Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger (Canon book group)

I’m sure we didn’t mean to do this, but our book group mananged to choose 2 in a row that dealt with upper-class culture. Not only did we read The Great Gatsby last month, but Catcher actually refers to it. The last time I read this book (mumbledy-something) years ago in high school, I found Holden to be quite the angst-monkey (although I’m sure I used some other term for it), and my opinion didn’t change this time around. At the time, I couldn’t dredge up much sympathy for someone whose family had the means for boarding school, not to mention leather suitcases. Holden’s heavy preoccupation with sex was also less-than-endearing.

Aside from the obvious changes in teenage slang, and the range of sexual behavior that more young people are doing (and at younger ages), and the falling age of when children lose their innocence (on one of many levels), the basic story and themes alienation and self-protection, growing-up pains, phony adults) still hold true for the youth of today.

There was one passage toward the end of the novel that I found noteworthy: “...educated and scholarly men, if they’re brilliant and creative to begin with--which, unfortunately is rarely the case--tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than men do who are merely brilliant and creative. They tend to express themselves more clearly, and they usually have a passion for following their thoughts trough to the end.” [Holden’s former English teacher is trying to motivate Holden through the rest of his educational years]

This reminded me of the many self-help books (and some other non-fiction subjects) that are being published today--and they have readership--by people who are not necessarily experts in their field. Not to say that “home-grown” advice isn’t helpful, but I think that some authors put far too much credence in their claims.

[finished 2/17/08]

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