★ ★ ★ ★
One by one, my university friends read, loved, and named their goldfish after The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. I have read reviews on so many Young Adult (YA) novel – I could throw a stick and hit 20 per book that claim similarities to the infamous The Catcher in the Rye.
It’s the prejudice of old literature that it must be the standard to which all books are written. But I would bet my bottom dollar (because a dollar doesn’t buy shit nowadays – so I may as well bet it) that if it was written today it wouldn’t get published. Not because they are bad books, because they aren’t – but their style (I’ll explain that further) does not suit a contemporary audience.
When I talk about style, I mean the writing style. Authors put a character into a verbal stockade and dare them to break free. They all have some sort of language tick – they really do. It can wear on you after a while. As a result, the characters will often come across as insane. It may also be that I only read about insane people. I wonder, if I took all the repetition out of all those classics: Slaughterhouse Five, Catch-22, and now The Catcher in the Rye – would they be half as long?
After I did my own review on Submarine, I read a few others to see if they were cut from the same cloth as mine. I came across this one review on Goodreads that claimed it was nowhere as good as The Catcher in the Rye, while also claiming that the protagonist did not do normal things that a teenage boy would do. By this he meant, talking to strangers in abrasive manner, making sex jokes etc. Now Holden Caulfield, Catcher’s protagonist is impulsive, arrogant, and superior. In one scene he is drinking (coke) in a bar and approaches three middle aged women asking for a dance. I ask you, what teenage boy has that sort of confidence? Where they all once like that? Or is he also unusual, as opposed to poorly written as might be claimed of new literature.
I got a shock when I read the first sentence of Catcher. It read just like any angsty teenage-boy book aside from the obvious olde-time flair. I was picturing something more worthy of literary attention. Someone older, wiser…loonier. Instead I get some vocabulary deficient, resentful nutball. Also, he pays $13 for a night out with three women. In what world!
I’ve had people quote to me “the past is a foreign country”, and knowing Catcher was quite the controversial book back in its day makes J.D. Salinger way ahead of the literary times. Nowadays the majority of us would considered it your average YA fiction though the content back then had it banned. It has also been called an assassination trigger, as three murderers owned the book, though only one claimed it was the inspiration. Madness right?
There are some instances where I really feel this sonovabitch Holden is onto something, despite his obvious brain discrepancies. Holden really despises people who like something too extremely. His hatred of the hyenas laughing at the nothing funny in the cinema, showy singers with flashy notes and people in general, are the main focus of his worldly observations.
Fuck did the singing thing strike a chord with me. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but Australia is obsessed with singing shows. At any given time there are three singing competitions aired that any marginally talented man and his dog can enter. They all have ‘the voice’. The all have the ‘it factor’. I have come to realise that every third person in this country can sing. I ask you reader, if a third of the county can sing with some ability does that make it a talent. I have lived below the poverty line before, less than a third of the country have. Therefore my talent of eating Weet-Bix three time a day is actually more impressive than any of those tune-savvy human trumpets. An argument for another day perhaps.
Maybe I see how this sort of thinking could inspire a psychopath…
On a side note: Salinger has a weird habit of italicising about six words a page. In some cases, just half of a word is italicised. Huh? Technique for voice? Or a sin as condemnable as overemploying an exclamation point? Or as totally necessary as 36,000 question marks per blog?
Despite my rantings, I liked it. Catcher is definitely one of the best ‘classics’ that I have read. Anything slightly fanatical and exceptionally controversial is a-okay in my book. Holden is a relatable character whose narration is frighteningly truthful with smacks of sarcasm. The story moves with just the right amount of pace and suspense. I would recommend it to anyone who struggles with ‘classics’ but really wants the honour of displaying one on their bookshelf. Having read this book will make you sound super clever and well-read if you just drop a ‘shows a resemblance to Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye’ on any given YA review, dinner party, or political protestation sign.
★ ★ ★ ★
Side-side note: If you have also written a Catcher review, please post me a link in the comments and I’ll check it out!