I was raised in a house where I was allowed to read whatever I wanted. When I ran out of books of my own, I perused my dad’s bookshelves and grabbed books from Vonnegut, Camus, and Updike to name a few. Nothing was off-limits and I’m so glad for that. I think one of the most patriotic things we can do in this country born of rebellion, born of independent thinkers who demanded to be heard and to be represented, is to always question things. Always quest for knowledge. Knowledge shouldn’t be denied because it isn’t pretty.
This year, to celebrate all of those lovely banned books that helped shape this rebellious country, I read The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. My husband bought it for me a few weeks ago after I mentioned the number of authors I admired who have discussed this book or the main character, Holden Caulfield, in their own books. I also mentioned that I’d never read it, myself.
Although I didn’t fall immediately in love with this book, I grew to appreciate it.
In these days of three act plays and definitive story and character arcs, I really struggled with where this story was taking me. I did find Holden’s character nicely flawed. Still, it was a very unusual portrayal of a teen. At first I didn’t know whether or not to find his stream of conscious ramblings endearing or annoying. It felt like listening to a one-sided conversation with my daughter when she’s off her ADHD meds. Not pretty.
By the second half of the book, I let go of any expectations and went along for the ride. Holden’s later more pensive and philosophical questionings I found insightful and worth exploring – many of these things we all think about, especially at that age. At least I know I did. Though, maybe I was a weird kid, too.
One thing that never bothered me was the use of strong language or discussion of sex. These issues always stayed within the context of character and relevance of the issue being discussed. Granted, I’m not easily offended by such things to begin with.
I enjoyed the book overall, enough to read it again. I actually think I need to read it a few more times, just to see the story as a whole, and then once more for it’s great little moments of insanity.
What book will you read for Banned Book Week?
Need suggestions? Check out these sites for some ideas: