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“If a body catch a body coming through the rye”

J.D. Salinger’s classic The Catcher in the Rye offered something to me that had never happened before in the entirety of my reading life. Well, actually, it offered several things along those lines, but one stood out to me particularly. After reading only the first three or four chapters, I decided it was one of my favorite books.

I didn’t care how the plot turned out; I didn’t care how Holden Caulfield’s character developed. I didn’t care whether Holden stayed in New York City or went home or ran off to join the circus. I immediately fell in love with the narrative style, the vivid supporting characters, the vintage-yet-timeless atmosphere of the setting, and above all, Holden himself and all that he symbolizes. The fact that this was a classic I was being forced to read for school completely fell by the wayside. I read it as an extraordinary social commentary–not to mention an enjoyable, if somewhat depressing, story.

What is it about The Catcher in the Rye that appeals to me so much, besides the aforementioned basics? What launches it from simply an excellent book to an absolute favorite? As I’ve said to many, “Holden Caulfield is my spirit animal.” He and I see eye to eye on a lot. Given, we have vastly different outer selves–I doubt Holden would associate himself with such a nerd–but I saw many reflections. I’ll admit that The Catcher in the Rye‘s frequenting of banned books lists caters to my rebellious side. I love the idea that such a controversial book could attain such towering literary status.

Finally, I’m fascinated by the book’s central theme of death and how our society in general views it. I’m interested in the way these views effect those in mourning. What I take away from The Catcher and the Rye, at the heart of all the other commentary, is that the way we try to act as if death does not exist makes it impossible to properly grieve and move on, and that this is essentially what caused Holden’s depression and descent into mental instability. “If a body catch a body coming through the rye”: Holden wants to be able to save all the children from going over the cliff. After the deaths of his brother Allie and his classmate James Castle were swept aside, Holden was unable to move on and accept death for what it is. His is an eternal sort of character: stuck on a worn-down carousel of a life, read over and over again.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Book Rambles

 

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A fresh look at an old favorite

Recently (a few weeks ago, actually), I finished reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Okay, it wasn’t of my own free will. It was a school assignment, but bear with me here.

When I was small, probably no older than 8, my parents read it to me. Most of the story must have just bounced off me, because I didn’t remember much. Laurie, being a boy (I was still in my cooties phase), was instantly dismissed as unimportant. I related most to Amy, if only because she’s the youngest. In fact, the only event in the story that stuck with me was Amy’s pickled lime incident. Okay, I’m sure I thought, I know about school. I don’t have sisters, and there’s not a boy- ew- next door. But I’ve been to school!

Now, more than half a decade later, I picked up Little Women again, not remembering much and not expecting much. From those iconic first lines, I “knew” each March girl instantly.

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We’ve got father and mother and each other,” said Beth contentedly, from her corner.

I instantly fell in love with Little Women. Eventually– probably around the transition from Part First to Part Second– I started reading ahead of the assigned chapters to figure out what happened. I was foregoing my snappy, fast-paced fantasies for a dusty old assigned classic in my free time. Can you imagine that?

I’ll admit that Little Women does have its faults, at least in the eyes of the modern audience. It is a bit sentimental, and the story is liberally sprinkled with Victorian morals about shouldering our “burdens” and being grateful for what we have. Today’s girls probably find the childish antics and “I’ve learned my lesson” attitude of the March girls unappealing. I’d advise anyone having a tough time with Little Women to stick with it for a while. You’ll be grateful that you read it, in the end. Hopefully you’ll have enjoyed it a little. If anything, you’ll be more well-versed in literature.

If reading Little Women is a school assignment, well, sorry, I can’t help you with that. But if you just want to learn the story and can’t stand the book, why not consider watching a movie adaptation? I recommend the 1994 version, one of my own favorite movies. It’s excellent and keeps the sentimentality to a minimum. Maybe after watching the movie, you’ll want to read the book– a great strategy for parents and teachers to get their kids to read classics.

Okay, so say I convinced you to read Little Women. I hope I have. The perennial question girls ask each other once they’ve read the book is, “Who do you think I’m most like, Meg, Jo, Beth, or Amy?” There’s ladylike Meg, tomboyish, literary Jo, quiet, gentle Beth, and artistic, romantic, Amy. Most people tell me I’m like Jo because of my reading and writing, but my mother says that my personality is most like Amy’s.  I’ll take her word for it. If you can imagine a girl who has Jo’s interests and Amy’s personality, that’s me!

I wouldn’t have missed reading Little Women again for the world. I’m now a devotee. There’s an indefinable something about it that has managed to capture the heart of a reader of adventures and make her appreciate the real world, too. But don’t get me wrong– I’m still a fan of “sensation stories,” as Jo might have said!

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2011 in Book Rambles

 

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Guest Post by the Snow Shovel

(Since Allegra refuses to post a picture of herself, I figured I should, at least.)

Hey, it’s me, the family snow shovel. I’ve been working overtime with Allegra this weekend, clearing paths in the 6-inch snow so that everyone can walk around without ruining their designer shoes. Actually, no one in the house wears designer shoes, but who wants soaked feet, label-clad or otherwise? Exactly.

Since Allegra is complaining that she’s plum tired out from shoveling (“My fingers are cold! My back aches! My hair hurts!”), I volunteered to do the posting this weekend. As you may have guessed, she does not find snow  appealing. As she’s very grown-up (or so she says), she doesn’t like sledding or ice skating. Also, she’s outgrown her snow pants. Therefore, she limits her wintertime activities to shoveling the walkways, looking for animal prints, and sitting indoors. Me, on the other hand– I can’t get enough of it! There’s no business like snow business, after all (Ha ha! Get it? Snow business, like show business, only different? [No one appreciates snow humor anymore.]).

Admittedly, shoveling isn’t all fun and games. Being manhandled by various snarly humans isn’t enjoyable. Neither is being frequently whacked to knock off excess snow. Also, working with a tone-deaf teenager who sings “California Gurls” by Katy Perry repeatedly to pass the time– in the snow, no less– is an extremely trying experience. Well, that’s an itsy-bitsy fib. Allegra regaled me with her off-key renditions of “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga and “Breakeven” by The Script, too.

But I digress. I promised Allegra that this post would contain a minimum of griping and some mention of books. This is a book blog she runs, after all. Being a snow shovel, I don’t do much reading. From my limited experience, however, I do know that I prefer the classics. Allegra has just finished reading one of my favorites, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It’s such a timeless story, and Allegra has immensely enjoyed it as well. She’s also watching the 1994 movie version, in which a young Christian Bale plays Laurie. The look she gives the screen when he comes on sickens me.

Uh-oh. Now Allegra’s telling me to not say too much about Little Women, because she wants to write a post about it in a week or two. I just can’t win. Over and out!

 
 

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