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.