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Saturday, 11 July 2020

Catcher in the Rye... Redux

I've always liked the book Catcher in the Rye. The first time I read it, I just thought of Holden Caulfield as a whinger, who had just fucked up and was delaying getting a bollocking from his da'. Readings later in life revealed much more... At different times, I've thought he was narcissistic, selfish, nasty, or depressed etc. My first reading as a young person, totally missed the catcher bit. And although I loved the descriptions of night time, jazz dripping 50's New York, I didn't get the significance of it. I preferred John Updike. 

Back circa 1997, I worked for Shelter as a deputy manager. We'd have books donated, and in the shops I helped manage I loved to rifle through them, to help stock the shelves with decent quality stuff that would shift.

Books that were tatty or falling apart would be chucked. Sent to recycling (we got money for paper and cloth (rejected clothes etc). But now, and again I'd "rescue" one or two of the tatty, dead books and take them home if I thought they'd be interesting. I rescued a 1967 copy of Catcher in the Rye and sellotaped it together and reread it in 1999 and thought Holden was right about much in the world. His hate of the phoney and his acceptance that he should perhaps become phoney to protect his sisters innocence... and giving in in the end to all he had rebelled against, hit me as true as I emerged from my rebellion in my mid-late twenties University madness, into fatherhood.
His ultimate catcher in the rye story of taking the hit for Pheobe.

And then I reread it 21 years later (yesterday and today), and I realised that I hadn't thought before that Holden was actually suffering trauma... The trauma of his brother dying, the trauma of his friend killing himself because of being bullied, the trauma of being in boarding school, the trauma of the cold, phoney world he lived in.

I found this time reading Catcher in the Rye was much more touching than ever before. Understanding better that strange twilight time in life we go through, being able to see the falseness, phoniness around us, and trying to find a path away away from it.

And seeing how, rather than my first few simpler readings of it, ie. thinking how much of a whiney  arse Holden is... - on the contrary... - he is a tragic, kind, damaged, abused figure. Someone with an inner dialogue that is at once trying to figure out how to navigate a shitty few years in his life, and wanting to protect his sister, and catch Pheobe... and the other innocents.

I really enjoyed meeting Holden Caulfield again.

I'd really love to rescue this wee copy as it is in a dreadful state now. Anyone know anything about rebinding books?

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