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Read of the Week: The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

Written by The Reader, 5th July 2017

This week our read of choice is suggested by North West People and Project Manager Neil who is reminiscing with JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.

I first read Catcher In The Rye as a teenager. I identified with Holden Caulfield’s sense of isolation from his peers and his discovery of the adult world’s capacity for constant disappointment. Holden clumsily attempts to navigate through a new world of social mores and rituals, for which he has neither the skill nor the heart. Every teenager feels this way at some point in those tumultuous years.

I re-read the book as a parent approaching middle age. Holden’s voice took on a different resonance for me. This time, it was his sad and desperate need to protect the innocence of childhood that I identified with- expressed through his simple love for his little sister, and his fantasy role as protector of an idyllic childhood landscape that gives the book it’s title.

Free of sentiment, subtly humorous and achingly sad, this is a book for young people who think they want to be adults, and for adults who remember being young.

“Daddy’s going to kill you. He’s going to kill you,” she said.

I wasn't listening, though. I was thinking about something else- something crazy. “You know what I’d like to be?” I said. "You know what I’d like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice?”

“What? Stop swearing.”

“You know that song ‘If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye’ I’d like---“

“It’s ‘if a body meet a body coming through the rye’!” old Phoebe said. "It’s a poem by Robert Burns.”

“I know it’s a poem by Robert Burns.”

She was right, though. It is “If a body meet a body coming through the rye.” I didn’t know it then, though.

“I thought it was ‘If a body catch a body’”. I said. “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around---nobody big, I mean---except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff---I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.

Old Phoebe didn’t say anything for a long time. Then, when she said something, all she said was, “Daddy’s going to kill you.”

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