvenile twaddle and at least try to write real stories again?

Great review, by the way, Chris. I'd've laughed if it weren't so spot-on.


message 17: by Joe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe @ Chris--

The fact that this book was so shocking and influential in 1951 doesn't devalue its place in literary history even if it inspired many lesser quality imitations.

You can apply this logic to almost any seminal work of art throughout history. Take Jackson Pollock splatter paintings for example.

Yes, it has inspired insipid imitations by lesser talented artists. Yes, it was shocking in 1947. Yes, it appealed to people who wanted to move away from the social reaslist aspect of art during WWII. And yes, it's not 1947 anymore but does it devalue it's historical artistic contribution? Not at all.

As much as I don't like Pollock's splatter paintings, I can respect its place in art history.

I think the dumbing down of American society is more to blame for the poor quality of today's "serious" literature than the Catcher in the Rye's influence.

I agree with Joel, either you hate or love Holden and as a result can overlook his hypocrisy. Holden is the biggest phony of them all. He's not a likeable character but I sometimes enjoy novels with unlikeable protagonists.


message 18: by Chris (new)

Chris Bloom @Joe --

I certainly agree that it has its place in history. I'd just prefer it were left there. ;)

I also agree that the general dumbing-down of America has affected literature, but remember that it was a gradual process, and one in which Catcher holds a pivotal place. Do I applaud the greater realism of the last 60 years? Sure I do, but too often "real" is equated with "ugly". The idea that Catcher is "great literature" has contributed to the uglification of culture in general.

Catcher is an ugly book, in my opinion. It adds little if anything to the literary or cultural landscape today. And the fact that so many high-school students are required to read Catcher while Huckleberry Finn is held to be offensive is sheer lunacy.

An unlikeable protagonist is fine. I've enjoyed stories with antiheroes and other hard-to-love types. I just require that the story or the presentation be good enough to draw me into that character's life, and Catcher is a middling exercise with no plot of which to speak.

In my humble opinion, of course. ;)


Jamie You really don't get it, do you?

Holden spends his whole life idealizing childhood innocence and believing all adults to be phonies. He alienates himself through lies and deception, convincing himself that he is above their phonyness. He oversimplifies people because he is afraid of the complexities of the adult world. This book teaches us not to be afraid of the unknown, to truly investigate our own modes of thinking. It shows that we must learn not to build a barrier between ourselves and others and that we can trust others to catch us when we fall.

Doesn't that mean anything to you? You claim that Holden is just some moron who is spoiled and rude, but can't you see that you yourself are oversimplifying him, just like he does to others? He is not just some deviant, he has a wide array of thoughts, qualities, and emotions.

Personally, this book has inspired me not to judge people so broadly, taught me that I should get to know someone before I criticize them. It has also helped me realize that I am not the only one who sometimes feels alone and different from regular people. I know I'm not your typical teenage girl. I have realized my thought processes to be much different than those of my peers, but reading from Holden's perspective gives me hope. His outlandish values and morals prove him to be, deep down, an inquisitive and innocent young adult, similar to how I think of myself. This book has helped me to better grasp an idea of who I am as well as how I come off to others and how I can better myself. And for that, I am truly grateful.


Louise Taylor i enjoyed this review much more than the novel


Dristi If only there was a like button for me to show how much I liked your response Jamie.


Jessica lol. thanks.


Brittany Book was dissapointing in every respect, this review hit the nail on the head.


message 24: by Dare (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dare Johnson Your adjective 'ball-dampeningly' (as in a "ball-dampeningly warm day") is brilliant! I look forward to its becoming adopted into the mainstream of the English language.


message 25: by Cyn (new)

Cyn I've never read the book, but I think I know how I'd feel about it anyway. I'm 'liking' this review. Just for its awesomeness.


David it's not just you...but why do persons who hate the book continue to reread it....??


Cosmic Arcata The Catcher in the Rye is about WW2. It is a story within a story. Holden (which is the name of a car) is just a vehicle to "understand" the WW2. See my review. When you understand that Salinger couldn't say what he knew about this war so he wrote it as a children's book... Just like Felix Salten in Bambi (not the Disney version, which is probably why Salinger didn't get his published.

Salinger tells you this is nit a David Copperfield story. So don't read it like it is about Holden. Hint: look at the first page of David Copperfield to understand "Caiulfields" name.

I hope you will reread it again. This time when you get to the Merry go round play the music Salinger said was playing, and see if that makes sense or if he is using this book to tell you about money, power and war.


Kathleen Quaintance I'm sorry, but you really think that Holden is a pedophile? Your review as a whole was over the top (though I must admit, entertaining). And to be honest, saying Holden was really such a shitty dude has some truth to it, but he loved his kid sister and gave money to nuns. Ok so I don't really know where I'm going with this comment, only I think you may want to go punch your pillow or take deep breaths as your anger for this book is a little much. Yeah, I liked it, but I'm a teenager. Also it speaks to its longitevity that I can really understand him even though he was created in the 40s.


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