The novel's anti-hero, Holden Caulfield, is the sort of guy you might know - an judgemental jerk with an entitlement complex a mile wide, whose existence proves the maxim that only boring people are bored; it almost goes without saying that Holden Caulfield is bored a lot, and given his oft-noted disdain for phonies, Caulfield is also the biggest phony there is**. Plus, it's an eerily accurate portrait of the mind of a teenage boy; since I really don't like teenagers (and the boy versions of that ilk are by far the worst) the visceral reaction I had to the book could be based on that alone.
Subsequent generations of douchebags (most notably Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley, Jr.) have used the casual nihilism espoused by the book's lead character and narrator to justify their own bullshittery; the book's satiric edge has thus become somewhat blunted over the years by people like them having been so stupid as to take it and its message as some kind of manifesto in the first place. Yet even given the thoroughly loathsome character of Caulfield and the corrosive effect he seems to have on whackjobs I did enjoy the book, based almost solely on Salinger's refreshing honesty; unlike the reaction I had upon my first reading of Cervantes' Don Quixote, I never once threw The Catcher in the Rye against a wall while reading it, although I did roll my eyes so much those sitting next to me probably thought I was having a seizure!
*A seclusion which hasn't exactly lessened since his January 2010 death either...
**Which may, in fact, have been Salinger's point - namely that we most hate people who embody those traits we dislike in ourselves - commonplace pop psychology today, but quite an Earth-shattering revelation for the Fifties.
share on: facebook