Palatinate book club: The Catcher in the Rye
Catcher in the Rye is famously popular. It’s also short, which initially endeared it to me, and my edition of Adrian Mole said that it was “the best book since Catcher in the Rye” on the blurb on the back.
It is a great book for re-reading. Again, this is partly because it’s short. But at least in my mind, Catcher’s plot is so unmemorable, that you never feel as if you’re repeating yourself.
There’s a place for the proto-mythic awareness of plot that we have for something like A Christmas Carol or The Matrix but Catcher is a novel that does not need your attention. The novel takes your gaze and turns it back on your own self.
Not in any serious way, of course. It is not a serious book. Think how many times it uses the word ‘phoney’. In his narration Caulfield is knowingly yet artlessly, shabbily consumed with the reader.
Catcher was Salinger’s only novel, so why has it achieved such a lasting place on our bookshelves? Ask yourself why you picked it up. The outstanding feature of the novel is, of course, its popularity.