For Readers Who Struggled: The Catcher in the Rye Book Review of J.D. Salinger’s classic.
This review is aimed for readers who struggled to understand this novel.
I hope you can see my perspective and that maybe you will give this novel another try so that you can appreciate the genius and insight this book has to offer. You don’t have to love it, but I hope you will grow to respect it.
Many of us have read this classic during high school: WARNING! there will be sufficient SPOILERS.
J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. It has been frequently challenged in court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality.
This book rises above controversy and debate, and that is part of what makes it such an interesting read.
The Catcher in the Rye certainly isn’t for everyone, but I find it a compelling and exciting read.
It has a hearty dose of realism mixed with some humor that is contrasted with moments of depression and emotional pain.
Despite being written in 1951, many teenagers today are still able to relate to the various themes presented throughout the novel. Teenagers can often relate because of the complex themes of rebellion, identity, and independence.
This modern classic falls into a coming-of age-genre and a good one at that.
Personally, I find the main character absolutely intriguing. I find it fascinating to get inside the head of the strange, rebellious Holden Caulfield.
The book begins with Holden directly addressing you, the reader. He begins to retell the events over a three-day period from the previous December.
His story starts at Pencey Prep, a prestigious boarding school filled with, what Holden calls, “phonies.” Although Holden tries to “play it off cool,” the reader can tell, early on, that he his quite lazy and completely clueless about his direction in life.
Holden is on a destructive path carrying his guilt, pain and loss, as it leads him in no direction.
Throughout his escapade in New York, he seeks meaning, help, and guidance, yet avoids these needs with indulgences and distractions – just trying to feel something other than pain.
He seeks out his teacher’s console because he needs to talk to someone who isn’t a phonie – he wants someone that will truly listen and provide guidance. He is in pain and feels hopelessly lost – even if he doesn’t admit this to himself.
There is no scheduled outline designed by the writer. Nothing advancing the plot: no rising action, conflict, or resolution – in the traditional sense. This is a broken teenager’s story of the chaotic last couple of days before he was admitted into the hospital.
The story erupts when all of his repressed emotions finally burst to the surface and crash his whole world down. All his acts of rebellion only are masking the pain of his grief.
The entire book is essentially one long flashback.
He is retelling the events he experienced prior to being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. After reading the last page of this story, think back on what you have read with this new perspective you have just gained.
Imagine you are a patient in the hospital with Holden. This story is the conversation you two are having. He is telling you why he is here – what led up to this point of you sitting next to him.
And just as his personal story is getting more and more difficult to tell, he stops abruptly, shifts the blame to you “not wanting to bore you with his story” in order to defend himself from sharing any more of his personal sorrow.
To me, Salinger’s speech is so important. When you’re depressed and can’t get out of your own way, you can’t think; you get stuck on thoughts.
This is why Holden is constantly repeating and often contradicting himself. He can’t make sense of anything.
He is so guilt stricken from the death of his brother. It is always on his mind. He constantly comes back to it because he hasn’t gotten over it. It bothers him that the world has moved on – that his family has moved on.
He’s stuck in a loop of survivor’s guilt. His life stopped when his brother died and he isn’t willing to move on. Holden has been lost for some time.
What I think readers miss most about this story is that, although Holden is the protagonist of this story, he is not a character you should idolize. In fact, the opposite is true.
Holden’s character is meant to personify the “lost soul.”
We may all be able to identify with a piece of him and if you do you should recognize that you, like Holden, need help – hopefully before you lose your way completely and fall down the rabbit hole.
He personifies the struggle most teens face when they begin to enter the adult world. You need to be able to sort out the “phonies,” call the bullshit, start to tackle your own inner demons, seek help, and find your own way.
To each their own; we all have our own demons.
Maybe it’s my psychology background that makes me want to psychoanalyze Holden, so keep in mind this is my perspective – what I see in Holden. At the very least I hope you can try to see that point of view.
One of the greatest insights this novel has to offer is in the mind of Holden Caulfield – the mind of our mentally wounded.
The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.
J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time’s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and in the 1950’s and 60’s it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read.
Paperback, First Back Bay Paperback Edition (US/CAN), 277 pages
Published January 30th 2001 by Back Bay Books (first published July 16th 1951)\
Chuck Palahniuk: THE INVENTION OF SOUND loudly grips readers in the author’s newest thrilling and genre-defying resonation.
What a premise: A father’s decades-long search for his missing daughter. A young woman about to engineer the perfect scream.
The most dangerous secret Hollywood has ever kept.
It is difficult to describe the complex, yet beautifully scripted story of revenge or redemption, of murder or madness that ensues in the land of Hollywood’s darkest alleys and brightest-lit red carpet premieres in Chuck Palahniuk’s newest novel The Invention Of Sound.
The story is woven together out of many tangled and disjointed threads and unreliable points of view that collectively form as impactful and gutting a tale as Fight Club, Diary, or any of the great stories from Chuck Palahniuk.
This book will floor you and/or make you pass out (likely smiling).
That much is conveyed by the cover’s spattered watermelon.
Once you smash the watermelon, you cannot remake the sound of splatter, or piece back together the fragile fruit once held within.
Once the entire story of The Invention Of Sound is told you cannot unknow or forget the frightening ‘trade knowledge’ and mayhem that sounds so thunderously.
Here is the story synopsis, and the book review continues below:
Published September 8th 2020 by Grand Central Publishing
Gates Foster lost his daughter, Lucy, seventeen years ago. He’s never stopped searching. Suddenly, a shocking new development provides Foster with his first major lead in over a decade, and he may finally be on the verge of discovering the awful truth.
Meanwhile, Mitzi Ives has carved out a space among the Foley artists creating the immersive sounds giving Hollywood films their authenticity. Using the same secret techniques as her father before her, she’s become an industry-leading expert in the sound of violence and horror, creating screams so bone-chilling, they may as well be real.
Soon Foster and Ives find themselves on a collision course that threatens to expose the violence hidden beneath Hollywood’s glamorous façade. A grim and disturbing reflection on the commodification of suffering and the dangerous power of art, THE INVENTION OF SOUND is Chuck Palahniuk at the peak of his literary powers—his most suspenseful, most daring, and most genre-defying work yet.
The following TFF Book review of Chuck Palahniuk’s The Invention Of Sound is Spoiler-free*****.
Few books can grab a reader like this one does, and that grip is at times painful as the pages fly.
The Invention Of Sound is utterly riveting, from start to finish.
One could easily read The Invention Of Sound in a couple of long sittings.
The suspense, perverse humor, pervasion fun for fun-sake (or was it?), and the churlish attitudes and deeds of most of the main characters – from Mitzi’s cult-like obsession to a craft she loves and hates, just as she seems to love and hate herself, to the masochistic lengths a father goes to searching for a daughter gone for nearly two decades (and you cringe just reading of his process) – make for some of the most memorable characters and scenes south of the HOLLYWOOD sign in the Hollywood Hills.
For those squeamish of violence and gore, or equally as unnerving, the life of aging actors, be warned, Mr. Palahniuk pulls no punches and crosses new bounds.
The interwoven twists and mysteries grow clearer and hazier as each additional page goes bye.
And with a wallop the ending does not disappoint as it screams oh so delightfully.
In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”
In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.
As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.
On Sale: September 10th, 2019
Page Count: 576
The horror within The Institute certainly grips you.
But this is not strictly a book of ‘horror,’ though there are many horrific things depicted therein.
Rather the book is parts thriller and science fiction, and like many of the author’s books that have been labeled ‘horror,’ it a cross-genre work at its heart.
The story contains a number of truly wicked and unsettling depictions of humanity, including the Nazi-like experimentation on children and young adults with psychic abilities.
But there is also a remarkable resilience and a compassion of human character in the tale too.
Overcoming the odds while remaining a morally-centered young person may or may not be possible for the likes of Luke Ellis and company.
The protagonist Luke is twelve-years-old.
From his experiences as an extremely bright kid that is ever seeking mental challenges to his courageous new best friend under the dire circumstances of imprisonment, Kalisha, to the good cop driven off the job, Tim, all stand apart in myriad ways.
And then there is ten-year-old Avery Dixon who is much younger than the majority of teenagers with telekinetic and psychic powers that have unwantonly been abducted and then inducted into the place they all refer to simply as the Institute.
For a boy to go through being separated from his parents and kidnapped and then tested upon, such atrocities, such utter emotional devastation, as does Avery, it pulls at and tightens the chest with anxiety for this kid as the story unfolds.
Numerous surprises occur in the plot and they often catch the prisoners in the Institute off guard, to say the least.
You feel for the characters in the book, and you grow to utterly despise most of the ones that are working for The Institute.
Few people have ever creeped me out like Mrs. Sigsby, or her remote, soft-spoken boss.
The troop of doctors appear to be enjoying their work with human lab rats and the attendants are all very aware that they have participated in the kidnapping and torturing of children.
The labs, the Institute itself, becomes one of the most impactful characters in the work.
The book’s setting largely takes place inside a hidden laboratory facility with multiple buildings and prison-like security that is hidden in an isolated forest area in Maine.
It is a whole other level of creepy, in terms of both the psychological elements in the surroundings, from retro posters hinting at the age of the place and their consistently warped messages, and the feel of the old-time secret underground cold war lab that has survived in the 21st century.
And the methods for getting the children to comply with the Institute’s rules and orders, carrot and stick methods, would be heinous if they were done to adults. Yet they are being done to kids.
You can feel the heavy cement of the compound’s outer walls as if they were rough under your hand.
It is truly a fortress meant to prevent kids from escaping and to prevent them from being found.
Readers grow to hate the Institute, to hate that god-awful place, just as the characters do.
As Sai King says, the characters come to life and choose their path, making the story.
The Institute even has an air of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer adventuring to it, though this is bleaker in some ways than Mark Twain’s classics.
For one thing, the protagonist Luke Ellis will almost surely experience PTSD the likes of which Tom and Huck could not have ever fathomed.
I see The Institute as a story tied to a King masterpiece, Firestarter, though there are stark differences between the two.
Firestarter has been a great influence on pop culture, and especially the Netflix show Stranger Things, and I would not be surprised if The Institute becomes another great influencer as time goes on.
The Institute is a gem of a tale!
To say Stephen King is a prolific writer, is a given, but his writing is phenomenal.
There is no one like Stephen King.
That is not to say that all of his books are favorites of mine, don’t murder me Constant Readers, but I do appreciate all of his works, his top-notch level of writing, the fully-fleshed innumerable characters he creates, and the master storytelling, even in those tales that do not resonate as strongly with me.
And many of his books are among my favorite works of literature, of all-time, and The Institute has become one of these, just as Firestarter is.
And as we head further into 2020’s Coronavirus social distancing self-quarantines with more reading time on our hands, anyone who has not given this book a read, or a re-read, may want to peruse this Spoiler-Free book review and feel inspired to read the newest (from 2019) from the author of The Stand.
At over sixty novels, The Institute proves Stephen King is still at his best.
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