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The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

by J. D. Salinger

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
48,98075911 (3.84)3 / 855
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(see all 34 recommendations)

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Showing 1-5 of 708 (next | show all)
I don't know what it is about this book but after I read it (in only one sitting) my first thought was it was OK but what was the big deal. Since then I have had the urge to read it again and actually long to be in Holden Caulfield's world again. It has a very strange effect and I wish I would of read it when I was younger. ( )
  Fearshop | Aug 20, 2015 |
I was between "liked it" and "really liked it" on this, so I went ahead and erred on the side of enthusiasm.

Two things were striking to me, this time around. First, this is a *very* different book to a woman in her forties than it was to a teenager. Oddly, in some ways I felt I could relate to it more now. This passage, for instance:

"I took her dress over to the closet and hung it up for her. It was funny. It made me feel sort of sad when I hung it up. I thought of her going in a store and buying it, and nobody in the store knowing she was a prostitute and all. The salesman probably just thought she was a regular girl when she bought it. It made me feel sad as hell -- I don't know why exactly."

That's the sort of weird moment I have all the time. Not that I do a lot of hanging out with prostitutes, mind you. Those days are long over. But the point is, I tend to make odd connections and think strange little thoughts like that.

However, one thing I *wasn't* in a position to evaluate as a young and very dense reader was how whiny Holden can come across as. I love the scene where his younger sister Phoebe calls him out on this:

"You don't like *any*thing that's happening."
It made me even more depressed when she said that.
"Yes I do. Yes I do. *Sure* I do. Don't say that. Why the hell do you say that?"
"Because you don't. You don't like any schools. You don't like a million things. You *don't.*"

By this point in the book, it feels pretty true. Holden's observations can be funny and canny and even just beautiful, but past a certain point, it's hard not to want to say, "Yes, okay, you're special and unique and a darned adorable snowflake. Now: enough with the rich-kid angst, already!" Which is not the kind of thing I would have thought as a teenager, because I was too busy being full of angst. Okay, and trying to survive being a *real* runaway, which is rather different from fantasizing. Especially if you're female and broke rather than male and privileged. But I digress.

The other reason this was such a different read several decades since the last time was that the last time I read "Catcher," I hadn't just seen the trailer for a documentary about Salinger. I certainly wasn't aware that several men who adored "Catcher" had committed assassinations, or attempted assassinations. But that was almost all I could think about when I read it this time.

And let me tell you -- reading "Catcher" while keeping a close eye out for the kind of weirdness a certain kind of crazy might latch onto is a very disturbing experience. Please note that even if I weren't attempting to write for a living myself, I would have very little patience with the idea of a work of art being hauled into court (a court of opinion, at least, if not of law) as both motive and weapon. And even if a book were written and published with the express intention of prompting citizens to take lives, responsibility for resulting action falls on those who commit murder.

That said? Reading "Catcher" with all this in mind freaked me out. Because this really is a story of madness. Holden isn't some sweet, strange little puppy who's too sensitive for this cruel world. He is exactly what he frequently, jokingly refers to himself as: a madman. He refers quite lightly to shooting people. He has frequent fantasies of bloody violence, committed against both himself and others. He cares very little for most other people, calculating only what he can get from them. He seeks out boys and men he despises simply because he's lonely or bored or needs somewhere to go. He avoids the one admirable girl he knows, making moves on physically attractive but hateable women instead. (But who does he despise most of all? "Phonies.") Even when something makes him laugh, how does Holden describe it? Does he ever say something is funny or amusing? No. "That kills me." "That just about killed me." He really is murder or suicide, or both, waiting to happen.

So why don't I hate this book?

Well, it's brilliant.

Also, I really *do* relate to some of the gems of perspective Holden has to offer. When his roommate asks him to write a composition for him, he cautions Holden not to write it *too* well, or the teacher will catch on. "So I mean don't stick all the commas and stuff in the right place."

Hoo, boy -- Holden starts railing on that, and brother he was preaching to the *choir.* People really *do* denigrate writing talent by boiling it down to the comparatively trivial details. People do that with *everything.* For instance: I worked for years with kids -- as a babysitter, nanny, teacher's assistant, tutor, and the dismissively named position of "program aide" in a home for severely disabled children, where I did everything from occupational therapy to stomach-tube feedings. I worked my arse off, is what I'm saying.

And then one day my older sister, who was an actress at the time, talked about some after-school work she was doing with a fourth-grade class, and how she was having a hard time communicating with the children. "I just don't have that magic *thing* you have with kids," she said.

Great. Here *I* thought it was a combination of backbreaking labor, constant application, studying, figuring out what worked and throwing out what didn't, and praying for patience when I was fresh out. Turns out, I shouldn't have tried so hard! I could have just fallen back on my magic thing!

Anyway. Reading this book again after so many years was a strange, often dark but ultimately beautiful journey. My friends who admire Salinger tell me this is *not* his best work, so I have "Franny and Zooey" lined up next. ( )
1 vote Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
I need to say that this book was a great read. Something that helped me to appreciate it better when I read it in high school was the insight that my English teacher had regarding Salinger's work. Having another point of view besides yours does help to understand what the author is trying to communicate with the story.
Holden, the protagonist, although unlikable from the reader's perspective most of the time, represents the conflict that we face when growing up in an unique manner. As a reader, you may have not gone through the turmoil that Holden faces, but it cannot be denied that you have felt that desperate feeling that drives Holden through his journey at least once during your youth. Now, some readers identify with that anger, with that desperation, and embrace it. Others dislike it, and prefer to not revisit that feeling again. I think that this is part of why the reactions towards the book tend to be polarizing.
Nonetheless, The Catcher in the Rye is an eye-opening read that needs to be done at least once in your life. ( )
  DoctorFate | Aug 6, 2015 |
Written in a wry understated tone, this novel will appeal to students that enjoy cynical takes on life. What if you realized adults were phony and you became disillusioned with your role in this world?
  Melina_Hiatt_Easter | Jul 16, 2015 |
Read 10 pages and dropped.. The protagonist's thoughts are too scattered around for me to follow.. I think I have a short-attention span problem.
  MugenHere | Jul 12, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 708 (next | show all)
In the course of 277 pages, the reader wearies of [his] explicitness, repetition and adolesence, exactly as one would weary of Holden himself. And this reader at least suffered from an irritated feeling that Holden was not quite so sensitive and perceptive as he, and his creator, thought he was. In any case he is so completely self-centered that the other characters who wander through the book—with the notable exception of his sister Phoebe—have nothing like his authenticity. ... In a writer of Salinger's undeniable talent, one expects something more.
added by danielx | editNew Republic, Hillary Kelly (Jan 23, 2015)
“Holden Caulfield is supposed to be this paradigmatic teenager we can all relate to, but we don’t really speak this way or talk about these things,” Ms. Levenson said, summarizing a typical response. At the public charter school where she used to teach, she said, “I had a lot of students comment, ‘I can’t really feel bad for this rich kid with a weekend free in New York City.’ ”
"Some of my best friends are children," says Jerome David Salinger, 32. "In fact, all of my best friends are children." And Salinger has written short stories about his best friends with love, brilliance and 20-20 vision. In his tough-tender first novel, The Catcher in the Rye (a Book-of-the-Month Club midsummer choice), he charts the miseries and ecstasies of an adolescent rebel, and deals out some of the most acidly humorous deadpan satire since the late great Ring Lardner.
added by Shortride | editTime (Jul 16, 1951)
Holden's story is told in Holden's own strange, wonderful language by J. D. Salinger in an unusually brilliant novel.
This Salinger, he's a short story guy. And he knows how to write about kids. This book though, it's too long. Gets kind of monotonous. And he should've cut out a lot about these jerks and all at that crumby school. They depress me.

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Salinger, J. D.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Östergren, KlasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fonalleras, Josep MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Judit, GyepesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, MichaelCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riera, ErnestTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saarikoski, PenttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schroderus, ArtoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuchart, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zhongxu, SunTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my mother
First words
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want the truth."
I'm quite illiterate but I read a lot.
You don’t have to think too hard when you talk to teachers.
I do not even like ... cars... I’d rather have a goddamn horse. A horse is at least human, for God’s sake.”
I always pick a gorgeous time to fall over a suitcase or something.
The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody'd move....Nobody'd be different. The only thing that would be different would be you.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
Boy in funny hat
Wanders around N.Y.C.
Phonies everywhere.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316769177, Paperback)

Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins,

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them."

His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:03 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Story of Holden Caulfield with his idiosyncrasies, penetrating insight, confusion, sensitivity and negativism. 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 to keep it.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014023750X, 0241950430

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