The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
I’m not sure what to say about this that hasn’t already been said. But I can tell you what I thought about it.
I realize that coming to this book for the first time at 32 years old is not the usual way of things. I don’t know how I would have felt about it as a teenager, but I really quite liked it as an adult.
I found Holden to be rather amusing in his judgments, insights, and hypocrisy. And when I didn’t find him amusing, I felt sorry for him.
Though there was not a lot of plot progression (the whole things takes place over a couple of days and mostly features Holden’s hi-jinx around New York City), I was pretty interested the whole time. After finishing, it feels mostly like a lengthy character sketch of Holden. I felt like I knew him pretty well by the time it was over.
It seemed like Holden was pretty mentally unstable. There were clues about this throughout the book, but these in particular struck me:
I started picturing millions of jerks coming to my funeral and all. . . . They all came when Allie died, the whole goddam stupid bunch of them. . . . I wasn’t there. I was still in the hospital. I had to go to the hospital and all after I hurt my hand. (154-155)
“I thought it was ‘If a body catch a body,'” I said. “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around–nobody big, I mean–except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff–I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.” (173)
“Thanks a lot,” I said. “G’by!” The elevator was finally there. I got in and went down. Boy, I was shaking like a madman. I was sweating, too. When something perverty like that happens, I start sweating like a bastard. That kind of stuff’s happened to me about twenty times since I was a kid. I can’t stand it. (193)
Overall, I really liked this classic work. It made me a little sad, in the way the best books sometimes can.