Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Catcher in the Rye

My mother passed on her love of reading to her three girls. We grew up reading wonderful, quality literature. However, lately I've discovered that my education is greatly lacking when it comes to modern novels. We read the Bronte sisters, Dickens, Dumas, Hugo, and other great 19th century writers. Orwell, Salinger, and Fitzgerald didn't find their way into the stacks of books we devoured. Now, I completely understand why my mom didn't pour over these books in the same way, and why she didn't stock our bookshelves with the same. That said, I still feel as if I have some ground to cover.

In the past couple years I have read Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury), To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee), 1984 (Orwell), and a couple others. I hope to work my way through a few more from Time Magazine's list of All Time 100 Novels (100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present) in the coming year. They may not be my favorite snuggle-up-in-bed reads, but certainly I might learn a thing or two, no?

So, recently I have been reading The Catcher in the Rye. I have to admit that it was chosen somewhat randomly. It happened to be sitting on my bookshelf. I also have to admit that I was fairly sure I wouldn't enjoy it. And I didn't, really. Not the first chapter or two. But after that, something happened. I felt as if I was starting to understand Holden Caulfield. And even like him some. The story moves from depressing, to thoughtful, to insightful, (back to depressing), to hopeful, to tender, and I still don't know how it will end. But I'm glad I gave it a try.

The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger)
chapter 16

Even though it was Sunday and Phoebe wouldn't be there with her class or anything, and even thought it was so damp and lousy out, I walked all the way through the park over to the Museum of Natural History...I knew that whole museum routine like a book. Phoebe went to the same school I went to when I was a kid, and we used to go there all the time...Sometimes we looked at the animals and sometimes we looked at the stuff the Indians had made in ancient times. Pottery and straw baskets and all stuff like that. I get very happy when I think about it. Even now...

The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody'd move. You could go there a hundred times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south...Nobody'd be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you'd be so much older or anything. It wouldn't be that, exactly. You'd just be different, that's all. You'd have an overcoat on this time. Or the kids that was your partner in line the last time had got scarlet fever and you'd have a new partner. Or you'd have a substitute taking the class, instead of Miss Aigletinger. Or you'd heard your mother and father having a terrific fight in the bathroom. Or you'd just passed by one of those puddles in the street with gasoline rainbows in them. I mean you'd be different in some way--I can't explain what I mean. And even if I could, I'm not sure I'd feel like it.


Unknown said...

I agree completely! I read this book in September or October I think (and reviewed it if you want to check my archives). I don't remember exactly what I said, but your thoughts very accurately described my impression of the book. Thanks for that.

Heidi said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jennifer. I visited your blog and love it...might have to add it to my list of favorites.

Your review of The Catcher in the Rye hit home with me. I think that I would have disliked the book had I read it in high school. Maybe I have just enough of the world under my belt at this point in life to be able to view it a little differently. I also am not sure if I would recommend the book due to the language and themes, but it felt very *real* to me.

My sons are still very young, but it will be interesting to see what literature I end up sharing with them. I hope to homeschool through highschool, so we will have a chance to really discuss what they have read.