All you need to know about the books you meant to read
CATCHER IN THE RYE (1951) by J D Salinger
Saturday 20 April 1996
Theme: The teenager as existential anti-hero.
Style: The snazzy demotic can be both banal and funny; yet there are hair-line traces of pathos as the language cracks under the pressure of feeling.
Strengths: Given the futility of Holden's quest, it could be gloomy. But the book skips along.
Weakness: Holden's naivete can lurch into cuteness. The novel does not resolve his dilemma.
What they thought then: Coming just after the war, the book's condemnation of adult posturing hit precisely the right note.
What we think now: A nice present for 15-year-olds. The underpinning philosophical alienation is skated over.
Responsible for: Making people take adolescence seriously. Inspiring John Lennon's killer; he thought Lennon "a phoney".
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