Here I go again…the same recurring feeling of emptiness. Is there a cure for it? Is there a way of filling that “thing” some books leave in you? It is not that after finishing a book you don’t have this emotional and spiritual gift that makes you embark on the next book. It is just that when you are getting to the last pages, the feeling of “please, don’t leave me” makes you aware of the world that awaits you…the real one. However, this can be an experiencial nirvana that could last some days if your book happens to be THE book.
Anyways, what I usually do is going back to my favorite passages and reread it. So many dialogues you want read again! Another thing I love doing is going online and searching everything I can on the author or the book. It gives me the idea that I’m not alone…that there are hundreds out there going through the same ordeal. Forums, reviews, fan pages, everything!
So, the book here is the brilliant novel The Catcher in the Rye. I had bought it long ago before deciding to read it. Something told me it was a complete different thing from what I just read. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know what it was about. I prefer not to know what some classics are about…I keep trusting the good advice of intelligent readers and I haven’t gotten disappointed…yet!
But this one, The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger) was a very beautiful surprise. Holden Caulfield has become one of my all time favorite characters (together with The Magic Mountain’s Hans Castorp; Norwegian Wood’s Toru; Jane Eyre). He is the kind of man I would love to meet for a chat or a beer. The kind of character that opens his heart to you, no matter what you might think of him. The book starts like this:
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, an what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.
And it goes on with brilliant stories, dialogues, characters so well described, story so well told in first person, that I particularly adore!
“What did Dr. Thurmer say to you, boy? I understand you had quite a little chat.” “Yes, we did. We really did. I was in his office for around two hours, I guess.” “What’d he say to you?” “Oh. . . well, about Life being a game and all. And how you should play it according to the rules. He was pretty nice about it. I mean he didn’t hit the ceiling or anything. He just kept talking about Life being a game and all. You know.” “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.” “Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it.” Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right–I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game.
Holden describing himself:
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. So when I told old Spencer I had to go to the gym and get my equipment and stuff, that was a sheer lie. I don’t even keep my goddam equipment in the gym.
Holden loved reading!
I read a lot of classical books, like The Return of the Native and all, and I like them, and I read a lot of war books and mysteries and all, but they don’t knock me out too much. 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. I wouldn’t mind calling this Isak Dinesen up. And Ring Lardner, except that D.B. told me he’s dead. You take that book Of Human Bondage, by Somerset Maugham, though. I read it last summer. It’s a pretty good book and all, but I wouldn’t want to call Somerset Maugham up. I don’t know, He just isn’t the kind of guy I’d want to call up, that’s all. I’d rather call old Thomas Hardy up. I like that Eustacia Vye.
On his friends:
You remember I said before that Ackley was a slob in his personal habits? Well, so was Stradlater, but in a different way. Stradlater was more of a secret slob. He always looked all right, Stradlater, but for instance, you should’ve seen the razor he shaved himself with. It was always rusty as hell and full of lather and hairs and crap. He never cleaned it or anything. He always looked good when he was finished fixing himself up, but he was a secret slob anyway, if you knew him the way I did. The reason he fixed himself up to look good was because he was madly in love with himself. He thought he was the handsomest guy in the Western Hemisphere. He was pretty handsome, too–I’ll admit it. But he was mostly the kind of a handsome guy that if your parents saw his picture in your Year Book, they’d right away say, “Who’s this boy?” I mean he was mostly a Year Book kind of handsome guy. I knew a lot of guys at Pencey I thought were a lot handsomer than Stradlater, but they wouldn’t look handsome if you saw their pictures in the Year Book. They’d look like they had big noses or their ears stuck out. I’ve had that experience frequently.
On his sister…a beautiful and loving relationship!
Old Phoebe. I swear to God you’d like her. She was smart even when she was a very tiny little kid. When she was a very tiny little kid, I and Allie used to take her to the park with us, especially on Sundays. Allie had this sailboat he used to like to fool around with on Sundays, and we used to take old Phoebe with us. She’d wear white gloves and walk right between us, like a lady and all. And when Allie and I were having some conversation about things in general, old Phoebe’d be listening. Sometimes you’d forget she was around, because she was such a little kid, but she’d let you know. She’d interrupt you all the time. She’d give Allie or I a push or something, and say, “Who? Who said that? Bobby or the lady?” And we’d tell her who said it, and she’d say, “Oh,” and go right on listening and all. She killed Allie, too. I mean he liked her, too. She’s ten now, and not such a tiny little kid any more, but she still kills everybody–everybody with any sense, anyway.
On his relationship with girls:
That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can.
I don’t want you to get the idea she was a goddam icicle or something, just because we never necked or horsed around much. She wasn’t. I held hands with her all the time, for instance. That doesn’t sound like much, I realize, but she was terrific to hold hands with. Most girls if you hold hands with them, their goddam hand dies on you, or else they think they have to keep moving their hand all the time, as if they were afraid they’d bore you or something. Jane was different. We’d get into a goddam movie or something, and right away we’d start holding hands, and we wouldn’t quit till the movie was over. And without changing the position or making a big deal out of it. You never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was, you were happy. You really were.
I could go on and on citing passages of Holden’s life. What a life for someone who’s just seventeen!