Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everbody."

"Don't ever tell anybody anything.  If you do, you start missing everybody."  One of the best, possibly the best last line of novel ever.  Sums up Holden Caulfield's character and stance on everything prior.  A book where your reviews almost have to start with its ending rather than its beginning.  OK now that I've covered that let's start at the beginning.
This is one of those classic novels that everyone has read or has been told to read.  It's one of those classic novels that you're made to feel like you have to read, but not only read it, you are required to like it.  One of those novels that if you don't say you like it, you are immediately ostracized by people.  Some of those people who couldn't tell you why they even liked it, just that they are supposed to like it.  I myself have hesitated even posting a review of it for fear I'll say the wrong thing and be judged by it (like that's ever stopped me b4).  I thought maybe I should read other reviews first, real critics reviews and everything ever mentioned about it so I get my review right, but then it wouldn't be my review.  I would just be mimicking other people's opinions, thoughts and feelings.  I would be in short, guilty of being a "phony" as Holden would say.  So here is my review... I liked it, a lot.  I don't think it's the greatest novel ever written, in fact if it were written today it would just be a bestseller not a legendary classic.  This is not to take away from the novel itself.  I think it was brilliantly written.  For a 32yr old Salinger to write so accurately, not just in lingo, but in every detail to sound like a sarcastic, self-absorbed, at times disgruntled, whiny 16yr old to perfection, is just nothing short of amazing.  It's like John Hughes nailing the angst of the 80's teen.  While you're reading you completely feel as if you are reading a 16yr old's diary.  I mean there is no slip up at all that alludes to this story being written by anyone other than a 16yr old.  This 16yr old being misguided, misunderstood, Holden Caulfield.  Everyone is a phony, no one understands him.  His ramblings are inane and random though affecting and at times spot on.  In short he is your basic teen.  If he were a teen in today's world he'd be diagnosed with ADD and put on Xanax or similar.  I understand that at the time it was written it was taboo, controversial and deemed corrupting and therefore banned.  But by today's standards pretty tame.  I kept thinking how innocent it all was.  When he has a hooker come to his hotel room, he doesn't do anything with her, but still pays her ($5, which is what was agreed on by the pimp, elevator operator Maurice).  I thought when she sent him to get her coat she was going to pick his wallet clean.  Nope.  She does come back with her pimp to get more money ($5 more) and still only takes the $5 she came back for.  He approaches a little kid in the park and I'm thinking oh he's gonna get called a perv or something, nope.  He even asks the little girl to get a snack with him!  I guess there was no stranger danger back in the day cause he takes two little boys that he just meets in a museum to a dark Egyptian exhibit.  I know, I know this written back in the 50's, but still...
Some mentioned or maybe I read it somewhere about the sexual depravity in the novel, so I thought oh maybe he's going to get it on with his classmates mom on the train, when he leaves Pencey, but no.  What was the sexual depravity then?  The guy he sees in the window of a hotel prancing around in ladies garments?  The couple he spies in same hotel, spitting water at each other?  Caulfield waking up to a former teacher stroking his hair?  Oh and the hooker that he doesn't have sex with.  Perhaps I'm over thinking all this or maybe I'm not intelligent enough to get it.  But basically it's a couple of nights in the life of a wealthy, spoiled, inept, insecure, opinionated, self-alienated 16yr old.  What makes this novel a classic, in my opinion, is its prose.  It was so beautifully well written.  Caulfield's random rantings are so absurd their humourous.  It's not the story that I love, it's the way it was written.  I highly recommend it for anyone that loves a truly well written work of art.  And yes I understand the individualism Caulfield represents, the snub of conventionality and f**k it all attitude to "normal" society.  It was not lost on me and I love that about Caulfield.
I'm not sure why it's so popular with assassins except maybe they're misguided nutters (obviously) and feel Caulfield is saying everyone is phony and that if he weren't yellow he'd do something about it, so they are doing something about it.  All I know is I killed a fly while I was reading it so it must have some effect on people to make them want to kill. :)
Overall is it worth reading or just an over-hyped "classic"?  Yes, it's worth reading.  I think it's one of those pieces of art that got more of a boost from "controversy" than anything else, but seriously extremely well written so it deserves that credit.  I give it **** out of 4.  As always I encourage everyone to read it and form their own opinion and please share it.

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