The Catcher in the Rye

I just finished reading The Catcher in the Rye for about the eighth time. What an excellent book! I first read the book 13 years ago, when a friend of mine gave it to me to read while I was on a student exchange to Germany. I loved it. I even wrote a paper on J.D. Salinger when I was in grade 12.

If you haven’t read it, the story is about and is narrated by Holden Caulfield. Holden’s not much of a student and has now failed all his classes and is being kicked out of Pencey Prep, a private boy’s school. Holden doesn’t really want to stick around at Pencey, now that he’s flunked out, and since Christmas vacation is coming up in a few days, he decides to head back to New York City (where his family lives). He doesn’t go home right away, because he doesn’t want to confront his parents about having been kicked out of school and because this isn’t the first time. So Holden gets himself into a couple of adventures in New York. Some things are a little unbelievable, since Holden is only 16 years old, but it’s all good fun.

The story was written in 1947, and although some of the language is a little ‘old-fashioned’, a lot of it is still very much in use today — making it still very easy to read. And I think it’s easy enough to relate to, for most people: a disaffected youth who mostly finds everything and everybody annoying. Holden even calls a female friend of his a “pain in the ass” to her face, which really doesn’t go over well.

I’ll leave you with two quotes that I really think define the book:

He took another look at my hat while he was cleaning [his fingernails]. “Up home we wear a hat like that to shoot deer in, for Chrissake,” he said. “That’s a deer shooting hat.”

“Like hell it is.” I took it off and looked at it. I sort of closed one eye, like I was taking aim at it. “This is a people shooting hat,” I said. “I shoot people in this hat.”


“You know what I’d like to be?” I said. “You know what I’d like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice?”

“What? Stop _swear_ing.”

“You know that song ‘If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye’? … I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.”

10 saltines out of 10!