Monday, August 19, 2013

Review : The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

(Original review posted on Goodreads:- January 22, 2013)

The great C.S. Lewis had opined -
"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest"
And who, indeed, would dare contradict him? I had kept myself away from the Chronicles of Narnia for a long time, believing I had already outgrown that phase of my life that would've endeared me to this famed set of fantasy tales written for children. How wrong I was!
Finally when I did read 'The Magician's Nephew', I wanted to slap myself for being so hopelessly prejudiced.


With 'The Catcher in the Rye', I'm faced with the same realization all over again.

Some books are written so well, so masterfully that you are bound to get the message the writer had slipped in skilfully somewhere between its pages for the perceptive reader to find and cherish like treasure, only if you care to lay off the pre-ordained feelings and biases.
Sure, I agree, nothing ever happens in this book. The prose, in Holden's own overused words, can be described as 'boring' and insipid in my own. But that is what Salinger had wanted it to be.

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have liked Holden had I read this as a teen. I would've considered him a whiny, nitpicking pain in the rear. A kid trying to sound and behave like an adult and, of course, failing at it miserably.
But now that I'm a full-fledged adult, capable of knowing what I want and what I don't, I can understand Holden much better. I can't help but feel a sort of grudging respect for Holden's daring act of breaking away even if for a little while, from the compulsions and responsibilities of that life threw his way, the expectations of peers and adults surrounding him.
His voice is so full of pain, loneliness, resentment and all the amorphous emotions of that age, that it's near impossible not to relate to it.

A sense of pure isolation, a feeling of being adrift in the big, bad world with barely anything or anyone acting as an anchor. Faced with problems you previously did not even know existed, an ever-widening gap with the members of the opposite sex. A mass of confusing, blurry thoughts swirling inside your head that you would rather prefer to push away than disentangle one by one and analyze. Sometimes not being sure of what you want to do and what you are supposed to do. Stuck somewhere in a time-warp, on the brink of adulthood yet not quite so, not even close. Demanding to be treated with respect and dignity like an adult, yet to be loved as a child. I'm sure we have all gone through the same motions at some point of time in our lives.
Holden reminds us of that period even if we may not see in him the teenager each one of us had been, individually. He is simply a personification of those confusing, bitter, hazy years that precede the surer, firmer, more secure years.

And if we maybe honest enough with ourselves, we'll find a Holden all holed up somewhere in the darkest recesses of our psyche, eternally disdainful and critical of the people and things around us. It's just that we've gotten better at swallowing urges to lash out at the 'phoniness' of it all.
Holden's appeal is timeless. And I'm quite sure, I'll like The Catcher in the Rye when I read it years down the line.
And for this reason alone, this book rightly deserves the epithet of a true classic.
This is THE YA novel.

5 out of 5 stars.

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