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#64….The Catcher in the Rye

May 6, 2011

“Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway.”

A digression for a review today, folks. You all know the story.

I remember vividly my first read of JD Salinger’s classic, The Catcher in the Rye. It was the perfect time to read this book, knee deep in tenth grade angst (it doesn’t get any better than that, right?). Holden Caulfield was my hero. He thought just like I did. I hated everyone. I wanted everyone to like me. I didn’t want to grow up. I wanted to grow up NOW. I didn’t understand why people around me were in such a hurry to grow up, and everyone seemed to be doing it better than me. Everyone was ‘phony’ and obsessed with appearances. My parents might as well have been from another planet; they didn’t get it. And the crazy thing was, sometimes, even though I was old enough to drive a car and have a job, part of me still wanted to go home, have my mom make me a PB&J, and color. Maybe even take a nap.

I have to admit, when I opened this book as a grownup, Holden and I didn’t exactly see eye to eye. My first general feeling was irritation. Man, what is wrong with this kid? Can’t he just relax and have fun? My high school years were the best of my life.  Stop complaining. Stop ‘horsing around’. Do your damn schoolwork. Stop getting kicked out of schools. Be nice to people! And then I realized I was no better than everyone else Holden came in contact with during the book. 

How soon all of us adults forget what it was like to be locked in the angst of those years. There was no ballast. I could understand why Holden wanted to go back to the years where he walked through the Museum, roller skated in the park, danced on the bed with Phoebe (while smoking, no less!) and could be the general goofball that he was without the world judging him for it. Childhood, if you think about it, is so short, and growing shorter these days. When you were a kid, if you saw another kid, bam, they were your friend, regardless of how they looked, what color they were, what religion they were, or how popular they were. Kids don’t care if other kids have Hollister tshirts on. At least they didn’t when I was younger. Nowadays, they do. Trust me. I was buying designer stuff for my kid in 5th grade. And she was on the later end of the spectrum.

When I thought about my teenage daughter, the dichotomy that is Holden Caulfield actually made more sense. My daughter longs to see movies I think are too old for her, and wear shorts I think are WAY too short, yet she still sleeps with five stuffed animals and runs through the sprinkler. She’s learning how to wear makeup, but I still find rocks in her jeans pockets. Throughout the horror of her teen years, it’s the little bits of childhood I still find laying around that make me smile.

I wish all of us parents could be more like Holden, and be the catchers in the rye for our kids. I wish we could keep them from going over the cliff, or put them in one of those glass cases at the museum so they never grow up. But they do. Sigh.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there! And enjoy your kids while they are still young. 🙂

Grade: B

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2011 3:02 am

    This post was beautiful. Thank you.

    I have read this book three times, more than any other book and I feel as though you were able to find something in it I may have missed. I want to throw down the rest of the books I am reading and pick it up again.

    Thank you for re-igniting my passion.

  2. May 7, 2011 8:24 am

    Great review. I have always found this book incredibly hard to get into – there never seems to be anything in the story that grabs my attentions and makes me keep reading so inevitably I end up giving up. Luckily your review has inspired me to give it another go.

  3. May 9, 2011 12:15 am

    Thanks for your nice comments, guys!

    I think this book really has more meaning if you are where Holden is, trying to figure out your life and your place in it. This book spoke volumes to me as a teenager. I am trying to get my daughter to read it. She loved “The Outsiders” and would probably find a kindred spirit in Holden. 🙂 It didn’t work so much for me as an adult, but the enjoyment I found was in remembering where I was when I read it and how far I’ve come.

  4. May 10, 2011 2:44 am

    I LOVED this, what a great book to come at from teen/adult reading perspectives and I love that a classic novel could give you some small insight into your parenting life. If you’re trying to get your girl to read “Catcher in the Rye,” you should also toss “Perks of Being a Wallflower” her way, if she hasn’t read it yet, it’s my favorite bildungsroman, it inches out “Catcher in the Rye”, sacrilegious as that might be to say, it’s truth.

  5. May 10, 2011 7:04 pm

    I’m so glad you remembered your own personal teenaged angst! Holden brought it all back to me, too. I also like that you talk about the “horror” of those years. Icky icky yuck yuck – horror is the appropriate word.

    One more recommendation for your daughter – “In With The Out Crowd” by Norma Howe. It’s out of print but you might get lucky at Better World Books or ABE books.

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