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Catcher in the rye

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Catcher in the rye

Postby Shilo2010 » Wed, 12 Oct 2005 7:57 pm

I am three quarters of the way through Catcher in the Rye.
I don’t get it. I appreciate the first person perspective but find the character lacking in depth and insight. Holden’s assessment of the people in his life and the world around him seem’s shallow. His depression and habitual exaggeration seem forced, as if the author where trying to hard to find character depth by re asserting these two idiosyncrasies over and over again. At one point Holden becomes curious about what happens to the ducks in the Central park pond in winter, would this be indicative of a 19 year old college educated American in the 1950’s ? I think the only passage that jumps out at me so far that I could attribute the novels success to is the part where Holden expresses his observation that no matter how many times one visit’s the museum of natural history over the years , nothing ever changes, The exhibits remain frozen in time. The only thing that changes is the observer. That was insightful.
So why is this novel considered “great American literature”

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Postby k1w1 » Wed, 12 Oct 2005 9:45 pm

Yeah, I had to read it at high school and didn't get it. I tried again years later, and while I get the story (I think the thing is, that there is nothing really to it) I have to say I agree with you: why make a big deal out of it.

On the other hand: "to kill a mockingbird" is powerful stuff.

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Postby Wham » Thu, 13 Oct 2005 1:44 pm

You know, it is funny that as i get older and look back on some of the things that i have learned i often find myself angry over one thing - there are so many things that teachers and elders did NOT teach - but could have. And in the case, the thing about a great novel (or work of art for that matter) - is that in retrospect the greatness is NOT in that the work of art is inherrantly great - but that it represented something new - something that had not been done in quite the same way before - and that THIS is what makes it memorable. Think of the first guy to draw a square on a cave wall. In retrospect, it was nothing. But because it was the FIRST EVER square that was draw by a human hand - it was great.

And so, i think that the greatness of Catcher in the Rye is not that it is a spectacular novel (because it is a little sad and depressing), but that it captured a moment in history - 1950s America - and the sense of disolusionment and detachment that was felt by one young man - and in some way captured a beautiful snap shot of 1950s America - and also foreshadowed the disolusionment that became rampant in the 1960s and let to the counter-culture movement of the 1960s. Another great thing about the novel is Holden's pre-occupation with and hatred of Phonyness. This seems obvious now, but imagine if you were being spoon fed crappy 1950s Hollywood movies with European Americans playing American Indians & Chinamen - and watching Ozzy and Harriet on tv - and then along comes some novel where a smart ass kid says - "you know what - i hate all this phony crap" - i guess it must have been refreshing at the time.

Nevertheless, to my mind - "The Great Gatsby" is a much better novel.

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Postby Shilo2010 » Thu, 13 Oct 2005 2:46 pm

Wow.
You have a good mind, I can see the truth of what you say.
I'm going to need some time to digest your thoughts.Thanks for the refreshing perspective.

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Postby Wham » Thu, 13 Oct 2005 3:24 pm

thanks - sometimes i wish i was a teacher becuase i love books so much - and most teachers that i had were crap at really explaining things well.

...and here is an odd but true story. My older brother ran away from home in the erly 1970s and then ended up in a "special school" in NYC. One day he skipped school and took some A and ended up in SERIOUS trouble after wandering around the Museum of Natural History and skipping school and all. I was quite young at the time, but i remember thinking that he was so much like Houlden Caufield. Was not sure if it was good or bad - but it was very real - and very strange.

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Postby Shilo2010 » Thu, 13 Oct 2005 3:41 pm

I'm Australian. I lived in the States for three and a half years. I lived in Redbank NJ for ten months. I remember my first trip to NY city. I climbed onto the subway and then just walked all day. I remember the duck pond in Central Park, the Museum of natural history, Radio city ect ect.Boy did I have big eyes that day. Few things in my life generate the kind of awe I felt, just being there, for the first time. It really is an amazing city.

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Postby Wham » Thu, 13 Oct 2005 3:46 pm

What were you doing in Redbank? I spent a fair amount of time down there to see friends and family...

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Postby Shilo2010 » Thu, 13 Oct 2005 3:50 pm

Truth is I was having a break. My wife (American) is in IT and had a contract at the nurses asosiation (right on the bridge there). I spent ten months sleeping late and sight seeing although I did do two photography courses while in Redbank which added greatly to my enjoyment of my trip's into NY.

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Postby Wham » Thu, 13 Oct 2005 4:02 pm

I think it would be a nice place for a break. I have friends that live along the shore there. My folks also live in Holmdel which is nearby but has too many malls for my taste - but a convenient place for commuting to NY. I used to live by the Museum of Natural History and go running in Central Park every morning - a great place to live.

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Postby sapphire » Thu, 13 Oct 2005 4:20 pm

Wham wrote:Nevertheless, to my mind - "The Great Gatsby" is a much better novel.

Wham, for once I agree with you! :D

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Postby Wham » Thu, 13 Oct 2005 4:23 pm

Come on Saphire...... I am sure that you secretly agreed with me many more times but just didn't want to admit it publicly!

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Postby sapphire » Thu, 13 Oct 2005 4:56 pm

Haha, dream on...
It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you.

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Postby Shilo2010 » Fri, 14 Oct 2005 10:59 pm

I finished Catcher in the Rye. While I still feel it's no work of literary genius, after Whams comment I was able to see the true value of the novel as a work of social conscience. It really was a terrific observation. Thanks for helping me see the importance of this work.

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Postby banana » Sat, 15 Oct 2005 6:35 pm

You know you're going to move on to Simulation and Simulacra next.
some signatures are more equal than others

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Postby Shilo2010 » Sat, 15 Oct 2005 7:42 pm

:o :shock: :o


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