Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

In reading all of the top selling books, Catcher in the Rye was the first one that I hit where I really didn't enjoy it. Part of me wonders if it's because it's about a guy being a wastrel teenager wandering around the New England area. I simply didn't find that interesting at all. On the other hand I've read a ton of books with male leads - including teen male leads - and it's never bothered me before. I tried to imagine the book with a female lead doing the exact same things - and I found that I would have been equally as uninterested.

In essence the story involves this "young man" getting bored with school, meandering around, interacting half-heartedly with adults and with females, and ending up (maybe) in a mental institution. He's drifting. He's stream of consciousness. Anyone who's read my writings knows that I am very stream of consciousness :) So this generally is something I enjoy. However, I normally like either the journey to be very interesting - or the goal to be worth the journey. In this case, I really found neither to be true.

Maybe the book was unique because, at the time, nobody really talked about these things in these ways. Nobody talked about what it was like to be a teenager - teens were supposed to be quiet and obedient until they turned into adults. Maybe nobody talked about teens having sex - although if you take a look at other books on this list, I find that really hard to accept :) Just about every other book involves teens having sex and doing things they weren't supposed to be doing.

It really seems, when you read the news reports about this book when it was released, that publicity was a big seller. Parents found it shocking that teens would read about "not going to school" and having sex. Given the books the parents were reading, what really was upsetting is that the teens could read / understand these things - not of course that the parents knew about them. Most books on the top selling list involved teens having sex / being rebellious :) The parents just wanted to read those things as escapist fantasy - not to let their TEENS read these things and get ideas.

So of course all the teens promptly went out to buy copies of the book and use it as their new motto. "We will all be rebellious! We will all work together to be unique!" :) And then you know there was the beat generation, and Elvis, and hippies, and the next thing you knew, we had disco. And thus the fears of the parents were truly realized.

So, in any case, the real issue here seems to be that the book was directed at teens, and told teens that being rebellious and having sex were not foreign concepts. They were relatively normal concepts (even though they might end you up in a mental institution). I imagine if the book was written with more "adult" language and aimed more at adults, nothing more would have been thought of it.

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