ON THE EDGE OF A CLIFF
Finally, the first of my Guardian challenge list done. I found Catcher in the Rye a very intriguing book, though I took some time to plough through it. One thing I figured is that nothing has changed in the 50 years since the book was published; we all have felt what Caulfield feels, at some time or the other.
The protagonist of the book is Holden Caulfield, who has just been kicked out of prep school. We see various students through his eyes, and follow him after he leaves the dorm in the dead of the night. Instead of returning home, he checks into a hotel, gets drunk and meets a prostitute, before sneaking into his house to meet his kid sister, Phoebe, who is the only one he seems to connect with.
One thing that struck me was the sense of loneliness throughout the book. Caulfield thinks everyone around him is phony, so he has no friends to speak of. In all his drunken ramblings, we sense how alone he is, and how much he misses his dead brother Allie. The talk about "phonies" permeates the book, and I sort of identified with it, remembering the countless times I have felt the same. Holden talks and thinks like an adult, but there is a part of him which wants to remain a kid forever. The book is realistic in its capturing of teenage rebellion and thought processes. Holden usually starts talking about something and ends up at a completely different point, much like the late-night discussions we had, where we started talking about what to study for the exams and ended up discussing the media's reaction after the Mumbai terror attacks. But there was something about the book I didn't quite like, something I can't really pinpoint. Maybe it was all the cussing, maybe it was Holden's adult experiences, I don't know. Sometimes I felt Holden himself was a big phony, for all his bluster.
Holden is like a lost soul, who has imbibed the jaded cynicism of the adult world without really knowing where he fits in. I am a little ambiguous about this book: it is accurate in its descriptions, but sometimes it seems so fake. Or maybe this is just the Holden Caulfield in me speaking.