Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book Notes: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

I had heard that this was a pretty weird book, and so when I saw a copy in el-cheapo's remainder bookstore in the town, I grabbed a copy and waited for a suitable moment to have a read. I wasn't disappointed either, it was not only well worth the 50p I had to pay for it, but it was indeed as weird as had been promised.

Salinger wrote this book on the premise that it was the autobiographical outpourings of the somewhat mangled mind of a young man named Holden Caulfield. The book begins with the story of his expulsion from various schools, his friendships and relationships, and his gradual collapse into a nervous breakdown.

By unswervingly maintaining the voice of the Caulfield character throughout the book, the reader is taken further and further into the tangled thought-life of this boy. His cynicism directed at both worthy and unworthy targets, his inability to comprehend the implications of his burgeoning sexuality, the violence and abuse that he suffers; and his parents incomprehension of the situation make for a disturbing read. You only need to Google the title to see the deluge of reviews and responses that this controversial little book has generated.

In many ways this is an unpleasant book, written from the perspective of a character who is so detached from social graces that he bears the most unpleasant parts of his soul for all to see - and be repelled by. Yet as an exercise in writing from within the mind of a character, with an odd view of the world, in a sustained voice and style - it is brilliant.


Lins Honeyman said...

Didn't Mark Chapman claim it as an influence in his decision to shoot John Lennon?

That Hideous Man said...

A quick search on the www has revealed that 'Catcher....' was the book that Chapman asked Lennon to sign earlier in the day of the murder. It as also the book he was found reading when he was arrested, and apparently once when asked why he did it replied, "to promote reading of 'Catcher in the Rye'.