The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Original Publication Date: 1951 (Hardcover)
Pages: 214 (Mass Market Paper Edition)
This book is an often rambling first person account of a lost weekend in New York. It is told by misfit high schooler Holden Caulfield. Unbeknownst to his parents, Holden has been expelled from his preppy boarding school and heads home early for the holidays. He accounts his many misadventures and experiences of New York nightlife, hotels and bars.
This book was considered scandalous when it was published in 1951, earning J.D. Salinger a controversial reputation. The author turned into a recluse for the rest of his life. Caulfield is a fairly innocuous character by today's standards. He's sort of a more cultured Bart Simpson. He smokes and drinks, womanizes and, most notably, is very difficult to get along with. He has become the model of the quintessential alienated and angry teenager. He rebels against authority, conformity and hypocrisy. Much has been written about this character's personality. Some have even gone so far as to diagnose Caulfield with various mental illnesses or personality disorders.
Salinger's writing style is very conversational. I found that somewhat distracting at first, but after awhile, I found myself thinking and talking like the main character. I really did.
The Catcher in the Rye is an interesting character study but hardly scandalous by today's moral standard. It is more interesting as a lens through which to look at post-World War II American society. I found it entertaining and I was glad I included this in my retrospective reading list.