I envy my Goodreads friends who are able to dig deep beneath the surface of a book and give you insights to the themes, motifs, symbols and whatnot. Unfortunately reading between the lines is not my forte, I have enough trouble reading the actual lines themselves. I’ll just ramble on relentlessly as usual then.The Catcher in the Rye
is the easiest to read complex book I have ever read. It is easy to just read it at face value, as a straightforward “bildungsroman” story and just get off the ride at the end of it with a sigh of satisfaction (or alternatively frisbee it into the bin). I am always happy to do that when reading for pleasure. Still, at certain points in the book things insist on jumping out at me. Holden Caulfield’s thought processes are interesting. Here is a teenager who resents everything and everybody, including himself. Sound familiar? He is clearly an unreliable narrator but he can also be very perceptive and insightful, not to mention goddam hilarious. For example:“Every time you mention some guy that's strictly a bastard--very mean, or very conceited and all--and when you mention it to the girl, she'll tell you he has an inferiority complex.”
Now I don’t necessarily agree that this is true “every time” but it seems true enough to make me laugh. Certainly the novel starts off being just a funny witty silly irreverent story. Gradually the humor becomes darker and there is a tonal shift into melancholia. The narrative never entirely shed its sense of humor though, but there is usually a bitter undertone to all the sarcasms.
If you don’t enjoy character centric fiction this book is probably not for you. It is all about characters. Not just Holden Caulfield himself but his sister Phoebe who is amazingly well developed given her brief appearances in the story. Then there is the kindly teacher Mr. Antolini, whose observation about how an academic education will “give you an idea what size mind you have” will always stay with me.
Salinger’s flippant colloquial narrative style (via Holden Caulfield) is a pleasure to read and comes across as quite heartfelt and sincere. It is very tempting to start aping this style and write a crumby phony review, but it would kill me I swear it would, so I won’t. I'll just tell you I got a big bang out of reading it and while I don't like to spend a lot of time analysing books The Catcher in the Rye
made me think about certain issues so hard I wanna puke.
For some reason I am now in the mood for some Van Halen.