Friday, 23 January 2009

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger

Steeped in controversy since it's publication in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye is a genius little novel, portraying the injustices, hypocrisies and falseness of the human condition through the innocent and somewhat troubled mind of Holden Caulfield, an teenager living in New York.

Written in a monologue style, it follows Holden's escapades when he leaves his school a few days early (he is being expelled from yet another school for failing to keep up his grades) and going on a 'vacation' in his home city before returning to the wrath of his parents. A string of bizarre events occur when he stays in seedy hotels, calls up old accquaintences in the middle of the night, walks all over the city, and his increasing depression and loneliness drive him on to more and more erratic behaviour.

By today's standards, there isn't much that is controversial about it. Much of the superficial details are dated; the heavy smoking, use of 'swear' words like goddam and chrissakes - but the deeper level of the book is just as relevant today as it was then. There is a reason this has been in and out of school curriculums for the past 50 years. Holden's thoughts and attitudes reflect the confused, rebellious, contemptuous raging of adolescence accurately - and this is the timeless plight of the teen. We can all relate to Holden. I physically nodded along with some of his stream-of-conciousness rambling at some points, so moved was I by it's clarity and poignance.

Everyone should read this book, but be warned: it's depiction of the human condition is not a pretty one, for the most part.

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