42. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951) 192 p.

good old bland penguin covers

The Catcher In The Rye is a classic novel about being a young man, so it seemed appropriate to read it in the last few weeks of my teenage years. I certainly didn’t time it so that would be the case! No sir.

Sixteen-year old Holden Caulfield, hailing from a wealthy American family, is kicked out of his fancy prep school just before Christmas and spends a few days wandering around New York City before going home to face the music. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. At times he seems like a really nice guy; at other times, a jerk. He’s certainly a cynical bastard, with a lot of contempt for humanity, but I couldn’t help but like him nonetheless.

My sister Phoebe was named after Holden’s sister, a fairly important character in the book, so I suppose that makes me Holden. I had this discussion with Chris, who hasn’t read it:

Mitch: The main character’s kind of a dick. He passes judgement on absolutely everyone he meets.
Chris: So do you.
Mitch: Yeah, but he constantly shares it with you.
Chris: So do you.

Holden is the entire point of the book, and your opinion of him as a character is your opinion of the book in its entirety. And I thought he was okay. Usually likeable, occasionally annoying, always interesting. You can tell that he’s got the wrong opinion on a lot of things, but they’re always amusing to hear anyway. Given the above exchange I suppose this is my opinion of myself as well.

I’ve heard that apparently a lot of people love this book when they’re young and can identify with the protagonist, and then read it again fifteen or twenty years later and think “Wow, what a asshole.” I’m sort of hovering between those two viewpoints myself and wondering whether 19 was entirely the wrong age to read this.

Books: 42/50
Pages: 12, 710