Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Semester's Reading

Well, I finished Catcher in the Rye. It was an interesting read, in that the protagonist Holden becomes less and less sympathetic throughout the novel. I mean, the first couple of chapters are good - he was easy to relate to because his complaining was related to an uncomfortable environment, that is, his boarding school. Everyone's had a tough time at school, so it makes sense he would be very articulate about his unhappiness.

But he runs away, and keeps complaining. He bitches about every single goddamn thing (saying "goddam" every third word as well), and blames his own failures on everyone else. He's so depressed about all the "phonies" and "perverts" out there, and goes into such detail about how their phoniness is the reason he doesn't succeed in school or make any friends or have any happiness, that after the halfway point I was just dying to kick that pretentious little know-it-all prick in the balls. His sister even calls him on it - near the end of the book, she declares that he hates everything, and when she challenges him to name one thing that he likes, he clams up. He blames it on not being able to concentrate, but eventually calls on two things that he likes - his brother Allie (who is dead) and the time he spends with his sister.

Good Lord - when asked about what he likes, Holden relies on nostalgia, on things that are gone. He is almost literally sickened by difference and change, and wants everyone to be like him. I mean, come on. How can someone be so depressed at sixteen? I almost began to suspect he was taking stronger intoxicants than alcohol, because half the things that come out of his mouth sound like the utterly senseless bullshit that are always associated in the movies with being high. I mean, the title "Catcher in the Rye" - that comes from his dream job. When he thinks about it, his dream job would be to stand on a cliff, in front of a field of rye that children are playing in (apparently it's based on a poem), and just catch any kids that are veering too close to the edge. All fucking day. I remembering thinking, "Dude - are you high?" What the hell kind of job is that? Did you just imagine that at random?

Anyway, I was kind of glad I'm finished it. Whenever I read a book, I always end up getting the author's voice in my head, and I inadvertantly start narrating my life and describing things around me in that writer's style. And I really don't like having JD Salinger's voice in my head right now, because I keep inwardly describing things using the word "goddam" in every sentence, labelling perfectly young people as "old", and finishing every third phrase with "and all" (ex: "Old Sister #2 is such so goddam happy today, all sunshine and rainbows and all.").

Soon I'm going to be starting The World, which is a collection of Jan Morris' travel writings. I think it has the potential to be very interesting, especially since this chick used to be a dude. And boy, you sure can tell when you look at her author's photo!

After that, I'm reading another travel book - the journals of Captain Cook, which should be a fun read because a few years ago, I was given a book for Christmas called Stowaway, a fictional story about a boy who stows away on Cook's ship and shares his adventures. I can't afford to spiral read my textbooks this semester (spiral read = read one book each from each class, one after the other, then repeat), because I have more books in travel writing than I do in any other class, and they're also the biggest, meatiest books I have to read. Maybe I should go and start reading them now, while I have the time...

1 comment:

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