The Classics Club: My Love Letter to Catcher in the Rye

Rereading a favourite classic at different stages of your life gives you different insights with each reading. Is there one classic you’ve read several times that also tells a story about you? asked of the Classics Club by Brona at Brona’s Books (Please stop by and check out Brona’s blog, it’s a beautiful, well done blog).

I think at least once in everybody’s life they are Holden Caulfield. I know when I originally read Catcher in the Rye I hate it. I threw it across the room, called the friend who told me to read it and ranted at him for nearly half an hour. I gave it a second chance a couple of months later, when I heard the way a couple of my friends were talking about it. The second time through it just clicked, and everything fell into place. I was head over heels for Holden and his story. Since then I’ve re-read the book at least once a year.

My copy is sitting on the top shelf of my bookshelf, in a prized location. It’s got a duct-taped spine, the white cover has finger print smudges and coffee stains on it. The rainbow on the upper corner is nearly rubbed off, the pages are dog-eared, highlighted and the margins are littered with my handwriting, cramped and tiny as I argue with Holden. It doesn’t close all the way, and there’s still a couple of post-it notes in between pages. I think I have a couple pages taped together. But I can’t bring myself to get a new copy. This is my copy. My Catcher in the Rye, my conversation with both Holden and Salinger. I wasn’t ever one to write in a book–I found it sacrilegious and just wrong. Until I came across this quote:

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

It was almost as though Salinger had given me permission to do what I previously thought was unthinkable. Going through the book page by page and really reading the words, committing them to memory and getting them caught in my mind, so much so that I felt myself falling into the compulsion to write ‘fuck you’ on things. Mainly sneaking up and doing so.

“when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “Fuck you” right under your nose.”

Catcher in the Rye reminds me with each reading that it’s okay to be a little bit of an asshole–that it’s okay to stick it to others before they stick to you. And to never, ever, be a phoney. As the years have gone by I’ve come to accept that I really am just a female Holden, and I’m okay with that. I’m a smart-ass, I have a big stupid laugh and I identify with not only his apathy, but the well hidden empathy he has.

“I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.”

Have you read Catcher in the Rye? Let’s talk about it….or any other book that you may have found your reflection in.


5 thoughts on “The Classics Club: My Love Letter to Catcher in the Rye

  1. I saw myself in Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. I come from a very analytical family and often felt out of place; it thrilled me to find someone like Anne Shirley who not only treasures her imagination and passion, but views those who lack them as the problem. I never knew there was another like me in the world!

    I felt similarly when I met Marianne Dashwood (Sense & Sensibility.) Again, here’s a girl who views passion and romanticism as an asset — as truly experiencing. I felt so reinforced by reading about them.

    • I love Anne! She’s such a wonderful character and I’m glad you found someone that you could identify with. I the book becomes that much better when we realize that the there’s a character just like us within the story. I haven’t read Sense and Sensibility, but that character sounds delightful.

  2. Wow what a love letter to CITR! I almost want to go back and read it again 🙂
    My stepson (age 16) recently read it for school and hated it. We figured it was a good thing that he didn’t identify himself with Holden or share his view of the world at this stage!
    I always identified with the sensible, responsible eldest child in all the books I read. My wildest dreams had me wishing I was more like Jo March though I realised I more like Meg than I wanted to admit!!
    Eleanor Dashwood and Anne Eliot are more kindred spirits.

    • I love the book, but I always feel a little silly trying to talk about it. It’s gotten such a ‘trendy’ or ‘hipster’ reputation that it’s gotten a bad name. My love for this book has no bounds though. I think I tend to go for the characters like Holden, or a couple others who simply stare at the world, daring it to bring on it’s worst–because I have to be the responsible one. It’s kind of fun to want to escape and raise a little Cain. 🙂 I have Little Women on my list to read, so I’m excited to see the women you’re talking about.

  3. I’ve never read it! Much badness on my part. I have this terrible thought that it’s a book I started and then put down – a little like you did, except I didn’t then return to it. Perhaps I will give it another go. It’s definitely one of those books that people rave about, so….
    Lynn 😀

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