I think some books just remain, no matter when you read them. It doesn’t matter. They are beyond time perhaps. For me, The Catcher in the Rye is one such book. I have heard a lot of people say a lot of things, about it, however to me it still remains special. Why, you ask? Maybe because I read it at sixteen. Maybe because I read it when I was away from my family – the plot had some perspective I think. I didn’t want to be Holden, but certainly thoughts drifted in the manner he thought. J.D. Salinger knew what he was doing I think while writing this novel. What he didn’t know was the reaction or strings of actions would be created by this book.
Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon and had The Catcher in the Rye in his hand. John Hinckley Jr. attempted an assassination on Ronald Reagan in 1981 and one of the books owned by him was the one written by Salinger. There are several movie and television references to the novel as well. What is it about this book that evokes such reactions? Why? To my sixteen-year old mind, unwell and in bed, it was just another novel lent to me by my uncle and I had to read it. I read it. I loved it and that was it.
The Catcher in the Rye is not just another novel then. It is the voice of several generations of teenagers in the sense of the world. It is the world of angst and no sense of direction. Or maybe it is the voice of intellectualizing everything or trivializing it all. Holden Caulfield is more than an icon. He is someone who is trying to make sense of his life and life around him. It might appear to be as simple as this, when it is not or may be it is. He encounters people – different people as he takes off from his fancy school Pencey Prep and takes on his journey in New York City. This is where it all begins or almost.
The book was banned in most schools in the US of A. It is because of its vulgar language, which honestly I did not have a problem with then or now. To me the writing is just surreal, even after rereading it after fourteen years. It just manages to evoke the same sentiments in me and that is why I call it timeless. It talks about adolescence and its struggle like no other book. The Catcher in the Rye in that sense of the word is truly a classic and will be for years to come. I am glad I reread it. Thanks to my The Novel Cure Reading Challenge. It is guaranteed to cure angst of adolescence.
Next Up in the Challenge: Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore