Banned Books: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Oh my goodness me, Mr. Holden Caulfield! The angsty panty-twister of my pre-adolescent years! The man who made me want to rent a cheap NYC hotel room, wander the city, call as many former flings as I could in the hope of sleeping with them, and dwell on how burdenoning my life was. And don’t you judge – you know you did it to! If not with Holden, then with one of the many brooding teen males that have come down the line in his image. And we’ve all got one. Here’s the Goodreads:

The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

That’s such an elegant description! Man, Goodreads really hit it on the head this time.

When we begin Catcher in the Rye, Holden has been expelled again from yet another school. So, instead of calling his parents and going home like he’s supposed to/tells everyone he’s going to, he goes to the city to wander and to go visit his little sister, who he feels strangely bonded to. You see, Holden has real tragedy in his life (not like I did, when I was his age and pining after him miserably) – his brother has died, and he’s been haunted ever since then by dreams of being ‘the catcher in the rye’, of saving kids in his dream. So, he goes to New York, wanders for a good long while, calls up a number of girls he used to date, takes them to various places around the city, and visits his little sister at her day school. There is also a good conversation with prostitute, for those of you who are in to that sort of thing. However, by the end of it, Holden returns home and ends his story by telling us he won’t tell us the story of what happened after he went home. The book ends contentedly, if not happily.

I think that every teenager should be made to read this book. To tell you the truth, I can’t really figure out why it’s been banned/challenged. Maybe because he’s a young teenager who runs away? Maybe because he talks about sex, or tries to have it with women he isn’t married to? Perhaps its the rather depressing mindset that Holden stays in throughout the entire novel. Who knows. None of it seems salacious enough to ban, to me, even given the time the book was written (let alone that it keeps being challenged to this day). Thoughts? Anyway, that being said, I don’t think that this book is meant to be read by adults. I’ve tried. I wanted to shake Holden and tell him to get over it (this, for me, is a complete 180° transformation from where I was at 16). But the book is true to that tragic (I use the term loosely) voice of teenagers figuring out themselves and where they belong in this big crazy world. If you’ve got a teenager in your life (or are willing to spend your hours basically ‘conversing’ with the angsty-est of teens) then this is definitely the book for them! Happy reading!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeane
    Sep 28, 2011 @ 13:52:04

    I was really taken by this book when I first read it- just how authentic the voice sounded. I think one of my favorite scenes was where Holden pretended he’d been shot and went staggering down the hall imagining people would assist him in the elevator or something- it was just funny.

    Reply

  2. Kailana
    Sep 28, 2011 @ 14:52:16

    I read this book a few years ago and didn’t really love it. One of these days I will probably reread it because my reading tastes have changed a lot over the years.

    Reply

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