CULTUREOPINION

The Catcher in the Rye: Just as Bad as I Remembered

I tried revisiting Catcher in the Rye this past week, having not picked it up since high school. After finishing, I was not in shock – it was just as terrible as I’d remembered.

After watching the grappling series “You” on Netflix (OK yes, TOTAL two-day binge I’ll admit), the character Peach Salinger piqued my interest. First of all, she’s drop-dead gorgeous, stylish and filthy rich. Peach got her immense fortune as a descendant of the famous author J.D Salinger, who, as every American child who graduated 10th or 11th grade English class knows penned Catcher in the Rye.

 

Why is Catcher in the Rye an American Classic?

Catcher in the Rye has undoubtedly made its way to the top of most required reading high school curricula in the United States. The book, a story about an adolescent Holden Caulfield — a middle-class New York boy who gets kicked out of his prep school – has graced the eyes of millions of students all across the country for many decades. I remember reading it in 11th grade, at the peak of my interest in books, and thinking it an awful piece of literature. Well, eleventh grade me wasn’t too far off the mark – I picked the book up last week to give it another try and it was almost worse than I remembered.

 

According to the internet, Catcher in the Rye is a must-have on reading lists because if it’s style and appeal to adolescents in such a trying time in their lives. Over the course of a few days (if I’m not mistaken, the entire novel takes place over three), Holden is kicked out of school, sneaks on a train to New York City, sleeps on public transport, drinks quite a bit, attempts to have sex with a prostitute (doesn’t go through with it), spends all of his life savings and rambles a whole hell of a lot.

 

For high school readers, the novel is supposed to be a segue to novels and might be the first full chapter book many read on their own. In addition, the book touches on themes of puberty, sexuality and mental health. By the end of what seems to be forever, we find out that Holden has actually been committed to some kind of mental institution after getting kicked out of his third school.

 

Online, I read many mixed reviews from people who have re-read the book in their adulthood. One that particularly struck me was a blogger that stated Catcher in the Rye was an eye opener to the many problems of our generation – self-absorption, narcissism, isolationism. Unfortunately, I did not feel the same and I saw the book as a solid waste of $10 and change, nothing lit up in my head or made me feel any different about my own existence as it claims to have done for theirs.

 

Bottom line: if you wanted to re-read this for old times’ sake, pick up another book. My suggestions along the same lines (and thank you to my 11th grade High school English teacher) include: Gabriel Garcia Marquez Memories of my Melancholy Whores, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional poetry of the Indian North Americas.

 

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