Author Topic: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?  (Read 2124 times)

KennyMonster

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Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« on: June 16, 2019, 11:52:27 AM »
I've just finished reading this 'classic' for the first time and I don't get it at all.

I rarely find books to be bad as such, and this one wasn't bad but it was just some inky patterns on a dead tree. The writing was really corny and phoney, it really killed me.

There didn't seem to be any plot as such just some mild teenage angst and a few nights in New York he spent.

Is it better to read when you're a teenager yourself?

Not angry just confused why this is a so called classic, what have I not picked up on?

Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2019, 02:54:54 PM »
I read it as a kid
This quote stuck with me
'The Mark of the Immature Man Is That He Wants To Die Nobly for a Cause, While the Mark of the Mature Man Is That He Wants To Live Humbly for One'

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2019, 03:14:40 PM »
It's a decently-written, well-characterised book. The sort of idiots who still hype it up as some taboo-shattering shockfest a la the Scrotie McBoogerballs episode of South Park are clearly wrong, and I doubt that this was ever such an explosive piece of writing as some fools claim (to take two other American novels of roughly similar vintage, it's no Of Mice And Men or To Kill A Mockingbird), but it's a fairly moving and funny character study.

That is all.

grassbath

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2019, 03:38:57 PM »
I've always thought the 'teenage angst' label a little unfair, and misses out on some of the nuances of the novel. The bravado of the first person POV masks how much trauma he actually goes through. At one point he's wandering around the streets of New York in the snow at night, bleeding and hallucinating his dead brother. Isn't it implied that he's narrating from a mental hospital, or to a therapist?

KennyMonster

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2019, 05:10:52 PM »
I did like that quote Grendle, that's a fair point, I just didn't 'get' the rest of of it.

I've read Mockingbird and really enjoyed it, compared to that 'catcher was just a pamphlet of not much.

Sorry to any of its fans.

Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2019, 06:58:19 PM »

Is it better to read when you're a teenager yourself?


Yep, it's written on a teenager's wavelength. I totally got into this book as a teen. I've re-read it since and can no longer understand Holden, and in fact find him a bit annoying. I think I would avoid someone like this nowadays rather than be fascinated by them.  He's a bad-luck kitty.

Still a well-written book, but can't identify with what's in it - the whirlwind of emo.

Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2019, 07:08:32 PM »
Yea Its of a period and spoke to a youthful age group.
About the same time - Herman Hesse was being raved about - I didnt get that.

Howj Begg

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2019, 09:08:35 PM »
SPOILERS

What do we think Salinger is trying to say with the ending? Because Holden's teacher gives him great advice, the kind of stuff we would to say to him, and we're thinking here finally is some redemption, some arc, and then his teacher turns out to be a paedo.

So is the teacher's spiel bullshit? Not bullshit but undercut black comedy style to make reason and decency a farce? Holden's right, adults are all phoney?

grassbath

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2019, 09:59:05 PM »
^ this is my point - I think it's more nuanced than that. I don't think the teacher is a paedo. I think the gesture was meant innocently and he's aware of how vulnerable and afraid Holden is. Because Holden spends the entire novel trying to give off this impression of independence and toughness, he reacts badly and defensively to it.

Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2019, 10:02:19 PM »
also wasn't 100% (or even 60%) sure on teach being a wrong 'un. it's just more of Holden's blinkered vision...

Howj Begg

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2019, 10:05:11 PM »
Fair enough. I haven't got the book to hand, and haven't read it for years, I just thought it was p crystal clear when I read it. I don't see what he's doing touching Holden in his sleep, if it's not... that.

Edit: Just looked it up. He says "good night handsome" to Holden before he goes to bed, and then when caught he is sitting by Holden, "petting or patting (his) goddamn head", and then his excuse is that he's "admiring - " and Holden cuts him off. Admiring what? Holden's face, of course.

I don't see how else it can be interpreted.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2019, 10:15:37 PM by Howj Begg »

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2019, 12:12:30 AM »
He left it open to interpretation.

I thought Holden ended up in a madhouse but I don't think that was made clear either.

It's an amazing book. 'he hated it when I called him 'Ackley kid'', all that. 'shifting it into fifth while hoping God would send him another couple of stiffs'. Beautiful. It either rings bells or it doesn't. The sentiments will never age.

KennyMonster

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2019, 09:29:48 AM »
Thanks for the responses.

I should probably add that the reason I chose to read it now was that it'll be discussed on an upcoming special episode of Adam Buxton's poscast with Sarah Pascoe and mega 'Rye fan Richard Ayode.

a duncandisorderly

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2019, 10:36:57 AM »
time I read it again.

as I recall, the 'upset' it caused, or the reason for its long-lasting notoriety, is the rather less than sympathetic nature of the first-person doing the narration. I think there had been bad bastard first-person books before, but not with this depth of (teenage) nihilism.

I felt the same distaste but with less inclination to forgive the narrator for his state of mind, while reading (e.g.) 'american psycho', ballard's 'crash' & (perhaps surprisingly) 'zen & the art of motorcycle maintenance', where being in someone else's head while weird stuff happens is uncomfortable. in the case of 'crash', I had to put it down every three or four pages. whereas 'a clockwork orange', I think the language helps distance you from alex, & in any case you begin to feel sorry for him.

Lisa Jesusandmarychain

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2019, 11:51:26 AM »
He left it open to interpretation.

I thought Holden ended up in a madhouse but I don't think that was made clear either.



POSSIBLE TOP SPOILERS


That part is made pretty clear at the end, I think. He refers quite explicitly to being (back?) in that place.

timebug

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #15 on: June 18, 2019, 09:10:05 AM »
One of those 'must read' books that always eluded me. I have tried about six times, and just don't find it keeps my interest beyond the first half dozen pages. Lots of friends and family rave about it, but it's one that I just 'don't get' myself!

Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #16 on: June 18, 2019, 11:17:07 AM »
It doesn't seem typical of Salinger's overall work; the Glass family feels like it came from a totally different author.

However you can relate it to Salinger's own breakdown in World War 2.

Ambient Sheep

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #17 on: June 19, 2019, 05:17:29 AM »
I've just finished reading this 'classic' for the first time and I don't get it at all.

I rarely find books to be bad as such, and this one wasn't bad but it was just some inky patterns on a dead tree.

Oh thank God for that, I thought I was the only one.

 
Is it better to read when you're a teenager yourself?

Nope, at least not for me (I see at least one person disagrees!).  I was made to read it at school around age 14 or so, and it bored me shitless.

It seems I must have missed a lot, as I don't remember either of the spoilery things that have been mentioned... but then to be honest the only thing I remember at all is the bit near the start where he's describing the old guy in his dressing gown picking his nose while pretending not to.  And I probably only remember that because our normally quite dour arsehole of an English teacher had a good immature chortle about it.

The only other thing is that when my much older brother discovered we were reading it he was astonished that the school were doing it; he thought it was (seen as) such a rebellious work that he was seriously impressed.  This would have been around 1979.

Like many other books (e.g. Slaughterhouse Five, Catch-22), I've always meant to re-read it as an adult.

DukeDeMondo

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2019, 12:01:35 AM »
I'm another who has never made it past the first 30 or 40 pages. I don't quite know why. Tried at different times. Just felt... I dunno. Off, somehow. Maybe now is the time to give it another go.

Salinger's son was Captain America back in the day. I liked that well enough.

purlieu

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2019, 11:59:03 AM »
It's partly a book that suffers from its reputation. Reading in 2019, it won't feel particularly revolutionary, and it's pretty low-key, so any ideas of it being some Greatest Of All Time Masterpiece are going to be hard to reconcile with the actual work. I hated it when I first read it at 18 (I was a startlingly un-angsty teen), but returning to it discovered there are plenty of brilliant little moments tied together in there. I'm not sure I get why it seems to be so loved, but I think there's a lot to get from it. The quotation Grendle mentioned is a superb bit.

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #20 on: June 26, 2019, 07:05:50 PM »
Lovely book. It quickly becomes clear it's just a window into a individual's life. His reactions and experiences are not things the author is asking you to approve of. He is an annoying, petulant cunt who doesn't understand the world around him but is also faced with a pretty unyielding and unforgiving world himself.

There’s a beautiful sadness and melancholy in the 2nd half that I think most could relate to, when he sort of goes off-piste, getting ever weaker, sadder and poorer with each interaction. This cuts through the harshness of the character and makes... me, at least... begin to feel for him.

It's an interesting concept to have a book that is contemplative, interested in existential themes driven through by a central character who isn't interested in any of that.

It has fits of humour too. The exchange with the taxi driver about where ducks go in the winter is laugh out funny, while the peripheral characters are generally colourful. It's written beautifully so you can picture them vividly largely from the dialogue and despite sparing descriptions.

There’s no point going to read any book with THIS IS A CLASSIC screen burned onto your psyche, but especially not this one. Enjoy it for what it is.

MiddleRabbit

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #21 on: June 26, 2019, 09:39:58 PM »
I'm a big fan of it.  Not quite as big a fan as I was when I was about 16-18, but I don't have any problem with it.  I think it's pretty perfect.

As far as I can gather, most people find most teenagers quite annoying and the common response to it is that it's great when you're that age but when you revisit it when you're older, Holden's just an annoying twat only proves how spot on it is as a portrayal of teenagerdom, especially in terms of how reactive he is.  The comment above about how the first person viewpoint masks a lot of what's going on is a really good one.

It's funny and even though the fifties setting dates it, it makes no difference because it's the perfect novel about the isolation and reaction to it that teenagers tend to experience.

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #22 on: June 26, 2019, 09:53:45 PM »
The city bits feel even more atmospheric to imagine versus when it was written (I would imagine!), which is perhaps one area where it's aged well.

MiddleRabbit

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #23 on: June 26, 2019, 10:40:22 PM »
The city bits feel even more atmospheric to imagine versus when it was written (I would imagine!), which is perhaps one area where it's aged well.

There's the romance of old New York, yeah, but I think it's just really well written.  Holden's blasé recollection of the horror, as was mentioned earlier, sugar coats the shit time he's going through.  It seems a bit like a short book in which nothing really happens, but there's such a lot going on - maybe the pills he's on are deadening the emotional response, or maybe it's just his public persona - at the same time, reflects the contradictory nature of Holden in general.  His ambivalence about almost everything: the prostitute, movies, girls, Mr Antolini and so on.

As I said, I don't have the emotional attachment to it that I once did, but I got something entirely different out of it reading it a couple of years ago.  I think it's spot on.  I'll have to listen to that podcast, I didn't know Richard Ayoade was a fan, but on reflection, yeah, of course.

Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #24 on: June 30, 2019, 10:21:14 PM »
A real love-hate novel, this. I can't think of many others with such polarised opinion. I still rate it pretty highly for what it is, and consider Caulfield to be one of the best examples of an unreliable narrator in literature.

I agree with the poster who said there's much more going on with Caulfield than merely age related angst. He's clearly traumatised by the events around him, the death of his brother and his loneliness, and despite it not being confirmed the epilogue quite clearly places him in a psychiatric ward.

FerriswheelBueller

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #25 on: June 30, 2019, 11:26:48 PM »
I also don’t get this. Read it twice, think it’s a bag of shite.

Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #26 on: July 04, 2019, 03:24:20 PM »
Try The Bell Jar next. It's Catcher in the Rye for chicks.

Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #27 on: July 06, 2019, 05:44:05 PM »
Or more extreme as I recall 'Hunger' by Knut Hamsun

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Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #28 on: July 11, 2019, 07:48:44 PM »
Haven't read it for years, but I have fond memories. Read it when I was younger than the Caulfield and found it melancholy, seemed to conjure up an eerie and lonely world between childhood and adulthood. New freedoms and responsibilities without the understanding of how to negotiate them. I want to revisit it now.

Re: Catcher In The Rye, OK so what have I missed?
« Reply #29 on: July 16, 2019, 12:16:00 AM »
Or more extreme as I recall 'Hunger' by Knut Hamsun

Hunger is a fine work, really something. Maybe it's time I read it again.

Catcher in the Rye I thought was ok when I read it aged 19 or so. No way I'd pick it up again, ever.