Catcher in the Rye

Assalam Alaikom,

Over this past week, in which I made several efforts to update this journal, I began reading a famous book the name of which you just read in the article. It was recommended to me by a friend a while ago, but it escaped my mind whenever I was in the recurring antagonizing process of wondering what to read next ?!. Last week I began reading it and last week I decided to cross that friend from my list of people who know what constitutes a good book. Before I delve into why I dislike this book, I would like to apologize for a behaviour I usually don’t make. I didn’t actually finish the book. I’m still in about 53% of it. But I maintained my feelings towards it from the first chapter, that when I look back I regret wasting so much time, when I could be reading something better. That’s not even the bitter part. A bad book makes you reluctant to read at all. If you attempt to start another book, you, meaning I, feel as if you are doing something wrong. It’s as if each book is a murder on your hands and unless you bury the body and conceal whatever evidence there is, you can’t live in peace. That’s a terrible metaphor, but it’s terribly right nonetheless.

Like I mentioned before I try not to read book reviews and consequently I never write book reviews, which makes this my first. I remember an article by the sage H.L.Mencken by the name of Criticism of Criticism of Criticism, which discusses, you guessed it, critics criticising the critics criticising pieces of work. A surprisingly not-so-confusing very amusing article, if you don’t have a problem reading an article criticising critics criticising the critics criticising pieces of work. In that spectacular article, Mencken briefly mentions how even critics disagree on what their profession is in the first place. One group defines it as: ” To police the fine arts and so hold them in tune with the moral order of the world”. A view, he ultimately convinces you, that is very childish and illogical, but it’s essentially what we all do when confronted with decisions, news or various situations. We compare them to our morals and beliefs.

That said, we can safely go through with this review and future ones with some ease. At first when you open the book you are hit over the head with some jape mocking Charles Dickens’s way of writing in David Copperfield. Depending on you, you might find this hilarious or an unnecessary attempt at being funny by mockery. After reading a while, you may start thinking he meant it that way, to elucidate how childish and immature the writer is. Holden Caulfield is a 16 year old high school student with the mentality and vocabulary of a 13 year old, whose, for our bad lucks, this is his autobiography. Throughout the book you will rarely encounter a page where he doesn’t mention how a certain behaviour “Kills Him !!”, a certain person is “Phoney” or thinking about something makes him sad or depressed. If you are really lucky you will get the three together in one paragraph, but get ready for a nose shattering face-palm before you look for one. ( Checks his swollen nose in the mirror !! ).

The plot of the novel, I imagine it’s still the same plot in the second half but I wouldn’t risk trying to find out, is Holden getting  kicked out of high school, for the third time, and his avoidance of telling his mother. Personally I hope she beats him half dead, commits suicide and he stabs his eyes repeatedly over her loss. That sounds vaguely familiar. Regardless, during his journey of avoidance Holden doesn’t stop thinking. And worse, he doesn’t stop telling you what he thinks about. Add to that several incidents where he tells outrageous incoherent lies to random people without the slightest cause, his cowardly behaviour and being a teenager, you get a very terrible character.

I know what you are thinking. It crossed my mind a dozen times, at least. J.D.Sallinger meant him to be like that. He is, some might argue, a typical teenager, acting his 16th year in the world not so differently from any other. Well, I know that Mister, that’s why I don’t like it. Why would anyone think writing a story in a childish, poor, inept way about such a distasteful teenager is a good idea ?!

In the end, this is only the first part of the review. I apologize for not eluding to it in the title, by adding ‘I’, but I like saying ” This is only part one”. No particular reason, I just like it. The reason I didn’t wait till I finished the book is two fold. One, I’m often forgetful of my impressions and opinions during reading. Usually I don’t mind since I read a whole book on one go, or as soon as I can, so whatever I thought of while reading is still vividly alive in my memory. That isn’t the case here though, for I’m hesitant to continue this book at all. I know I will, but it’s safer to document my first impression during this break. The second reason, is that if by a remote chance this book gets better, or there is a statement to be made in the end, or any reason at all that makes my opinion differ, this would be a great experience and example to me, and a cool episode in the TV series they will eventually make depicting my life.

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