J.D. Salinger Must Be Laughin’ His Ass Off: A New Review of an Old Classic

Holden Caulfield

J.D. Salinger must be laughin’ his ass off, if you want to know the truth. If he was still alive that is. He died a while ago. It depresses me when I find out great writers have died.

Anyway, he wrote this book called the Catcher in the Rye about this rich kid, Holden Caulfield, who hates phonies so much he keeps getting kicked out of all the phony schools his ignorant parents send him too. But his parents don’t yet know he’s been booted out of the latest, Pencey, a school loaded with phonies.

For the next two days and 214 boring pages, he, I mean Holden not Salinger, manages to get chased off, beat up, scammed, laughed at, yelled at, ignored, and mistreated by every single person he meets. I’m serious.

Nobody really likes him. I don’t blame them. Holden talks and talks and talks about bein’ phony while all the time he’s the biggest phony in the book. Even Holden knows it.

All that sounds interesting and a lot of people say it is. But nothing really ever happens, if you want to know the truth. Except in this kid, Holden’s head. He just thinks a bunch of angsty stuff and talks about sitting on an Atom Bomb. Sometimes I wish he would. Then something would happen.

Anyway, Salinger probably died ‘cause he knew that a whole bunch of lousy English and Literature teachers made his book famous by forcing ignorant kids pretend to read it, or maybe the Cliff Notes. Pure phoniness. They, the kids not the teachers, ‘cause the teachers have to read the book unless they’re phonies too, sit in classrooms and say phony things trying to sound intelligent.

“The red hunting hat symbolizes a deadly search.”

“The carousel represents the futility of life.”

I hate that. I used to sit in the back of the room so I could leave as soon as the bell rang in those classes.

It kills me that Salinger wrote this book about how phony everybody is, including his main character, Holden, and now it gets discussed in phony book clubs and literature classes. It’s crazy.

There are some good things in the book, though. Everybody quotes the first sentence as one of the best sentences ever. They’re right too. But I don’t know why. I like the first sentence of A Prayer for Owen Meany too. But John Irving, who wrote it, knows he’s a really good writer and when the writer knows that, then it shows in their writing and it’s not as good. Maybe Salinger does that too.

Also, sometimes when Holden talks, I mean when Salinger has Holden talk, about bein’ lonely and wantin’ to die, I remembered feeling like that, if you want to know the truth. But sometimes I don’t want to read about it and remember.

And Salinger really does make it sound like Holden is talkin’. Though I never met him or heard his real voice. I know some writers are like that. When you read their books, it sounds like they are talkin’ to you. I bet Salinger could sound like Holden sometimes.

But you really just start to hate Holden. Or at least feel so bad for him you get uncomfortable and want to throw the book at the wall. You want to say, shut up. But he never does. It’s good it’s a short book. Seriously.

But I’m the kind of guy that must not understand some classics, like The Great Gatsby and all, which Holden likes. Maybe they’re more intelligent than me. It’s the same in museums. Everybody stands in front of a lousy picture of a guy with an eye painted on his chin, for godsake, talkin’ about what it represents. It depresses me. I want to say something but then I don’t really feel like it. So I don’t.

Some guy told me that the Catcher in the Rye got so famous because it had so many cuss words. Back then I guess that mattered. Anymore it doesn’t. In the end I read every gorgeous word. Cuss words or not. I’m glad I did. It’s a book that makes you think and all. If you’re in the mood. Which I’m not.

Anyway, despite this phony review you should read “the Catcher in the Rye.” Especially since I’m not a lousy teacher tellin’ you you have to.

Eugene’s note: One of the things “the Catcher in the Rye” is famous for is its unique voice. As I read Salinger’s classic (no, no one made me), the voice gripped me. It is penetrating, consuming, irritating. I began to think in the disjointed, flowing, harsh, crazy, stream of consciousness fashion of Holden Caulfield. The result, if you the reader and the late Salinger will forgive me, is this new review of Salinger’s master-piece.

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Categories: Art, authenticity, Eugene C. Scott, Literature, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “J.D. Salinger Must Be Laughin’ His Ass Off: A New Review of an Old Classic

  1. Meghan

    I love the first sentence of A Prayer For Owen Meany too.

  2. Velllly interesting! You really channelled Holden/Salinger. I think his voice is contagious, because now my protagonist is sounding much more negative and snarky than usual. Oy!

    • Thanks, Beth. I can’t wait to read Kai sounding like Holden.

    • Will Hochman

      ? The faux Holden voice and attitude of the review were silly in my opinion. I like creative criticism, but I don’t like writers who get dazzled by their own performance in prose. Mr. Scott add’s little insight about the book and seems to be his own best audience.

      • Take that, Eugene!

      • Dr. Hochman: Thank you for reading and commenting, even though we disagree. To have someone who writes and teaches on Salinger weigh-in on my review was a surprise. The blogging world never ceases to amaze me.

        I’m sorry you found my review silly. Perhaps my attempt at “faux Holden,” as you call it, obscured my point that, despite Salinger’s strong writing and unique voice, this book may have been propelled into its classic status when English and Literature teachers added it to the cannon of must reads in order for young scholars to graduate from high school. This is not a new criticism of “Catcher” nor of other classics in the cannon.

        Also, I believe it is not silly to ask if the very fame a work of literature obtains is not counter to what the author sought to communicate, especially a work that hammers on the phoniness of the academic world.

        Further, I find it affirming of my point that a professor of literature would call a review silly that has as one of it’s points that the literary and artistic elite tend to control and dominate the conversation about any work of what they would call classic art, often demeaning and calling silly any who may not agree.

        Though, I must admit those points may have been obscured in the attempted humor and creativity of the piece. I also must admit, as you could tell, that I enjoyed writing the piece and experimenting with my own writing voice. But that is a secret sin most poets and writers find hard to let surface. I see nothing wrong with enjoying myself when I work. I know not everyone enjoys it equally but, to my surprise, some even enjoy it more than I do. That kills me, as Holden might say.

        Thanks again for your participation and opinion.

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