This one is a lot of fun. Our English teacher had us all write a book report in the form of a letter to a friend. Very weird and artificial, to write a fake letter. You have to invent characters and a back-story and such, and then gently segue into a discussion on literature, like it's something 10th graders do all the time in the letters the write to each other. Fyi, I have never had a friend named Jimmy.
3-- P------- S-
C-------, MD 2-----
May 11, 1998
Hey, bro! Ya really beat me in hockey Saturday. Take it easy already! Your slapshot is getting too mean for your (and my) own good. Say, I just finished the book of the century. You’ve got to read it. It’s called Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. It’s a classic tale about a boy named Holden Caulfield and his coming of age in a world of ironies and sadness. And we all know about that, don’t we?
The characterization is so cleverly done, that you wouldn’t even know anything is being explained. Just, sort of gradually, you know everybody intimately. Some characters, like D.B. (a writer friend) or Jane (an ex-girlfriend) you never meet or “talk” with, but Holden lets drop pieces about them throughout the book, so the story isn’t hurt. Holden also uses very informal English and swears like an amateur (“...I went and brushed my Goddammed teeth...”), so the image of a late adolescent remains vivid from beginning to end. The best part is that Salinger leaves some room for the imagination to fill in some gaps and make the novel much more real to the reader. I would consider this book a masterpiece of characterization.
The plot is an interesting one. It deals mainly with Caulfield, who is failing out of schools everywhere, and after being booted once more, decides not to go home, but attempt a “real” life in the world. This plot remains undefined and broken, so the reader must stay focused on the book from A to Z. Even so, I believe that this makes the book a better read, not more difficult. I think that if a reader endures as an intellectual, any story will seem more real. Keep this in mind. Another great thing about a vague plot is that other characters fit neatly into it at almost any and every point in the story. This unique plot and “lay-person” format allow the very moving themes to rise to the surface quite easily.
And what themes they are! This book asks really deep questions. Why do we put up with all the phoniness (Holden hates, above all things, anything that is phony)? It really made me realize all the crap I put up with in my life. And how about adolescent angst and sadness that we teens must face? That is one of the main themes of this masterpiece. Holden is constantly facing things that depress the life out of him. He feels very alone in New York, and finds comfort only with his sister, Phoebe. These topics are cleverly brought to light by Salinger, the genius.
This book explains a lot of puzzling ideas about growing up. I recommend it highly to you. You should definitely read it. Call me when your done, and we’ll compare notes.
P.S.--It makes a great book report, too.