June 29th, 2010


Salinger & book lists

A week or so ago, my mother said she was reading The Catcher in the Rye because she'd never read it. I warned her that she'd hate it, because I'm totally not a fan of the book. I feel no sympathy for the main character, who always struck me as this whiny overprivileged kid. My feelings might be driven by the fact that I read this book in high school just as I was becoming an emerging feminist. EVERY book we read in our english classes seemed to be about boys coming of age during the WWII era. The only time we read books where the main character was a female was if the class was split... we'd seriously have a month where there was a "girl book/boy book" and you got to choose what you'd read, so the guys wouldn't be forced to stomach something traumatic like The Awakening.

In the midst of this there was Catcher in the Rye, with my english teacher standing up there talking about how noble Holden is because he respects women so much more than his peers. I called bullshit. I thought the whole book still reeked with 1940s misogyny and just the fact that we were forced to read yet another book about these POOR OPPRESSED MALES was evidence to me that our culture hadn't made much progress since the 40s. I threw the same dart at Lord of the Flies, A Separate Peace, The Great Gatsby... you name it, I'd hate on it. Oh and it's not a book but seriously, Citizen Kane. I am not feeling sorry for that guy.

This week I decided to give Catcher another chance. Mom says I might have been forced to read it too early. I also have a good friend, Mr. Litzner, who really likes the book, and I've always given him crap about it, but he's not a dumb guy so maybe there's something there. I drove myself to the library yesterday which is a big deal, since it's my first time out of the house by myself without the baby since we had her! We have a nice little branch less than two miles from our house. I love the library, so really it doesn't take much to get me there.

I'm about 1/3 of the way through the book but already have been struck by a few ideas that I don't remember at all from the first time I read them... I don't think there's any way to make me a huge Salinger fan forever and I'll still stand by my earlier sentiments that my public school lit classes were sexist, but maybe I can look at Catcher in the Rye apart from that badness and see how it stands on its own?

Which drives me to this morning's burning question... I asked thequestionclub for their favorite and least favorite high school books, and I'd like to ask you all the same thing. What'd you like? What did you not like? And as a follow up, did you ever re-read a book you read in high school? Did it change for you?

Check back with me in a few days, I'll tell you how this all went for me.