Finally, I get to review a book that I actually like.
Which is ultimately a bad thing. Because you don’t really read or watch reviews because you want advice on what you ought to see or read. No, you read a review to hear an opinion from a person whom you’re super fond of- you like to think to yourself that if you knew that person in real life that you’d be friends with them.
At least that’s what I believe. I myself am an absolutely abhorrent reviewer. I mean, the way I title my reviews are inherently flawed because I insist upon placing the author’s name in the title- as if they wrote the review themselves.
No author is pretentious enough to write a review of their own work. Well, maybe Joyce.
Christ, I don’t even have a Ratings System. I guess my blog is kind of like a Comprehensive English study, like if if sparknotes were edited by Malcolm Tucker and a guy who doesn’t know what an adjective is.
If you’re interested, I’ll tell you what I base my Review style on. I’m a big Batman fan and when I was younger (about four odd years ago) I was a big fan of this site called “Batman-News.com” which is, as you guessed, a website dedicated to news about Batman. The guy who runs it is called Chris, he’s a single father- real nice guy. Back in 2010 or something along those lines the site was just about movie news, but by 2011 they set up a reviews section for comics.
Great timing as well cause it was around the time of “The New 52″ which is basically like a reboot for DC comics (they have to do it every few years cause they keep writing these into corners) so this review section was spearheaded by a guy called Andrew. Probably him and John Steinbeck were the biggest influences in my writing. Cause Steinbeck had this pure unadulterated empathy towards the world which I found fascinating, while Andrew was very insightful in his reviews- he was a really good writer.
He stopped doing reviews though. Well, for the most part at least. I mean he’d end up reading at least eight comic books a week and have to churn out 2,000+ word review for each of them. Which is a real bitch. Writing one a week is hard enough, but eight? So he stopped doing reviews but he still works as an editor for the site. He posts some articles now and again but he’d rarely do a review for any book, he says that writing reviews had become more like work than a hobby and that didn’t feel right to him.
The best reviews he wrote were the books that he absolutely despised. Like, he didn’t even care about Spoilers- he Fucking dissected that shit, it was like a work of art. He had to stop doing reviews for Ann Nocenti’s Catwoman series because he just got so mad. He really hated it. Fuck, his Batman Odyssey reviews still crack me up.
So yeah, writing a review about a book that I like is bad as I won’t be able to muster up all that spunk you need for a good rant. There’s nothing rantable about Catcher in the Rye.
J.D. Salinger on the other hand is an entirely different story. That guy was a Crazy Asshole.
Like, I understand that he’d be infuriated if I dared to analyse his work in a historical/biographical setting (even if he did, he can go fuck himself) so I’ll save that shite for the end. It’s understandable, I guess. Like I’ve been studying English for years and the majority of it is poking about the author’s lives.
You’re literally just talking a load of shit about dead people to be honest. Fuck, I wonder if people will ever do that shit to me? They’d be severely disappointed with my extremely dull life. I better have an affair or kill somebody, keep it exciting.
Anyway, Onto the review.
So the Cather in the Rye is not exactly your average novel. Nothing much happens in it, there’s no real plot or overarching story. It’s just about a guy who tries to pass the days by fucking about in New York; it’s a slice of life really.
Slice of life? Jesus Christ, I haven’t heard that since my friend (aka the Acne Ridden Manlet) tried to defend the existence of the film known as “The 400 Blows“.
Jesus Christ- what an abhorrent movie. It’s about this little French kid who is a complete and utter cunt and thus does stupid little cunt things like steal a fucking Typewriter from his father’s office. They fucking send him to a Juvenile detention center at the end cause he’s such a little rat bastard- there we learn that he’s a little shit cause his Ma doesn’t like him and tried to abort him or something like that.
Like, fuck- are you serious? You’re seriously going to make me emphasize with the kid- in the last ten minutes of a two hour fucking movie- and the fucking ending fucking pisses me right the fuck off. This little cunt is running along the beach and now I’m routing for him cause I understand him. Cause before I didn’t understand him, I just thought he was a little French Cunt that was being a cunt cause he had cunt blood running through his veins and he was the descendant of even greater cunts- so he had a familial reputation to live up to.
Ok, so they wasted two hours filming a kid I couldn’t possibly emphasize with cause he’s such a little cunt doing a bunch of cunt things. Then they drop an empathetic bombshell in the last ten minutes and then he’s running away from the juvenile center along the beach and it’s a great fucking shot. Then he stares into the camera and that’s it- That’s the Fucking Ending.
You fucking- WASTE TWO FUCKING HOURS WITH THIS DUMB-FUCK LITTLE CUNT- THEN YOU FUCKING HAVE THIS LITTLE FUCKING SCROUNGER STEAL A GODDAMN FUCKING TYPEWRITER AND I HAVE TO WATCH AND PRETEND NOT TO LOOK FORWARD TO THIS LITTLE FUCKING WEASEL GET HIS TEETH BEATEN OUT OF HIM– THEN YOU MAKE ME CARE FOR THE LITTLE RAT AND THEN, OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE- YOU FUCKING END THE FUCKING MOVIE ON SOME DUMBFUCK LITTLE CLIFFHANGER BULLSHIT?!
No, Fuck You.
I mean, what the fuck happens next? Well, I can take an educated Guess. Little French Cuntington III here will grow up either selling drugs to British tourists or become a Date Rapist. I mean- just fucking Look at Him.
Those are about the Rapiest little eyes I’ve ever seen.
What kind of French Dumb-fuckery is afoot? What the fuck happened to France?! Christ, they used to be a fucking Empire that owned people– now look at them. Fucking hell, man. It’s embarrassing.
Oh, and while we’re at it- the Frog from Flushed away is in the film as well.
It really is an abhorrent film.
Anyway, back to Cather in the Rye. This is a little ironic considering the book literally features this speech on how you ought to stay on message and not ramble on about stuff that is completely unrelated. I felt like Salinger was directly calling me out from the Dead, which is a little spooky.
So the book is about this guy called Holden Caulfield, this Angsty little teenager that get’s kicked out of his esteemed boarding school (for like, the fourth time in a row) and is now just fucking about, killing time, peeling the days off his back- whatever you’d like to call it.
I’ve known a thousand guys like Holden, they’re wasters. They think they’re hot shit and that they’re better than everyone else- but they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. They’re just scared little kids unable to comprehend the adult world. That’s one of the major themes throughout the book, the loss of innocence and an inability to accept change.
The book starts out with a seventeen year old Holden Caulfield telling us about the events that happened when he was sixteen around Christmas time. He doesn’t disclose to us what is happening to him currently or where he is exactly, but I have my guesses and I’ll explain further at the end of the summary.
The story itself is interesting. For starters, Salinger insists that the entire tale be told in the past tense (Holden is telling this story to someone, we don’t know who exactly) and that the protagonist would swap out personal pronouns (Me and I) in an attempt to alienate himself from the past. That’s why he’d often describe people or events that happen to him as if they’re happening to you.
The passive voice is his attempt to distance himself from both the reader and the situation that he is describing, because it is too painful for him to return to this time so he describes it as if it were happening to you and not him. This is his best way to alienate us, but in doing so he somehow makes himself more authentic and more empathetic.
So Holden describes his time at his prep school known as Pencey. He notes that its full of rich pricks, scumbags and worst of all “Phonies” Holden absolutely despises the phoniness that he constantly sees in the adult world. It’s kind of ironic that he despises phoniness even though he’s a self admitted compulsive liar and undoubtedly the most fake individual in the entire novel.
I think that’s what the novel does best, it emphasizes that a person can be different people to different people. If that makes sense. Like, to his history teacher Holden seems like a nice, polite boy that’s just under performing in his subjects- hence why he pities him (they pity each other, Holden pities the teacher’s old age and weird smell and the teacher pities Holden for his inability to see any successful future or maintain a realistic grasp of happiness) but to his roommate he just seems like a weird little kid that’s sometimes funny but most of the times he’s just a goddamn weirdo.
When he interacts with people like Ackley (fuck, I know so many people like Ackley. People so ugly they’re pitiful- and yet their personality is somehow miraculously worse than their physical ugliness. Like, you can’t be Ugly and an Asshole. It’s one or the other) whom he’s initially stoic towards but then as soon as its apparent Ackley won’t fuck off, he takes the piss out of him.
When Holden eventually does leave the college (abruptly, after he gets in a fight with his roommate Stradtler over a girl he may be in love with- getting a bloody nose in the process) he blatantly lies to a parent of another student. He gives her a fake name and tells her that her son is a kind, shy boy that is super popular- while in reality he’s a complete and utter scumbag, according to Holden.
He’s different people with different people. To some people he’s a nice, polite boy. To others he’s a weird little man who says weird shit. To some he comes off as a complete and utter pervert and to very few, he’s comfortable with being himself.
He’s definitely a fucked up individual. But unlike Dorian Grey, he’s blessed with the gift of good writing.
We’re given glimpses at the traumas he’s endured in his relatively short life, the scars underneath his armour of cynicism. First, he tells us about his brother who got leukemia and died three years before the novel- something that lead him to self harm in a fit of rage. Then, we learn that he once witnessed a boy kill himself at one of his old schools and near the end we’re teased with the prospect that he may have been sexually abused as a child. Hence why he’s jaded and why he wants to protect innocence at all costs, because his innocence was taken from him.
Mix all that together and you’ve got yourself one bat-shit crazy human being.
The story also presents Holden’s inability to get anyone to listen to him. He has multiple chances to explain himself to an adult (first case would be the history teacher and the mother at the beginning of the book) but he squanders it by lying his ass off, because he’s a self admitted compulsive liar- he can’t control it.
He tries to talk to his roommates but they’re not interested in his own shit, they’re too self involved (he’s also too self involved and far too critical of everything) he asks some taxi drivers some weird questions but they get easily annoyed with him very quickly, he tries to call up a call-girl but even she doesn’t want to talk to him- even a hooker that he ordered doesn’t want to talk to him (which is in itself a wild topic that we’ll get to later) which is depressing as hell. The only people that actually listen to him is his little sister Phoebe and his old English teacher Mr. Antolini and even they fall under his expectation because all though they listen to him they immediately call him on his shit.
Like, he has this preconceived notion about Phoebe and how innocent she is but once she gets talking she’s clearly more mature than him. She literally says right to his face “You fucking hate everything you Emo piece of shit- name one fucking thing that you like” granted she didn’t say that exactly the way I describe (mainly because she’s a Goddamn ten year old) and when she does call him out- he can’t describe one thing he likes to her.
His dream job is absolutely ridiculous as well, cause he wants to live his days watching kids play in a field of Rye that’s directly beside a cliff, so when a kid runs too close to the cliff he catches them and prevents them from falling to their death- he’s the Catcher in the Rye.
So after talking to Phoebe he heads on over to Mr. Antolini (which is kind of weird, hanging out with your former English teacher- at their home– at three o’clock in the morning) and they chat a while.
Mr. Antolini says that he thinks Holden is headed for a great fall (kind of like off a cliff edge, after running through a field of Rye) and he goes on about how Holden ought to get an education and read more, because by doing so he’ll read about people that are just like him and he’ll be able to contribute to recording the fallacies of the Human Condition through the medium of Literature.
Then when Holden’s asleep something weird happens. Mr. Anatolini pats his head and Holden takes that as a sexual move and he panics and leaves the apartment. Some people interpret that to mean that Anatolini was some kind of sexual predator that was looking to take advantage of Holden (you can make a pretty damn strong argument for that, especially since he said “Goodnight, Handsome” which is weird as hell) but I’d argue that Anatolini saw the relationship as strictly Paternal, he was patting his head like a father would pat their kids head. His reaction to Holden’s sudden exit is also way too casual if he actually tried to make a move, he actually watches him wait for the elevator from his door. It’s fucking wild.
Oh, one last thing about Anatolini. Salinger never concedes to this, but he’s undoubtedly based off of his Creative Writing teacher he had in University, Whit Burnett. The Catcher in the Rye is largely an autobiographical novel so it’s no surprise that Salinger would include the greatest influencer in his writing, his teacher, in his most famous novel.
The funny thing though, is that there was a Biopic made on Salinger called “Rebel in the Rye” Starring Nicholas Hoult (Beast from X-men First Class) as Salinger and as his teacher, Whit Burnett- he’s played by none other than Kevin Fucking Spacey.
If you’re from the Future and you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, let me explain. Kevin Spacey was once a beloved actor but then Anthony Rapp (another actor, he’s on Star Trek Discovery) accused him of molesting him when he was fourteen.
Unlike other people (like Harvey Weinstein, who at one time wanted to make the Catcher in the Rye a Movie) Kevin didn’t deny these accusations, though he admits he doesn’t remember it happened.
He gave a public apology and he said that he was Gay, many people interpreted that to mean he attempted to defend himself because he was Gay and it was “ok” which it wasn’t. Personally I interpreted it to mean that it was an explanation of who he is and not a justification of his actions.
2016 was the year in which everyone you loved Died and 2017 was the year in which everyone you loved is now Dead to You.
So it’s pretty fucking funny in my eyes that a character who’s interpreted to be a Child Molester is inspired by a Guy who was played by a Literal Child Molester. It’s fucking wild.
In conclusion, Holden doesn’t seem to be able to get anyone to listen him and the people that do either have alternative intentions or directly call him out on his shit and he gets upset.
The book relies heavily on the use of metaphor and imagery, as most good books do. I often think that I myself am in a poorly written novel as well. Mainly because I have a huge ego but also because of the blatant use of imagery in my daily life. I mean I live in a literal ditch, the country I live in is wet and soggy- beautifully ugly as I like to say and my house has a hole in it. It’s unfinished, just like me. Or some pseudo intellectual horse shite like that- I admit it sounds fairly phony.
There’s a lot of images in the book, for starters the Red Hunting Cap (or the People Hunting Cap, as Holden refers to it) is kind of like Holden’s protective shield from a cold and indifferent world- the Hat literally protects him from the rain at the end of the book, but he gets sick anyway. The hat is also the same colour as his dead brother’s hair and though it does its best to protect him from the reality of the adult world, it fails.
There’s also the questions that seem to be bizarre or even unanswerable that Holden asks random people, like at the start of the book he begins to think about the Ducks in this lake in Central Park and where they go in the Winter Time when the lake freezes over. Do they migrate south or does a person come along and carry them off to the zoo so that they can stay warm?
He asks these questions to the taxi drivers he interacts with, that annoys them. One of them tries to answer him but he get’s riled up. He says he doesn’t know about the Ducks, but the fish have to stay in the lake and they’re fine throughout the winter. But that only raises more questions with Holden. But it’s important to understand, Holden isn’t asking about the Ducks- He’s asking about himself. Where does he go in the winter time- what the hell should he do with adulthood? What’s next?
Oh. and if you’re interested in the literal answer to the duck question I’ll answer it below right now.
Apparently when winter comes some Ducks think it’s best to Migrate down south where its warmer while others decide to take their chances where they’re at in the winter, they do this by huddling up with other ducks to keep warm. Some live, some die- their bodies would be eaten by predators such as Birds of Prey or rodents and foxes.
The Fish however is a completely different story. Fish are cold blooded so they can’t deal with rapid temperature changes in the water, so what they do is the head down to the bottom of the stream or the lake where the water is warmer during the winter and they stay there the entire time. The top of the lake (a Few inches at most) is frozen, so the rest of the water is still in it’s liquid form despite being super cold, this is because the water is constantly moving. Fish would eat the algae and other plants that are available at the bottom of the lake/stream so that they may survive the winter.
There’s two ways to interpret this. You could interpret that the Ducks represent Children or even Holden (whose hat kind of makes him look like a Duck) and winter represents the cold hard reality for adulthood- the question of what the Ducks do in winter is really what should Holden do when he becomes an Adult- where is his life heading?
Another interpretation involves different Social Classes, represented by the Duck’s and the Fish. The Ducks represent the upper classes, Middle Class where Holden is concerned. I mean he’s not exactly wealthy but he’s rich enough to bail out of four different Fancy Prep Schools and wear decent clothes. The Fish represent the Lower Classes, the Working Class- the Poor people. While the Ducks have the privilege of being able to Migrate south for Winter, the Fish Don’t. The Fish have to stay where they’re put and keep warm.
That’s why the poor people in the book get easily upset at Holden. The Taxi Drivers get angry at him for asking stupid questions because they don’t have time for stupid questions- they deal with more shit each and every day than Holden ever will but they can’t just abandon their life as soon as they feel like it. Even the Prostitute he pays for doesn’t want to talk to him because she can’t afford to- time is literally money to her. They’re Fish, while Holden is a Duck.
Everyone has to deal with their own shit in their own way, regardless of Money.
The last notable use of imagery in the story is the Carousel. The carousel is more than it appears. For starters, the story has a circular structure to it. We start out not knowing where Holden presently is but near the end we come full circle and now we have an idea. At the start Holden is scolded by his History teacher for writing an appalling essay on the Ancient Egyptians but at the end he guides some Children in a Museum to the section dedicated to the Ancient Egyptians- he even tells them some facts that were in his essay.
At the end of the story he watches his little sister ride the Carousel wheel (she initially thought she would be too big but Holden made her go on anyway) while Holden is definitely too big to go on so he just sits there and watches. For the briefest moments in his miserable life, he’s truly happy. That’s the lesson he learns, that adult life isn’t like his preconceived notions of running head first over a cliff to your demise, it’s rather circular. Where moments of innocence and purity and genuine happiness don’t vanish from view as soon as you hit sixteen, but rather they repeat themselves constantly throughout your life, going round and around like a carousel.
Shortly after this Holden gets sick, has a mental breakdown and is sent to a psychiatric ward. He doesn’t tell us any of this though, its just my interpretation. His brother D.B. visits him (we’re not told much about him through the novel, outside the fact that he’s a war veteran and a writer- Holden sees him as a sellout for working in Hollywood- calling him a “Prostitute“) and Holden seems, for the most part, OK and cautiously optimistic about the future.
Though he’s probably fucked either which way. Like I said, I’ve known a Thousand people like Holden Caulfield- they don’t get the privilege of having a Happy Ending.
They die in the Winter.
Ok, so now we get to talk about J.D. Salinger, that’s Jerome David Salinger (Surname is pronounced like “Salad” except you drop the “ad” for “in” and follow that up with “Ger” like “German” minus the “man“) and he is, in my mind, a Crazy Asshole.
An understandably Crazy Asshole, but a Crazy Asshole nonetheless.
Ok, so when he started writing he was going out with this New York Socialite called “Oona O’Neill” who was super self obsessed (She’s the inspiration to the character “Sally Hayes” a Character many would consider to be a Thot) anyway, she left Salinger and Married Charlie Chaplin.
Yes, the Charlie Chaplin.
She cheated on J.D. Salinger with a fifty-nine year old Charlie Chaplin. That’s marvelous. That’s like hearing about Orson Welles having a fistfight with Ernest Hemingway or Oscar Wilde fucked Walt Whitman.
It’s fucking Wild.
She got around, apparently she also fucked Orson Welles and later on in life David Bowie.
Now Salinger was in World War II and he saw a lot of Shit. I mean, he was there on D-Day, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of Hürtgen Forest and he was present during the liberation of some Concentration Camps and the Denazification process of Germany. Many famous War Writers at the time only saw a Fraction of the Horrors J.D. Salinger witnessed.
Yet he chose to write about Teen Angst, the closest we actually get to any glimpse of his Wartime service in the Novel is when Phoebe asks D.B. if he’d be inspired to write about War after he witnessed it, he immediately dismissed it saying that some of the best War Poets in American Literature never even got a glimpse of the battlefield.
Salinger was an Odd duck. Unlike Holden, Salinger actually liked movies. Holden didn’t like the movies because he considered them to be too unrealistic and ultimately corrupts the mind (the way he goes on, it’s almost like he’s in a movie- despite hating them he sure as fuck watches a lot of movies) The reason why he refused to have the Catcher in the Rye made into a film was because someone already made a film of one of his short stories and it was so abhorrently bad that Salinger wrote in his will that none of his works were to ever be depicted in the medium of film or theater.
Apparently the closest the book got to being portrayed in a Visual Medium was when there were talks to make the book into a play, but Salinger would only approve of this so long as he would play Holden- which is super weird cause he was like thirty five at the time.
He’s somehow a Recluse and an Egomaniac.
He’s most famous for not wanting to be famous, he stopped publishing books and literally lived in a Cabin in the woods for the rest of his life. He was a pretty abhorrent father, he made his daughter drop out of high-school so they could hang out and he almost killed one of kids as a child after one of them got really sick but he refused to take them to the Doctor because at the time he believed in “Christian Science” like he could Pray away fucking Pneumonia.
He believed in a lot of weird shit. His daughter said that he’d go away for a while saying he’s working on a new book, then come back with a book that was incomplete and now he’s following a new “ism” fuck- he almost got into Scientology. He even met the leader of the Goddamn Cult.
During his fifty years in recluse he wrote about fifteen books, even organised them in files. Saying that some of them ought to be published when he died. He’s been dead a few years now, haven’t seen much.
He also hung around teenagers for a while which was…weird. He fucked a nineteen year old when he was in his sixties. He ditched them all and became a really bad recluse. He sued a lot of people for infringing copyright or having characters that resembled Holden Caulfied too much.
All the while he never dealt with the PTSD he gained during WWII- like that’s why he’s a recluse, that’s why he’s so susceptible to joining cults- he’s a Crazy Asshole.
He’s dead now, sadly. He wrote a hell of a fine book though.
I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t get to study this book in School. I mean we read Gatsby for christ sake and some Paddy Doyle shite that I didn’t even finish. Couldn’t have swapped that out for Catcher in the Rye- or better yet, The Grapes of Wrath?
The book is banned by several countries and many schools, calling it profane for the way it describes sex with an underage protagonist, interactions with a Prostitute (who’s the same age as him, he paid her not to fuck him, it was funny. Especially if you imagine going up in a lift at three o’clock in the morning and this fucking weirdo is right beside you like “Hey, wanna get laid?” and you’re too polite to say no) and cross dressing and weird kinky shit.
I mean, Holden Caulfield is certainly fucked up. The way he goes on about Women makes him look a little Misogynistic (Not as Misogynistic as Stradtler who is a super rapey bastard) and he can come off as very homophobic with his constant references to Gay men as “Flits” which bugs the hell out of one of the former school friends he meets up with who is potentially Gay, or at the very least Bisexual.
This side character lost his virginity at fourteen and is apparently super obsessed with sex, yet even he told Holden; “You’re crazy- see a therapist you; little pervert” so it’s understandable why a lot of people thought it was controversial.
A lot of schools banned it cause it promoted drinking, smoking, rebellion and Communism…apparently. Jesus, no wonder kids think Holden Caulfield is hot shit. He’s like forbidden fruit.
In conclusion, the book itself is brilliantly written, you literally feel this characters downward spiral and it can bring up your own shit. But upon whether or not you’re able to relate to the protagonist in any way shape or form…well, that’s up to you.
And you alone.