Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I managed not to read The Catcher in the Rye until age 38. I'm not sorry I read it while prepping for the Praxis II test, but I wasn't exactly blown away by the book. Don't get me wrong--I liked it fine--I respect Holden and his suspicions about phonies and his sorrow about lost innocence; I think the novel is sad and at times funny, and that it does for Manhattan socialites and prep school students what Babbit did for members of the middle class. But like many of the books routinely touted as one of "the greatest novels of all time," I found it a bit underwhelming. Of course I always get uncomfortable with such rankings anyway. I suppose it would be easy to rank The Catcher in the Rye as amongst the greatest novel of all time if you'd read say five novels, which is true of many teens.

I prefer Paul's Case by Willa Cather. Today Paul and Holden would be given IEP meetings and then dosed up with Ritalin.


John Vondracek said...

I also think it's the age and times that you read it in, that makes you think it's one of the greatest books ever written.

I think it's probably one of the greatest books ever written for a certain target age group... but not a 38 year old. your pretty much paast all that by that age... you can only remember feeling that way... you don't still feel that way, you know?

Nyarlathotep said...

I still feel much the same way about the world as Holden, even in my LAAAAATE 30s. Everything and everyone is phony, it would be great just to head to the hills and live in a cabin, etc. I don't think my age has anything to do with appreciating the themes or events or characters.

But you're right. Reading this 20 years ago would have made a difference. I used to wipe dirty words off the walls too if I thought little kids would see them.

It wouldn't surprise me to find out it wasn't taught at Hereford High because of the word "fuck."