Revisiting An Old But Still Relevant Gem
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another book where I make a new discovery each time I read it. As a youth, I adopted some of the character's contempt for fitting in, and then in the 90s, when I went on a literary beatnik immersion, I understood the humanizing aspects, how Holden just wants to protect his sister and the other children, how his angst springs from genuine concern rather than a willful nature alone. I think that I identified with these traits because I was in a nurturing phase myself with my young children.
This time, in 2016, I admired the writing, especially the voice: all the quite this and quite that, interspersed with goddam this and goodam that. When he scrubs obscenities from the wall of the elementary school and museum, the irony is breathtaking.
I love this book. I love its crudity and the visceral impact of the words. It's not beautiful prose, not at all. Like the protagonist the prose itself has contempt for society's approval. Beneath it all, though, is a heartfelt message about what modern society is doing to all of us. That hasn't really changed. It's just that now the Internet is our subway walls.
I'm going to finish by quoting some of the protagonist's inner thoughts towards the end.
I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say “Holden Caulfield” on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say “Fuck you.” I’m positive, in fact.
Truth right there. Read it and cherish it.
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