Review: The Catcher in the Rye

This is the only book I’ve ever read where I didn’t have a clue what it was about before reading. My copy has no dust jacket, no blurb, no synopsis. Which I think is interesting and worth mentioning. It puts you more immediately in the story, I suppose, and you never quite know what to expect.

That being said, I’ll provide a little synopsis here. (I do recommend reading the book first, though, so you can have the same experience I did.) Holden Caulfield doesn’t seem to be good at anything. He’s been thrown out of multiple boarding schools, and as the book starts he’s about to leave another one. Rather than going straight home, however, Holden decides to hole up for a few days in a New York hotel. This is the story of that weekend, and Holden’s journey of self-discovery during that time.

I read this a little while ago, so it’s not as fresh in my mind as my other reviewed books were. So I apologize if this sounds a bit ramble-ish, but I’m just going to go ahead and give you a series of observations I made while reading the book.

The thing that struck me most about Holden is that he’s very confused. He doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, and he doesn’t understand a lot of things about himself and about what he’s supposed to be doing. In this respect, Holden Caufield could be any adolescent. There are lots of people giving him advice and trying to tell him what to do, but he can’t accept any of that. He doesn’t want any of the answers they’re giving, and he’s not asking the type of questions they can answer (or perhaps they just don’t want to answer). He’s detached from society, an outcast, a loner, and he has to learn to discover his answers on his own.

Another prominent theme in the book is Holden’s loss of innocence, or his childhood, if you will. He lost his brother, with whom he had been very close, about a year prior to the events of the book. The whole time, he’ll go on little nostalgic trips, or he’ll see kids playing, or his little sister, and get sad. Because that’s another part of growing up, is realizing that you’re not a child anymore, and that you have to move along and get on with your life. I think Holden would absolutely love to be younger again, to have his brother back and to not have the weight of all this responsibility and to just be free. But he can’t, so he’s stuck in this nostalgic shadow of a life, eternally wishing for the Good Old Days to come back again.

At the same time, though, he’s trying to act like an adult. He tries to pick up older women. He lives by himself for a weekend. He hires a prostitute. He has a little bit of gray hair on the side of his head, which he uses to prove he’s older than he actually is. But the hair, at least for me, was a metaphor for all of his ventures in this area. He may have the hair, and he may show it off, but that doesn’t mean he’s actually an adult. It doesn’t mean he’s mature. With most of his stunts, it either backfires on him or he chickens out, proving to himself once again that, while he’s older than he wants to be, he’s also younger. He figures if he can’t be a kid anymore, he’ll be an adult, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s a long process and you can’t just jump to the end of it. There is no state of experience without first having the experiences. Holden, therefore, is stuck in between, unable to move back and unable to move forward fast enough. And so he doesn’t go through with anything. The women don’t like him. Holden ends up running to an old friend’s place to sleep. He pays the prostitute without sleeping with her.

Another short thing I want to touch on is Holden’s alienation. He’s completely alone, even though he knows all of these people in New York. And the thing is most of that’s his fault. He keeps insisting that he doesn’t really like anyone, that people are always “phonies”, that they are promise-breakers and thieves. He’s not the most likeable person in the world, either. It’s this alienation, I think, that makes him most like us. He’s the person we all know we are, deep down. He’s the critic, the one reluctant to trust, the one who thinks no one will understand him. And that’s the saddest part of all.

There’s a metaphor early on in this book about the ducks that live at a pond in Central Park: When the pond freezes over in winter, what happens to the ducks? Do they fly away or stick out the winter in the park? Catcher is, essentially, about the story of a duck, Holden, and his attempt to solve that question. The answer, he finds, is that he doesn’t know.

I think that could apply to any one of us who’s ever grown up or is in the process of doing so. We don’t fit in anywhere in society. We are in the midst of making a huge shift, and until we complete that shift we don’t belong with either children or adults. We are stranded and alone, just like Holden in New York. We are trying to carve our own paths. People will try to help us; people will try to give us answers. But the truth is we need to do this ourselves. We need to face our fears and our problems on our own, if only to prove to ourselves that we can.

There are, of course, many more things worth discussing in this book, but I think I’ll stop there. I highly recommend this, it’s an engaging read and is really powerful. This completes my literary fiction requirement for the Eclectic Reader Challenge (about which you can find out more by going to the Challenge tab). Next on the list is nonfiction, but I’m not sure when I’ll get done that just yet.

In the meantime I’ll end this post with a couple of videos. (“Again?” the readers moaned in unison.) Yes, again. I won’t apologize for showing you relevant educational video. Besides, how can you not love John Green? And he talks about the book in a way that is much more articulate and shows a much deeper understanding of the work than I could ever give you.

Happy reading.

Easing Back Into the Routine

I’m alive, everyone!

First off, my sincerest apologies for leaving you all so unexpectedly and for so long. I was really swamped with finals and couldn’t bring myself to simply make off with a LazyPost every week. It didn’t feel right to put so little effort into the ol’ blog.

But school’s over and I’m back now and that means hopefully getting back into the swing of things. This post is just going to be a little update on what I’ve got planned over the summer. Next week I’ll hopefully have a short story for y’all, so I suppose that’ll be the start of me seriously blogging again.

I’m once again working on the Project, which is what I’ll refer to my book attempt as because I seriously lack even a decent working title. What I had when I last spoke of it proved to be yet another false start, though this time I’m keeping a lot more of the plot points from the previous draft than I have with my other attempts. I’m hoping that means I’m getting closer to the real story, the one I’ve been trying to uncover this entire time, the one that needs telling.

What’s different from my previous drafts is that this time I’m actually writing an outline first. I decided that the reason I keep writing and writing and ultimately coming to a dead end is because most of the time I only have a vague idea of what I’m doing and where the story is going. There’s a lot of moving parts to my tale and an outline will help me keep them all straight.

Second order of business: the Eclectic Reader Challenge. Clearly the goal of a book each month has gone out the window, so I’ll be trying to finish as many books as possible over the summer. That means a bunch of reviews, which I generally don’t particularly enjoy writing, but I probably could use the practice. Right now I’m almost through The Catcher in the Rye, so I’ll be reviewing that shortly. Then, most likely, I’ll do Pride and Prejudice, and then get through the rest of the books in the sidebar there that I started and never finished.

Blog news: I’ve been given an award by the brilliant Kirsten, which I promise I’ll do a post on soon. I haven’t forgotten! That’ll come sometime in the next couple of weeks. Now that I’m blogging again, I’ll also be joining up with the Teens Can Write, Too! chain once more (kinda bummed that I missed out on this month, though, I love talking about covers).

I should probably tell you quickly about my high school’s summer reading books this year. The book that the entire school is reading is The Fault in Our Stars, thanks in part to my recommendation, and I’m super excited about it. Having been a nerdfighter for about eight months or so now, I absolutely love TFiOS and can’t wait for the student body to love it as well.

I have two other books to read as well, since I’m taking AP English next year: Dracula and a nonfiction called The Shallows, which is about how the Internet is affecting our minds and such. I’ve already read the former, which is a bit of a disappointment seeing as how now the only new book is a nonfiction, but I’m willing to give The Shallows a go. More on the summer reading will probably come in the future.

That’s how things stand for me in the literary world. I look forward to joining the WordPress community once more.

Happy reading.

LazyPost: John Green in Amsterdam

Readers, it is once again time to implement the LazyPost, in which I post something quick, easy, and not necessarily related to books because I’m busy with other things.

This is a video of John Green doing a talk-type-thingy in Amsterdam recently for The Fault in Our Stars.

Yes, I am still obsessed with the book.  Readers who have been with me for a while will know that I used to constantly nag them to read The Hunger Games if they didn’t already.  Well, now I’m nagging you to read TFiOS (which is what the title is often shortened to).

Please read TFiOS.

Okay, here’s the video, courtesy of Booksandquills on YouTube, who also did an awesome Dutch pronunciation guide video for the book.

WARNING: SPOILERS!

Happy Easter, and

Happy reading.

On Quotability

Some books are just really, really quotable.

You know the type.  A book that allows you to have a witty and obscure comeback for almost every conversation.  These books are different for all of us, but almost all of us have at least one.

Easily one of my favorite books now.

For me, it’s definitely The Fault in Our Stars.  I can’t talk about an action hero without at least thinking “You can’t kill Max Mayhem!“, and I find myself blurting the words, “WHAT IS THIS LIFE?!” if I’m surprised or if something good happens.  And there’s the ever-popular “I’m a big believer in metaphor, Hazel Grace,” when someone uses a metaphor.

Quotes don’t have to happen in conversation, either.  I know there’s been lots of instances where I’ve been with a friend who’s also read TFiOS (or another book) and we’ve just recited a few lines from a certain scene.

I don’t know what it is about certain books that make them ripe for the quoting, but I find it interesting to quote something and see if anyone gets it.  Of course, there’s the downside: if no one does understand it and the quote doesn’t quite fit the conversation (see above Max Mayhem reference), it looks a bit strange.

The life of a book nerd is hard sometimes.

There are other books that I like to quote as well.  For example, if someone makes a one-liner or a joke that fits, I’ll use Fred’s line from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: “With the whole wide world of ear-related humor before you, you go for holey?”  Come to think of it, the whole HP series has some good ones.

Naturally I don’t go around speaking in quotes all the time.  This is only if the opportunity arises and if I think of it in time, which admittedly does not happen often.  Most of the time, too, I only use these around someone I know who has read the book as well.  But I’m telling you, TFiOS really does have a lot of moments that have at least gotten me thinking about a quote during my everyday life.

Anyway, that’s what’s on my mind today, readers.  Do you have any books that you like to quote?  If so, which ones and which lines do you find yourself using?

And also this, which makes me feel ALL OF THE THINGS.

Happy reading.

The Awards Want to Get to Know Me Better

Today, readers, I would like to acknowledge my being given the same four (!!!) blogging awards by two different people: Allegra from Here’s to Us and Kirsten from Kirsten Writes!  I’d like to thank both of you for giving me such a generous slew of awards.*  *wipes away tears*  I’m sorry, I’m getting emotional.  Really, though, thank you both.  I think I’d better just get to the *sniff* awards, okay?

I’m going to cut this post off here, ’cause it’s a long one.

Continue reading

Going Public and Reading For the Authors

Readers, today I entered a writing contest.  I wrote a short story, printed it out, and mailed it to people I have never met in the hopes that they might read it and enjoy it.  Needless to say, this wasn’t easy for me to do, given that I don’t normally like it when people read my stories.  I’ve never been comfortable with this.  Everything I put down on paper just seems too personal to give out to the world.  My friends and family will certainly attest that I’m reluctant to share my writing.

Why is this?  Is it because I fear they will tell me I’m a horrible writer?  Or some other reason?  I don’t know, but I need to get over this sort of literary shyness if I’m going to ever make it as an author without having nervous breakdowns every time something’s published.  Other people reading your work is inherent in being a writer, which is why I’m so puzzled by my inability to not get all nervous about it.

I think this was one of the reasons I started blogging: to get over this dread of people reading what I write.  After all, you’re all reading this now, and I’m perfectly okay with that.  I think this blog helped me a lot in getting to the point where I can do things like this contest.

My worries about this subject inevitably lead to the simple fact that writing is a very personal process.  Every time I write something, at least a fictional something, I leave a little bit of me in the pages, in the plot and the characters.  And that’s a scary thing, to put something like that, something I’ve worked on for a while, something I feel close to and am proud of, into the world.  To let everyone, from good friends to people I don’t even know, read it and comment on it and tell me what they think of this thing I’ve created.

Anyway, there you have it.  I’m planning to post that short story on Novel Journeys starting in a couple of weeks.  So I guess you have that to look forward to, if you like reading that sort of thing here.

ON TO ANOTHER TOPIC!

So, ever since reading The Fault in Our Stars, I’ve been basically on a literary rampage, trying to get my hands on every John Green book I could (admittedly, he’s only written three others, but still).  My school library has both An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns, the former of which I have finished and the latter of which I will finish in the next day or so.  I’m really enjoying both of these books, which is remarkable in that I don’t usually read books because of the author.  I read books for their story or their title, but here I made an exception.  I’m reading these because John Green wrote them, and I’m having a remarkably pleasant time doing so.

This has taught me that reading for the author can sometimes be quite rewarding.  I had known this before, and with some authors I’ll read anything they write, but this is different.  I was first introduced to John through his Vlogbrothers channel on YouTube, so I suppose you could say that I even read The Fault in Our Stars just because he wrote it.

It’s a different approach to a new book, but it’s been fun.  And that’s about all I have to say on the subject.  Tomorrow I’ll be posting for this month’s TCWT blog chain, so, at the risk of sounding clichéd, stay tuned!

Happy reading.