Let’s start at the beginning. As with all ‘classic’ works, I had expectations. Too great, it seems. This was my doom when I tackled “Wuthering Heights” and “The Grapes of Wrath.” When I lowered my expectations, I was pleasantly surprised: “Great Expectations” (ironically enough) and “The Three Musketeers” (which is among my favourite books).
“The Catcher in the Rye,” however…
I have to tack its reputation up to a single attribute: it must resonate A LOT with those that rave about it. Needless to say, it didn’t resonate with me.
I appreciate its depiction of 1940s colloquialisms. As for teenage angst, well….yes, we all were emotionally-driven idiots as teenagers who experienced hormonally-induced hairpin turns in our thoughts and feelings. Heck, we’ve known that since “Romeo and Juliet.” Does this illustrate teenage angst better than any other work? I don’t know. I haven’t read a great many books about teenage angst in particular. I did find it surprisingly capable of elucidating Caulfield’s true nature through his narrative. As a writer, I was taught “show, don’t tell.” While Salinger allowed Caulfield to tell, tell, tell, through his telling, Caulfield showed us – eventually – what he was really like underneath all that angst and hormonal froth. Perhaps it is as Caulfield describes; sometimes you need to let people ramble on until they get to what they really need to say, to get to what they think is really important. I appreciate directness, so Salinger’s rambling detours through Caulfield’s confused diatribes to demonstrate his appreciation and love of innocence and purity tried my patience at times. To each his/her own. I just prefer a lot less rambling. Life is too short.