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The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye (original 1951; edition 2001)

by J. D. Salinger

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48,45474712 (3.85)3 / 848
Title:The Catcher in the Rye
Authors:J. D. Salinger
Info:Back Bay Books (2001), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (1951)

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I'm a member of the segment of the population that just didn't get this. I didn't have to read it for school, but I read it because I felt I ought to. I still don't know why it's supposedly such a great book. I never felt the alienation or angst that HC does, so maybe my lack of empathy explains why I didn't like it. But still, if it's such a great book, shouldn't Salinger have had the talent to make me see things from HC's pov? Is it my fault, or the author's, that I didn't empathize? ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Few things irritate me more than people who constantly insist the world is so different now and things change so much. This typically happens between people with age differences. Notice I'm not singling out any particular age group because they are all equally guilty of this narrow-minded behavior. Grandparents tell college kids the world is so different now. College kids tell gradeschool children the world has changed so much for them. Children in junior high tell adults they don't understand how much the world has transformed. See? Everyone does this. Preteens. Teenagers. College students. Adults. Senior citizens. All of you think your age makes you special. All of you out there, every generation, is guilty of deluding themselves into believing your age group is somehow unique in all of human history and therefore, no one outside of your age group can possibly comprehend what your world is all about or what you are going through. No matter what generation you identify with, your mind is clouded with self-important misinformation and misguided delusions of grandeur based on nothing but your birth certificate.

Stop it. All of you, just stop it. Stop thinking your generation is so goddamn extraordinary - and again, notice, I'm not singling out any particular generation. It doesn't matter which generation you are in because all generations exhibit the identical stupidity and ignorance. From birth to death, we're all the same, yet you constantly insist that the world has vastly evolved, compared to every generation that is not your own.

First of all, allow me to redefine the word "generation" for you. I need educate you, because you're using it wrong.

Within the minuscule and irrelevant decades of your lifetime, we often define 20 years as a generation. Right? Give or take, but that's a good approximation. A newborn baby is a "different generation" compared to a 20 year old and a 40 year old is a "different generation" from a 60 year old. Can we all agree on that? 20 years is the typical cutoff.

Now, let me tell you, that's wrong.

That viewpoint is a very selfish and feeble-minded perception of time.

In truth, generations actually span a much larger range of history. And frankly, you already agree me, so long as it's outside of your lifetime.

Allow me to give an example. Do you see people born in 1820 and 1840 and 1860 as being very different? Do you perceive those groups of children as "new generations"?

No! You see them as people born in the 1800's. Correct? You don't think of them as separate generations. You lump them all together. Why? Because you have an infantile perception of time. When you look at moments of human history that occurred decades or centuries before you were born, the word "generation" takes on a new meaning. Instead of "generations" originating every 20 years, you might acknowledge spans of 50 or 100 years. Right? Obviously a person born in 1830 and 1930 are clearly different generations. But, when we are talking about decades from past centuries, like 1820 and 1840, we don't really differentiate that 20 year span as a new generation.

Therefore, I reiterate, the perception of every 20 years being a "new generation" is wrong. Inserting yourself in your rightful place in a larger cosmic timeframe, a "generation" is defined as the time between the lifetimes of every living relative we meet while we're alive. The bookend of those family members represents our generation.

For example, the oldest living relative I ever met was my great grandfather. He was born in the late 1800's. If I ever have children and greatgrandchildren (which is never going to happen because it would require meeting a woman with a pulse, but bear with me), then my generation would end with their deaths. That's the true definition of a human generation - it's the span of time within which your life has touched other living souls. Those people consist of your generation.

My definition of "generation" is superior. Because my definition reminds you that humanity is one, and we are far more connected and similar than anyone seems to be aware of. Regardless of our age-difference, so long as we are alive upon the earth at the same time, then we are of the same human generation. This is our time. This is our generation.

Let me repeat that. Because it's important. It's important for you to stop alienating everyone you didn't go to high school with. So long as you and I are alive on this earth at the same time, we are of the same generation.

What does all of this have to do with a book review for The Catcher in the Rye?

I made this review in December of 2013 and author J.D. Salinger wrote The Catcher in the Rye over 60 years ago, in 1951.

Once upon a time, I read a commentary from a schoolteacher who lamented that none of her students related to The Catcher in the Rye. She then drew an ignorant conclusion - that the voice of Holden Caulfield had grown obsolete with the current generation. That's bulls--t! The truth is, she had an entire class full of lousy phonies. The whole point of The Catcher in the Rye has always been that 99% of people aren't going to get it. Most people aren't going to relate to it. That's the whole idea! The book was never meant to appeal to teenagers just because they are teenagers. The book is relatable to anyone, at any age, who isn't a fu--ing lemming. Most people are braindead goddamn sheep. The Catcher in the Rye isn't for them and it never was. The fact that a teacher had a class full of kids who didn't appreciate the book isn't any great shock. But to presume that the problem is a generational one is forgetting that most people, of every generation, are a bunch of pudding-brained reality-show-addicted zombies surgically grafted to their cellphones and televisions. These aren't people capable of critical thinking or exerting free will. They are the children in the rye. They aren't the catchers and they never will be.

The explanation is truly that simple. All the children will hate it. Only the catchers will understand it.

Anyone stupid enough to think The Catcher in the Rye is a book about teen angst and you stopped relating to it when you became an adult, missed the point. The truth is, you never understood it. You're nothing but a big phony and Holden would have let you walk right off the cliff, because lousy phonies like you could never be saved. You were always a lost cause.

Those people who dislike the book often become very defensive and argue that just because they dislike it doesn't mean they don't understand it.

Um, yes it does.

The book is about the rage of having to deal with the blissful ignorance of humanity. Don't you see? Everyone should share in that anger. Remember that old saying? "If you're not pissed off, you're not paying attention." Thus, to deride people by saying "you didn't understand it" is a compliment. We are giving you the benefit of the doubt. Because if you truly understood the story and you still disliked it, there is something clearly wrong with you. So when we fans of the book tell you that you didn't understand it, shut the f--k up and concede to that. The alternative is that you're a fu--ing demon. Because if you see what's wrong and you just don't fu--ing care, then you are part of the goddamn problem.

The Catcher in the Rye isn't about whining teen angst. Not at all. Never was. Anyone who perceives the book as such has no reading comprehension skills. Although, considering the broader degradation of intellect in western culture, that's not shocking. The story is about the frustrations of how oblivious people are to the world around them. For gods sake, J.D. Salinger tells you the entire meaning of the book in the fu--ing title itself! Ever notice that there has never been a negative review to comment on the title? That's because people who dislike the book aren't intelligent enough to spot the obvious. The entire meaning of the book is about the blind childish stupidity of the world and how Holden just wants to be The Catcher in the Rye, the only one mature enough to see above the problems of the world and protect all you kids from falling into oblivion. Dreaming of being the savior to you all. You can't see how fucked up you are because you can't see the cliff. We stand above you not in arrogance, but because we've just been here a little longer than you. Why the the fuck do you think he used that as the title? There's nothing to debate or discuss or analyze. The fu--ing meaning is right there. There's nothing cryptic about it. It's as clear as a punch in the fu--ing nose. You fu--ing sissies have probably never been in a fistfight, so you wouldn't understand that metaphor.

If you ever stop relating to that, if that message ceases to resonate with you as you grow older and you suddenly think The Catcher in the Rye is about some whiny prep school jerk, written in the voice of an obsolete generation, then you have devolved into a phony of the worst kind. You've become a traitor to your own ideologies. You never understood what it means to be The Catcher in the Rye. And you never will. The price you pay to maintain your ideals is a lifetime of isolation and accepting that fate without regrets. Preserving your ethics is a charge you've never possessed the fortitude to do.

Nothing changes.

You can instantly tell those readers who remain true to themselves and those who compromise and become phony. In that vein, The Catcher in the Rye is another "dating test" book. Never go out with a girl who doesn't like this book. Never go out with a girl who doesn't love this story. She's not worth it. She has nothing to offer.

For those of you who haven't read it, The Catcher in the Rye centers around Holden Caulfield, a teenage boy who was kicked out of his prep school and spends a few days wandering the streets of New York City. The book has no plot. No antagonists. No action scenes. No love interest. By the end of the book he ends up institutionalized for his nervous breakdown but as a person who had dated and loved those girls who end up in institutions, that's a load of crap. There is nothing wrong with Holden. There's no justification for him to be locked in the looney bin. The world is flawed and deranged. You know the old saying, "In an insane world a sane man must appear insane." I said there are no antagonists in the story, but I misspoke - the culture itself is the antagonist and those who see the insanity of our society too clearly are typically the ones we shut away. The story breaks all the conventions of storytelling structures and does so in a way that is absolutely poignant and captivating. The kind of book you read in one sitting and when you look at the clock, you're stunned at how quickly the hours flew past.

Holden is an idealist. A dreamer who really wants to the world to be better than it happens to be and he meets all these people and has all these conversations and slowly comes to see how his view of life and his idealism is simply not shared or understood by the rest of the world around him. The rest of the world conforms to compromise and too readily eschews any nobility or idealism. Although it was written over 60 years ago, it still resonates with an insightful meaning and it reflects a kind of exasperation that is just as prevalent today as it was in 1951.

One statistic I found claimed the book still sells 250,000 copies a year. I have no idea if that's true or not, but it wouldn't surprise me. Author J.D. Salinger passed away in 2010 and all of us who were alive in that year, shared the lifetime of J.D. Salinger. Even through it was written decades before I was born, this book and his writing was a voice for your generation and mine.

In closing, allow me to apologize for one thing. Forgive me for doing a review on The Catcher in the Rye and using the terms lousy and phony. There is no greater cliche than an imbecilic book reviewer using Holden Caulfield idioms in order to appear as a hip and cool genuine fan. That shows a pretty weak and pathetic lack of creativity. I got a bang out of that. Compared to J.D. Salinger, we're all a bunch of crumby flits. That killed me.

“In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience... In fact, it may be truly said that no American child is ever blind to the deficiencies of its parents, no matter how much it may love them.”
- Oscar Wilde ( )
  EricMuss-Barnes | Mar 22, 2015 |
I picked up this book for the Eclectic Reader Challenge and it ended up doing double duty as a read for a module on censorship and banning in a lit class I am taking this semester. It is one of those "Life List" books that I never read in high school but felt like I should.

The novel is a Holden Caulfield’s narrative of two days that he spends on his own in New York City. He has been expelled from yet another prep school, failing every subject but one. After a fight with his roommate, he leaves school a few days early and goes back to New York City. However, he knows that his parents will be furious about what happened and he chooses to spend a few days alone in a hotel before presenting himself at home for the holidays. His two-day rebellion is spent going to nightclubs and getting drunk or wandering the city, continually bemoaning the lack of intellectual companionship. He has a date with Sally, a girl from his past, and alternately falls in love with her and hates her… all on the same date. He is a boy who is clearly never satisfied with anyone or anything, continually in a state of discontent. His short time of rebellion has brought him no answers and no relief.

I really wanted to love this book, or at least appreciate it, but I just couldn't. It wasn't the dated language or ideas, but the complete lack of a character arc for Holden. With most protagonists, there is a certain arc of growth that takes place as the character goes through different experiences and situations and becomes changed as a person by the story's end. This really didn't happen with Holden and that lack of character growth is something that I came to realize I really appreciate in a novel and really missed in this one. Holden is intelligent, but comes across as a bit arrogant, perhaps a little too obsessed with himself as a barometer of intellect. For most of the book, Holden dismisses others as "phony" and casts aspersions on their worth if they don't live up to the personal standards he expects, standards that generally seem not to apply to himself. Instead of relating to Holden's character, I found myself continually annoyed by him and his seemingly complete lack of self-awareness. There was just no growth for Holden over the course of the novel, no change in behavior or thinking, no development. Other than his little sister, Holden seems to struggle to truly connect with anyone on any level. He spends most of the book whining about the fact that pretty much every person he meets is unintelligent and/or phony. He sees himself as intellectually superior to most people, judging others as phony for their interest in things he sees as inconsequential.

There is also much about his burgeoning sexuality and how that manifests itself, but there is never any development or resolution to that theme either. It seems as if he is not entirely comfortable with his own sexual awakening, often commenting about his myriad of chances to lose his virginity that are foiled by himself. He often objectifies women, but it is also clear that there is little behind it, more of an effort to fit in with the other guys in his school, rather than an accurate representation of his true feelings. This is seen in his almost obsessive anger towards his roommate when he finds out that Stradlater’s date is Jane, a girl from Holden’s past. He cannot stand the idea that Stradlater, a guy with a somewhat sketchy sexual history with women, would be with Jane, whom Holden seems to see as some sort of “above it all” standard of perfection. His thoughts on sexuality seem to be rather disjointed, one moment bemoaning his lack of experience and the next almost frightened by it. He does not push the issue with his dates and even during an encounter with a prostitute, he rebuffs the idea of intimacy, instead wanting simply to talk. In keeping with his rather disjointed ideas are his judgments on others’ sexuality, often seeing others “perverted.” There are also many moments when he questions the sexual orientation of those around him, showing a certain discomfort with the entire topic of sexuality.

In some ways, though, iit was an interesting read. The story is told as it flows from Holden's mind, at times very much of a stream of consciousness feel to it. The flow was often a bit disjointed and almost reminded me of the flow of Anthony Swofford's Jarhead book. But it is through this perspective and style of writing that we become privvy to the inner workings of Holden's mind. Yet, as the story unfolded, I still liked it less and less.

My Recommendation: Classic literature or not, it just didn't appeal to me. But I also think that is a matter of "to each his own." From a analytical standpoint, it was an interesting read, but it just didnt touch me in any way. ( )
1 vote Kiki870 | Mar 21, 2015 |
i found this book to be overrated by my standards. it's not horribly written at all and maybe -just maybe- it's on the genius side because it mimics a 17-year-old's attitude and vocabulary so well. however, i did not care about the character nor about what was happening. i ended up engaged with a philosophical and sociological debate in my head over some of the issues it brought to light rather than losing myself in what was happening to the main character. truth? i cared for his little sister Pheobe more than him. was the point of the whole thing to warn against bucking the system? or was it supposed to result in a kind of rye picture of the Way Things Are in our conformity expecting world? a vignette into how people that are different are treated? if so, the very next book that should be read would be _One flew over the cuckoo's nest_. seems like a perfect continuation of these kinds of themes.

i do not recommend this book except as an exercise in conformity so that you can have the shared experience of a book that most Americans have read at some point. ( )
1 vote keebrook | Mar 10, 2015 |
Amazing.. ( )
  durgaprsd04 | Feb 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 694 (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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:26 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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