Review "The Catcher in the Rye" by J. D. Salinger

Discussion in 'Books' started by Doctor Omega, Mar 27, 2017.

  1. Doctor Omega

    Doctor Omega Moderator

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    [​IMG]


    The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger.[3] A classic novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage angst and alienation.[4][5] It has been translated into almost all of the world's major languages.[6] Around 1 million copies are sold each year with total sales of more than 65 million books.[7] The novel's protagonist Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage rebellion.[8] The novel also deals with complex issues of innocence, identity, belonging, loss, and connection.

    The novel was included on Time's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923[9] and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.[10][11][12] In 2003, it was listed at #15 on the BBC's survey The Big Read


     
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    #1 Doctor Omega, Mar 27, 2017
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  2. Hux

    Hux Member: Rank 6

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    Why controversial?

    I'd heard about it for years (it's a classic after all) so when I finally got around to reading it, I was expecting some sweeping epic with a huge cast of characters and locations (that tends to be what you get with classics) but instead, it was this really short novel (almost a short story) about some teenage boy who gets kicked out of school and wanders about New York for a couple of days. -- not what I was expecting at all.

    Gotta say though, I absolutely loved it. Holden is just very funny and I love the fact that there's no story (plot can often ruin a book in my opinion) and the book is essentially just about a boy experiencing grief for his brother. I love how Salinger creates fictional scenarios like when Holden talks about being a coward and then imagines how he'd like to deal with a bully but also how he'd actually deal with him. The way he goes through what he'd do in the hypothetical situation is very nicely realised.

    The only criticism would be the final two chapters, especially the last one-page chapter. Didn't add anything.
     
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  3. The Seeker

    The Seeker Member: Rank 5

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    When I was a teenager I felt like it was written just for me. I think a lot of teens feel that way. But I heard this one kid in one of my classes say it was a stupid book because it was just about some whiny kid. He bullied me quite a bit, btw, so I think that says something about his character.
     
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  4. Hux

    Hux Member: Rank 6

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    Rebel in the Rye

    A film based on Salinger came out this year (not sure on specific release dates... doesn't seem to have bowled people over) it was directed by Danny Strong (Jonathan from Buffy) because apparently he's a successful writer now. Who new? Not me.

    Anyway, has anyone seen it?
     
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  5. TheSowIsMine

    TheSowIsMine What an excellent day for an exorcism
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    I have mixed feeling about this book. I like the style and type of story, but I don't like Holden.
     
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  6. The Seeker

    The Seeker Member: Rank 5

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    Why don't you like him?
     
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  7. TheSowIsMine

    TheSowIsMine What an excellent day for an exorcism
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    He is way too judgemental for my taste.
    I also think, that me being an adult modern woman while reading this, made it harder for me to identify with a 16 year old boy from the 40's.
     
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  8. Hux

    Hux Member: Rank 6

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    I loved Holden. Full of bravado and cynicism but also sincere.

    The scene where the pimp demands the money and he starts crying for example.
     
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  9. The Seeker

    The Seeker Member: Rank 5

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    I need to reread it.
     
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  10. Doctor Omega

    Doctor Omega Moderator

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    History

    Various older stories by Salinger contain characters similar to those in The Catcher in the Rye. While at Columbia University, Salinger wrote a short story called "The Young Folks" in Whit Burnett's class; one character from this story has been described as a "thinly penciled prototype of Sally Hayes". In November 1941, he sold the story "Slight Rebellion off Madison", which featured Holden Caulfield, to The New Yorker, but it wasn't published until December 21, 1946 due to World War II. The story "I'm Crazy", which was published in the December 22, 1945, issue of Collier's, contained material that was later used in The Catcher in the Rye. In 1946, The New Yorker accepted a 90-page manuscript about Holden Caulfield for publication, but Salinger later withdrew it.[14]

    Writing style

    The Catcher in the Rye is narrated in a subjective style from the point of view of Holden Caulfield, following his exact thought processes. There is flow in the seemingly disjointed ideas and episodes; for example, as Holden sits in a chair in his dorm, minor events, such as picking up a book or looking at a table, unfold into discussions about experiences.

    Critical reviews affirm that the novel accurately reflected the teenage colloquial speech of the time.[15] Words and phrases that appear frequently include:

    • "Old" – term of familiarity or endearment.
    • "Phony" – superficially acting a certain way only to change what others think of you
    • "That killed me" – I found that hilarious or astonishing
    • "Flit" – homosexual
    • "Crumbum" or "crumby" – inadequate, insufficient, disappointing
    • "Snowing" – sweet-talking
    • "I got a bang out of that" – I found it hilarious or exciting
    • "Shoot the bull" – have a conversation containing false elements
    • "Give her the time" or "necking" – sexual intercourse
    • "Chew the fat" or "chew the rag" – small-talk
    • "Rubbering" or "rubbernecks" – idle onlooking/onlookers
    • "The Can" – the bathroom
     
  11. Doctor Omega

    Doctor Omega Moderator

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    Interpretations

    Bruce Brooks held that Holden's attitude remains unchanged at story's end, implying no maturation, thus differentiating the novel from young adult fiction.[16] In contrast, Louis Menand thought that teachers assign the novel because of the optimistic ending, to teach adolescent readers that "alienation is just a phase."[17] While Brooks maintained that Holden acts his age, Menand claimed that Holden thinks as an adult, given his ability to accurately perceive people and their motives. Others highlight the dilemma of Holden's state, in between adolescence and adulthood.[18][19] Holden is quick to become emotional. "I felt sorry as hell for..." is a phrase he often uses. It is often said that Holden changes at the end, when he watches Phoebe on the carousel, and he talks about the golden ring and how it's good for kids to try and grab it.

    [​IMG]
    Freddie Bartholomew in Captains Courageous

    Peter Beidler, in his A Reader's Companion to J. D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye", identifies the movie that the prostitute "Sunny" refers to. In chapter 13 she says that in the movie a boy falls off a boat. The movie is Captains Courageous (1937), starring Spencer Tracy. Sunny says that Holden looks like the boy who fell off the boat. Beidler shows (page 28) a still of the boy, played by child-actor Freddie Bartholomew.

    Each Caulfield child has literary talent. D.B. writes screenplays in Hollywood; Holden also reveres D.B. for his writing skill (Holden's own best subject), but he also despises Hollywood industry-based movies, considering them the ultimate in "phony" as the writer has no space for his own imagination, and describes D.B.'s move to Hollywood to write for films as "prostituting himself"; Allie wrote poetry on his baseball glove; and Phoebe is a diarist.[20][not in citation given] This "catcher in the rye" is an analogy for Holden, who admires in children attributes that he struggles to find in adults, like innocence, kindness, spontaneity, and generosity. Falling off the cliff could be a progression into the adult world that surrounds him and that he strongly criticizes. Later, Phoebe and Holden exchange roles as the "catcher" and the "fallen"; he gives her his hunting hat, the catcher's symbol, and becomes the fallen as Phoebe becomes the catcher.[21]

    In their biography of Salinger, David Shields and Shane Salerno argue that: "The Catcher in the Rye can best be understood as a disguised war novel." Salinger witnessed the horrors of World War II, but rather than writing a combat novel, Salinger, according to Shields and Salerno, "took the trauma of war and embedded it within what looked to the naked eye like a coming-of-age novel."



     
    #11 Doctor Omega, Mar 29, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  12. Doctor Omega

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    Reception

    The Catcher in the Rye has been listed as one of the best novels of the twentieth century. Shortly after its publication, writing for The New York Times, Nash K. Burger called it "an unusually brilliant novel,"[23] while James Stern wrote an admiring review of the book in a voice imitating Holden's.[24] George H. W. Bush called it a "marvelous book," listing it among the books that have inspired him.[25] In June 2009, the BBC's Finlo Rohrer wrote that, 58 years since publication, the book is still regarded "as the defining work on what it is like to be a teenager. Holden is at various times disaffected, disgruntled, alienated, isolated, directionless, and sarcastic."[26] Adam Gopnik considers it one of the "three perfect books" in American literature, along with Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby, and believes that "no book has ever captured a city better than Catcher in the Ryecaptured New York in the fifties."[27] Jeff Pruchnic wrote an appraisal of The Catcher in the Rye after the death of J.D. Salinger. In this article, Pruchnic focuses on how the novel continues to be received incredibly well, even after it has aged many generations. Pruchnic describes Holden as a “teenage protagonist frozen midcentury but destined to be discovered by those of a similar age in every generation to come”.[28] Bill Gates said that The Catcher in the Rye is one of his favorite books ever. [29]

    However, not all reception has been positive; the book has had its share of critics. Rohrer writes, "Many of these readers are disappointed that the novel fails to meet the expectations generated by the mystique it is shrouded in. J. D. Salinger has done his part to enhance this mystique. That is to say, he has done nothing."[26] Rohrer assessed the reasons behind both the popularity and criticism of the book, saying that it "captures existential teenage angst" and has a "complex central character" and "accessible conversational style"; while at the same time some readers may dislike the "use of 1940s New York vernacular" and other things.

    Censorship and use in schools

    In 1960, a teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma was fired for assigning the novel in class; however, he was later reinstated.[30] Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States.[31] The book was banned in the Issaquah, Washington, high schools in 1978 as being part of an "overall communist plot".[32] In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States.[33] According to the American Library Association, The Catcher in the Rye was the 10th most frequently challenged book from 1990 to 1999.[10] It was one of the ten most challenged books of 2005,[34] and although it had been off the list for three years, it reappeared in the list of most challenged books of 2009.[35]

    The challenges generally begin with Holden's frequent use of vulgar language,[36][37] with other reasons including sexual references,[38] blasphemy, undermining of family values[37]and moral codes,[39] encouragement of rebellion,[40] and promotion of drinking, smoking, lying, promiscuity, and sexual abuse.[39] Often the challengers have been unfamiliar with the plot itself.[31] Shelley Keller-Gage, a high school teacher who faced objections after assigning the novel in her class, noted that "the challengers are being just like Holden... They are trying to be catchers in the rye".[37] A Streisand effect has been that this incident caused people to put themselves on the waiting list to borrow the novel, when there was no waiting list before
     
  13. Doctor Omega

    Doctor Omega Moderator

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    Shooters citing the book as an influence

    Further information: The Catcher in the Rye in popular culture § Shootings

    Several shootings have been associated with Salinger's novel, including Robert John Bardo's murder of Rebecca Schaeffer and John Hinckley, Jr.'s assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. Additionally, after fatally shooting John Lennon, Mark David Chapman was arrested with a copy of the book that he had purchased that same day, inside of which he had written: "To Holden Caulfield, From Holden Caulfield, This is my statement"
     
  14. Doctor Omega

    Doctor Omega Moderator

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    Attempted adaptations

    In film

    Early in his career, Salinger expressed a willingness to have his work adapted for the screen.[45] In 1949, a critically-panned film version of his short story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" was released; renamed My Foolish Heart, the film took great liberties with Salinger's plot and is widely considered to be among the reasons that Salinger refused to allow any subsequent film adaptations of his work.[18][46] The enduring popularity of The Catcher in the Rye, however, has resulted in repeated attempts to secure the novel's screen rights.[47]

    When The Catcher in the Rye was first released, many offers were made to adapt it for the screen, including one from Samuel Goldwyn, producer of My Foolish Heart.[46] In a letter written in the early 1950s, Salinger spoke of mounting a play in which he would play the role of Holden Caulfield opposite Margaret O'Brien, and, if he couldn't play the part himself, to "forget about it." Almost 50 years later, the writer Joyce Maynard definitively concluded, "The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J. D. Salinger."[48]

    Salinger told Maynard in the 1970s that Jerry Lewis "tried for years to get his hands on the part of Holden,"[48] despite Lewis not having read the novel until he was in his thirties.[41]Celebrities ranging from Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson to Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio have since tried to make a film adaptation.[49] In an interview with Premiere, John Cusack commented that his one regret about turning 21 was that he had become too old to play Holden Caulfield. Writer-director Billy Wilder recounted his abortive attempts to snare the novel's rights:

    Of course I read The Catcher in the Rye... Wonderful book. I loved it. I pursued it. I wanted to make a picture out of it. And then one day a young man came to the office of Leland Hayward, my agent, in New York, and said, 'Please tell Mr. Leland Hayward to lay off. He's very, very insensitive.' And he walked out. That was the entire speech. I never saw him. That was J. D. Salinger and that was Catcher in the Rye.[50]

    In 1961, Salinger denied Elia Kazan permission to direct a stage adaptation of Catcher for Broadway.[51] More recently, Salinger's agents received bids for the Catcher film rights from Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg,[52] neither of which was even passed on to Salinger for consideration.

    In 2003, the BBC television program The Big Read featured The Catcher in the Rye, interspersing discussions of the novel with "a series of short films that featured an actor playing J. D. Salinger's adolescent antihero, Holden Caulfield."[51] The show defended its unlicensed adaptation of the novel by claiming to be a "literary review", and no major charges were filed.

    After Salinger's death in 2010, Phyllis Westberg, who was Salinger's agent at Harold Ober Associates, stated that nothing has changed in terms of licensing film, television, or stage rights of his works.[53] A letter written by Salinger in 1957 revealed that he was open to an adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye released after his death. He wrote: "Firstly, it is possible that one day the rights will be sold. Since there's an ever-looming possibility that I won't die rich, I toy very seriously with the idea of leaving the unsold rights to my wife and daughter as a kind of insurance policy. It pleasures me no end, though, I might quickly add, to know that I won't have to see the results of the transaction." Salinger also wrote that he believed his novel was not suitable for film treatment, and that translating Holden Caulfield's first-person narrative into voice-over and dialogue would be contrived
     
  15. Doctor Omega

    Doctor Omega Moderator

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    Banned fan fiction

    In 2009, a year before his death, Salinger successfully sued to stop the U.S. publication of a novel that presents Holden Caulfield as an old man.[26][55] The novel's author, Fredrik Colting, commented: "call me an ignorant Swede, but the last thing I thought possible in the U.S. was that you banned books".[56] The issue is complicated by the nature of Colting's book, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, which has been compared to fan fiction.[57] Although commonly not authorized by writers, no legal action is usually taken against fan fiction, since it is rarely published commercially and thus involves no profit.[58] Colting, however, has published his book commercially, therefore interfering with copyright law and is not protected.

    Cultural influence
    Main article: The Catcher in the Rye in popular culture

    The Catcher in the Rye has had significant cultural influence, and works inspired by the novel have been said to form their own genre. Sarah Graham assessed works influenced by The Catcher in the Rye to include the novels Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Ordinary People by Judith Guest, and the film Igby Goes Down by Burr Steers.[59]

    Fantasy writer Harry Turtledove has written a pastiche-parody "Catcher in the Rhine", based on his daughter's mishearing of Salinger's title. In this short story, an unnamed narrator, who is clearly meant to be Holden Caulfield but is unnamed to avoid copyright problems, goes on vacation to Germany and meets characters from the Niebelunglied. This was first published in The Chick is in the Mail, edited by Esther Friesner, Baen 2000 and reprinted in the omnibus Chicks Ahoy! (2010). It was reprinted in Atlantis and Other Places also in 2010.

    In "Catcher In The Wry" former major league baseball player, Bob Uecker, recounts anecdotes of his years behind the plate and on the road, recalling the antics of his famous teammates, including Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Richie Allen, and Warren Spahn.

    The July 1985 issue of National Lampoon included a parody of the novel, ostensibly written by Holden Caulfield's son, entitled 'The Son of the Catcher, who Lives in Rye'.

    In December of 1991, punk rock band Green Day released their second studio album (Kerplunk), containing the song Who Wrote Holden Caulfield. The song describes said character as crazy, frustrated, and lacking motivation.

    See also
     
  16. Doctor Omega

    Doctor Omega Moderator

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  17. Doctor Omega

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    To be honest, the first time I heard of this was when Chapman mentioned it in his warped reasoning for shooting Lennon.

    I have tried to read it over the years, but failed to get into it so far, but will give it a proper reading some day.
     

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