The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
Having missed this book as a youth, I read it several years ago, but nothing like this experience. Not sure whether it’s because it’s in the American Novel course or because I’m reading with more discernment, but I loved it this time and appreciated it much more. Salinger captured the ennui, ambivalence, confusion, insecurity, and general angst of adolescence with a perfect ear for the dialogue, internal monologue, and argument with the world. Phonies, flits, and other false persons dominate Holden’s world as he struggles with school, peers, parents, teachers, etc to figure out who he is and what he wants to do. Other than deciding to be the catcher saving children from going over the cliff, he’s clueless about what he wants to do, both in the future and at that moment. Salinger’s rapid fire writing style elides over many symbols of the conflict between the sacred and the profane (The Secret Goldfish, the snowball, the baseball glove with the poetry). A brilliant novel!