Very nerve-wracking, picking up the 'great American novel', not least at the age of twenty-two, with an MA in English literature. I'm over that adolescent age that most Catcher in the Rye readers are (at least, when they come to it for the first time), and I'm an overly opinionated book snob. I went through a huge disappointment with Hemingway, and I was hoping that I wouldn't repeat the ordeal with Salinger.
Holden Caulfield had me at the word 'go'. After reading just the first page I was entirely aware of exactly why so many adolescent readers loved, and still do, love this. Holden's narration is nothing short of genius - his tone, his pace, his use of language, completes the package of the confused teenage mind. His thoughts are punctuated with swearing, 'goddam' and 'sonuvabitch' being peppered across the sentences. He both knows what he wants and doesn't know what he wants, typical of that lack of motivation and the desperate desire of an adolescent. Holden is what every teenager I know has struggled with. What I really loved about his narrative is the continual use of hyperbole. Everyone 'killed him', or would have made someone 'committ suicide' or was 'five million' times. The skill, precision, and insight that went into that novel must have been insane, but it felt so natural and effortless. More Salinger has to happen in my life. I've been meaning to read this book for years, but I won't lie: Salinger's death brought it to the forefront of my mind, and I've been pressing to read this all year.
Having finished the book, I looked up some articles etc and was outraged to find some recent news about a film version. First off, it wouldn't work. Not even if there was someone doing a voiceover. Two, given Holden's hatred of movies, the whole thing would be pretty ironic. Three, Salinger said 'NO.' The man was adamant his whole life that he didn't want his work turned into a film. To ignore this because he is dead is just down right rude. I think it's horrendous even to speculate making a film when it was so entirely against his wishes.
Besides, what really engrossed me wasn't necessarily the story or plot - a lot happens, but not a lot actually happens. The style, the writing, the word. Ah, it was just too good! I can completely understand why The Catcher in the Rye is taught all over the US of A, and if I was a teacher there I'd be giving it to my kids at the age of five.