And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Guess I Am Not That Smart, After All...

I just finished reading J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" today. I figured I had better read it, since it is such a famous American Novel. So many folks have tried to have it banned, and assassins read it! I figured there must be some pretty interesting stuff in that book.

I don't get it.

I mean, I understand the book. I just don't understand why everyone has made such a big deal about it. I even went online and read several analyses of the durn thing to figure out if I had missed some symbolism or insight or something.

Nope, several hours of reading later I have not found a single comment on the book that I hadn't already thought of.

Now, I will give you that the language is pretty strong. Given the time that it was written and published, I can see why a lot of folks would be shocked by that. And I can even see why some folks wouldn't really want their kids reading it until they were a bit older. It isn't exactly the kind of story I would like to have shaping the Sprouts' psyches.

Basically, I thought it was just a sad tale of a messed up kid. End of story.

Maybe I am just jaded by all the violence, language and sex in mainstream media. It just didn't seem too shocking to me. The whole time I was reading the story, I was remembering kids I knew in high school who were very much like our Holden Caulfield. I know none of them had read it...they read mostly comic books and the backs of cereal boxes.

Anyway. I just thought I would reveal how little I know about Great Literature, since I can't figure out what makes "Catcher" great.


Deb said...

You know, I think I have a copy of that book laying around and I was wondering if I should delve into it since it's a "classic". Your review tells me that I would probably be wasting my time. Which I kind of suspected. Life's too short to read everything.

I did enjoy The Grapes of Wrath though. Or rather, I was enlightened by it. When I think of "enjoying" a novel, I think of someone reading a light romance out by the pool. There's more to great writing than that.

Em said...

I'm with you...I just don't get it. And I used to be an English teacher! Sometimes I think schools teach the same books over and over and over...even though newer things have been written that are far better. In all the world, it just can't be that this one book is worthy of being taught so often to so many.

Besides, it just isn't that good.

e4 said...

Funny, I had almost the same conversation just yesterday.

I do think the world (or our culture) has changed more than we realize.

Have you ever watched the movie Citizen Kane? Exact same problem. I mean, it was interesting, because it was an old movie that had the look of a modern movie. (...which tells you something.) But it's always at or near the top of the "Best movies of all-time" lists. Out of it's original context of time and culture, I didn't get it. Not even in my personal top 50.

Remember how cool and awesome Star Wars was? Same situation for this generation. They watch it and say, "Eh..."

Remember when The Simpsons was considered a bad influence on kids? Now if you go back and watch the first season, you'd be lost as to where this supposed bad influence is. Heck, it practically promotes "family values" sometimes!

But yeah, Catcher in the Rye. Eh...

Now Calvin and Hobbes. There's some timeless literature...

Deb said...

e4- I agree on Calvin and Hobbes! :)

Mon said...

I have a nostalgic soft-spot for this novel. I loved it back in 1988.

I think that it can only be enjoyed if the reader strips away layers of murky layers of 21st Century numbness. Yes, what we read and view today makes such novels redundant, or feel that they are so.
And it's not just the topics and characters, but the writing style as well.

Holden is a touching character that as a teenage reader I was able to connect to him.
I re-read this a few years back and the magic was no longer there. But the memory of the magic still is, and I'm lucky to have it.

I would be interested to know if a teenager of today, that was not brought up bombarded with tv, etc, was able to appreciate it.

barefoot gardener said...

Wow! Interesting comments, folks.

Deb~ "Grapes of Wrath" is on my list...I just can't seem to ever find a copy at the thrift store. Might have to buy that one at Half~Price or something...

Em~ Oh, it is so nice to hear that someone who used to TEACH this book agrees with me.

e4~ Wait, are you telling me that the young folks of the world don't get the coolness of Star Wars?! What has this country come to! I think you have a really good point about how much we have changed as a society, and that really depresses me...

Of course, I now have to get myself a Calvin and Hobbes fix. I love Calvin's snowmen, you know....

Mon~ I forgot to welcome you, so...WELCOME! Maybe the fact that the magic was gone when you revisited TCITR means that your connection to it was more about you and less about the book. I have found that some books can be revisited at different times in your life and still be just as enjoyable as the first time....others mean something to you only at certain points in your personal growth. TCITR strikes me as falling into the second category.

Wendy said...

I had a similar reaction when I read Lolita. It has been hailed as this GREAT novel, and I just couldn't get past the fact that it's about a pedophile. I just couldn't get beyond that. The language is great, and the author has a wonderful way of stringing words together, but the subject just left me cold. I have four daughters, three of whom are very young, and a baby granddaughter, and I just wanted to hang Humboldt up by his "man parts" and leave him for the crows.

But I remember enjoying The Catcher in the Rye. I don't recall why. It's been a long time since I read it. Maybe I should reread it ;).

Loved The Grapes of Wrath ;).

Kati said...

I read it in HS, but my opinion of Holden Caulfield was that he was a whiney brat who needed to get off his @$$ and DO something about how badly his life sucked, if it really sucked that bad. Hate School? Get a job! (My guess is he wouldn't hate school so badly after a real job in the real world.)

Yeah, I also can't figure out what makes this one a "Great American Novel". To me, it just annoyed me.

(_Bless Me, Ultima_ is a MUCH better "Great American Novel", if you ask me. By Rodolpho Anaya.)