Holden Caulfield Provides Perspective, October 12, 2011
By coolreviewer1 "coolkayaker1" (Fox Valley, Illinois USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 250 REVIEWER)
This review is for: The Catcher in the Rye (Paperback), JD Salinger
If you really want to hear about it, when I told my story over fifty years ago, I thought it'd be just a bunch of phony people who read it on a bus or something and then it'd be tossed in the trash and that'd be it. But, for some goddam reason, everyone wants to keep hearing my story, and it's corny as hell, really. They all read this book with pies in their eyes and try to figure out the darndest things, like when I asked the cab driver about what the ducks in the pond do in the winter and all. They think I was talking about myself, and feeling gloomy from being thrown out of school or something.
Did it ever occur to anyone that I may just care a whole hell of a lot about ducks?
When I was thrown out of Pencey Prep before that Thanksgiving, my life was all but over. Sure, I knew that Stradlater and the others would have swell jobs down on Park Avenue someday, but I sure wouldn't after getting bumped out of that place. I just knew it was over and beyond my control, you know, like when people spray paint "fuck you" all over the walls and doors of buildings. You can turn away, but there's nothing you can really do about it, now is there. So, no sense getting all corny about it.
Except for trying to score with Sally Hayes or some guy's little sister or something, my life was all just downhill once I got kicked out of school. I just wanted to get home and see Phoebe and ride the carousel. End of analysis.
Why my story is still discussed in colleges and prep schools is something I can't explain. It kills me, really. I'd have had two hemorrhages if I'd known that those lousy few days in my life would still be talked about now that I'm your grandfather's age.
I'm here to tell you--yes, Holden, yours truly--that I grew up and moved on and you really ought to be hearing about the rest of my dismal life, which is rather downhill, to tell you the truth. Now there is a long book for you. I could go on about the phony run-ins I've had with the kids from my past. But, you know, now that they're ancient, with gray hair and all, I don't feel like discussing them. I really don't.
I hate it when I knew someone long ago and their face is like a faded photograph in my mind and then they show up for real and they look all gray and old and nearly dead or something. It kills me, it really does. But, the funny part is that each person, deep inside, is still the same. They're just in a wrinkled body, is all.
Take my roommate Ackerly, for instance. I ran into old Acklerly ice skating at the park last winter, and he came over and he sat too close to me on the bench, and all he talked about was getting out of his wet clothes and taking a goddam shower. See, things stay the same, they really do, and people don't change even though they look as different as hell.
One person I saw is old Stradlater himself, and guess what? That hair that he was always combing-- goddam it used to drive me insane!--well, it all fell out. Yes, every last strand. I choked when I spotted him coming out of a train down at the Gimbel's stop. He sort of looked at me for a second, and I started to wave, and then he looked down at his wristwatch like he was running late or something, and then turned the other way. Nothing makes me as goddam mad as someone looking right in my eyes and then pretending they didn't see me. But, you know, old Stradlater is one to do that. I can tell his type a mile away. And, to be completely honest, I can't blame him, seeing as he's totally bald now and probably forgot his hat on the train, I'd guess.
Isn't that the odd thing, I mean, when you bump into someone from your past, the only two things you can think about are what's his name, and is my hair combed right. That's it. Everything else in your mind just blows away like dust. So, you just stand there saying things to one another--who really knows what you're saying, it's just stuff coming out of your mouth and it doesn't matter anyhow--and your mind is blank except for imaging your hair sticking up funny and all. Unless you're Stradlater, I suppose.
So, I could write a book now, I really could, but everyone wants to rehash this old tale, The Catcher In The Rye, from my past. But, know that I grew old, just like you. I wish I could tell you some fancy tales, like old D.B., my brother, out in Hollywood who gets to meet all the stars. He's got more stories than you can shake a stick at, old D.B. does.
But me, I'm just sitting here alone on the edge of some crazy cliff, watching the ducks flying overhead and thinking about things. Just things. Nothing to write home about, if you want to know the truth. I can still see old Phoebe on that carousel and my reflection in the horse's glass eye. The carousel, and Phoebe. They are the only things that never changed.
--Holden Caulfield, autumn 2011