The Catcher in the Rye: A Month Late

In the fall of 2010 I joined The Book Club Bloggers for their inaugural link up. I was giddy with excitement. From where I sit, book clubs are pure goodness. Whether it's a group that gets together in person, or a virtual one like the BCB sharing a literary experience is a beautiful way to get to know people and exercise your brain. Every time I've participated in a book club, I've come away appreciating the book so much more deeply. Others' insights and takeaways never cease to surprise me and regularly deepen my understanding of the work. From the start I was a faithful member and consistently posted my reviews. I linked up and visited the other member's blogs commenting and enjoying every moment of the experience. But as time went on and life continued to "happen" my posts got published later and later (horrible form, I agree) and eventually I even skipped a month!

For 2o12, Charlotte, the founder and host of the BCB, changed the format of the club a little bit. She proposed that this year instead of members picking books from month to month, we instead spend the entire year focused on banned or challenged books. (read more about the club HERE) I was again excited. Knowing that I would be moving to a land where my social circle would be small, the BCB would be a perfect chance to read a book in community and connect with my lady friends. I was invigorated and ready to renew my membership.

Enter: Life.

In January, the BCB read J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. I read right along with them. Since I still had my copy from high school, it was easy to play along. I poured through the book and couldn't wait to hear what the other ladies thought. Only problem, I never wrote or posted my review. See the posts go up the last Friday of the month. The last Friday of January was our second full day in Chicago. Do I really need to explain further? Life happened and my beloved BCB took a backseat.

"I mean how do you know what you're going to do til you do it? The answer is, you don't. I think I am, but how do I know?"
The Catcher in the Rye

In February, the BCB read Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I still have yet to get the book. I did try. Really I did. But see I have this aversion to buying books at retail price. There are so many used and free books out there; it hurts to buy one at full price. So, I searched the used book store in Chattanooga before we left and I came up empty. (Look at me planning ahead - or trying to.) I scanned Paperbackswap and even joined Bookmooch, attempting to get a used copy. No dice. I still don't have a library card here because it necessitates me taking a written driver's test which scares the hell out of me. So that option was out. So here I sit, on BCB post day still without a copy of this month's book. Once again, life has happened.

Raise your hand if you love a blog post all about someone NOT doing something.


Ya, me neither. So what if instead of doing nothing I use the remainder of this post to talk about The Catcher in the Rye? Even though the linky is closed, I could still be a pseudo-member, right? Cool then, that's what I'll do.

When I saw that the selection for the month was The Catcher in the Rye, I was admittedly relieved. Knowing that January was going to be a busy month, it was a comfort to read a book that 1. I already own and 2. I have already read. I read Salinger's book for the first time in a freshman lit class. Last month when I opened my copy I was immediately struck by notes taken in my high school handwriting. Suddenly the experience became less about reading the book and more about re-reading the book with my high school self.

"Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone."
(Salinger 122)

As a freshman in high school, I thought Holden Caulfield was a rock god. He saw things, experienced things, communicated things in a way that cut straight through all the crap. Holden was able to articulate the angst and confusion and heartbreak that I was experiencing for the very first time. As a freshman in high school I was in a tail spin and just beginning to understand the imperfection of the world around me. Through the haze of hormone and hubris that I viewed the world, Holden seemed to have it just right. We were victims, Holden and I. We were at the mercy of the broken world around us. The best we could do is spit sarcasm as we wait for it to bury us.

Years later, I read Holden completely differently. Now I ache for him. Instead of lifting him up on a pedestal, I wanted to take him in my arms and hug him. I wanted to explain to him, "Yes, the world is broken but there is hope. Even if the world doesn't change, you can." As a thirty something I'm able to see the immaturity, confusion and hurt that fuels so much of Holden's existence. Holden isn't a rock god with all the answers, Holden is a little boy. 

"You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers (sic) would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket. Nobody'd be different. the only thing that would be different would be you."
(Salinger 121)

Before I turn this post into something sounding more like an hour on my analyst's couch (too late?), let me go ahead and wrap it up. It goes without saying that The Catcher in the Rye is a timeless work of art. Salinger's work is genius and its beauty is heartbreaking. I didn't anticipate the emotional response my second encounter would illicit, but I'm incredibly thankful for experience. I wonder if I read it again in 20 years if it will be something completely different. Perhaps I should try it and find out.

Have you ever re-read something and happily discovered an entirely different book?