I re-read J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye for bookclub. It was a good choice for bookclub because a) it was easy to get copies of the book (in fact I read a .pdf version the day-of) and b) it invited sustained discussion (I’ll be the first to admit our bookclub has the tendancy to wander off into talk of breastfeeding and the lastest Justin T. photo-op). S. gave the book high reviews, as did most others (though L. didn’t like it one bit), but in the discussion we circled around how much of liking the book was because we thought we *should* like the book given it’s canonical status (and adolescent attachment for those who had read it in their teen years).
It’s hard for me to separate the paratexts from the text in this case. I’m pretty sure I liked the novel, but I did find the middle bits something of a slog. Reminded me a bit of a children’s book ‘Are you my mother?’ as the wandering rabbit/fox/turtle is lost and encounters a number of different forest animals in search of the mother, each encounter promising the next and the predictability of the search something soothing, but also not much to inspire enthusiasm for plot. So as Holden wanders the city encountering the different forest animals of the city, his attempts to prove his adulthood (or mourn his childhood) are played out against these others who read him differently than he presents himself. As if the others see a wayward rabbit and he feels entirely Fox. The parts that are provocative or great are those you know from pop culture or reading it in highschool: the attempt to discern between authenticity and the phoney; the desire to protect something like innocence; the role of the moral mentor in ensuring a smooth transition to productive adulthood (and the consequences of the absence of such) and the negotiation of an emerging sexuality.
What’s your bookclub reading? What books have you found most generative for discussion? How (or do you) return to books you read as an adolescent as an adult? (Bookclub had this idea that in 2017 we’d choose our books as ‘return reads’: we’ll each choose a book we loved as a young adult and we’ll re-read them. This plan has obvious dangers (not the least discovering, as I did when attempting to re-read Gone With the Wind that my favourite childhood book was a lot of racist-crazy). ANYWAY. Discuss.