Tag Archives: catcher in the rye

June’s meeting

We’re not doing very well at combining summer, bookclub, balconies, and wine. Yet again, bookclubbers were caught in the rain as we made our way to Le Lacustre for a noisy book club meeting. This month, our theme was “I’ve always meant to read”. In this case, The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger.

Once again, the group was split on this book. One side of the table loved the book – calling the story gripping, insightful and realistic. The other side weren’t too keen – for them the book was insufferable, boring, depressing. We had our first “no score” on the book (the book clubber in question erred between love and hate and so couldn’t come up with a number) but the average score of the book was 6.3 (on a par with The Reader)

Holden also divided the group. While some felt he showed compassion and maturity, others had very little sympathy for the character. Some felt that in order to truly understand what Holden was going through you’d have to be a teenage boy.

We started the discussion exploring Salinger’s writing style. We found it interesting that, although Holden continually berates his brother for “selling out” to Hollywood, the book is written in a style that would translate to screen incredibly well.

There was the sound of pennies dropping from one side of the table when it was established that Holden was writing the book from (spoiler alert) a mental institution. Suddenly a WHOLE LOAD of his character made more sense (which isn’t to say that those of the group who didn’t like Holden had any more sympathy for him – it just made his odd behaviour a little more understandable!)

Holden’s voice was very consistent the whole way through the book – was this because it was his authentic voice, or because he didn’t change or grow through the novel? We felt it was interesting that Holden seemed to be obsessed by small things. The ducks in the lake, the way the nuns held their basket etc. Why was this? (another spoiler: we don’t have the answers)

We had a little discussion about gender – specifically, did you have to be male to relate to the book (no) and what was up with the women in the book (some very interesting female characters whom Holden either admires or avoids)

Once more (as is becoming habit at book club recently) I then stopped taking notes. A couple of pithy phrases found their way into my notebook which I shall share with you for your delectation. Don’t get your hopes up

  • Violent book without violence (ed: deep!)
  • Chapters weren’t end of narrative (ed: profound statements galore)
  • Moments there are glimpses of madness  (ed: talking about the book or discussion here?)
  • Seemed simple but complex (ed: really?)
  • Too old to understand angst (ed: aren’t we all?)

Until next time!

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June’s book: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This month’s theme is “I’ve always meant to read…”


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.

The other choices for this month were:

  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  • The Group by Mary McCarthy
  • Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen