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I've been thinking lately that I should start reading some classic books (or start reading, period, because I don't do it as much as I used to). So I've been making a list, in my head, of the books I want to read, though whenever I have an opportunity to get one I seem to forget the whole list. Since I recently watched the anime Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (which is the recent series, not the movie, and I think it's better than the movie on the whole), I decided that I had to read Catcher in the Rye. SAC makes numerous references to J.D. Salinger's work - the legendary hacker called The Laughing Man is named after one of Salinger's short stories, and the motto that appears on his "calling card" is "what I thought I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes [or should I?." They even slip in a reference to the "secret goldfish" story that Holden Caulfield's older brother wrote.

I hadn't read Catcher in the Rye, but I'd heard it read before. One of my teachers in middle school read a chapter to us every day for a few weeks. I don't remember much about it, except that I was surprised that we'd get to read (or be read to from)a book with so much profanity in it. That was...God, eleven years ago. Practically forever. Anyway, I got an audiobook version just the other day. I used to mock my mother for listening to audiobooks, rather than actually reading the books they were recordings of, but my views on audiobooks have changed recently. For one thing, I've been listening to audiobooks of Neil Gaiman reading his own work, and it's really a different experience from reading the book yourself. Although I'm not saying that I'll give up books altogether. Another thing is that I need stuff to listen to at work anyway. And of course I like to knit, and you can't really read and knit at the same time. So I figure I could listen to an audiobook while knitting. That works.

Anyway, about Catcher in the Rye - I'm about two thirds through it, I think. And I can certainly understand and appreciate it a lot more now than I could when I was in middle school. Now I know why people are so fascinated by Holden Caulfield - he's kind of an ignorant jerk, and often immature, but he's remarkably perceptive. You wouldn't think that one character could be all the things he is without seeming fake (or, in his words, "phony,"), but he does. More than that, is consistent in certain ways but tends to act and speak kind of randomly, the way a real person (especially a confused and angry teenager) does.

You could conceivably sum him up by saying that he has A.D.H.D. or something, and I don't think you'd be far wrong, considering the kinds of problems he has (failing out of multiple schools, absentmindedness, inappropriate comments, almost pathological lying, etc.), but that doesn't do him justice. It's more like he's thinking on a level that most people, for the sake of their own sanity, don't think on, and that takes up all of his mind so that he can't think about what most people would consider practical things. He's constitutionally incapable of playing along or pulling the wool over his own eyes the way most people do - he knows how it's done, but he doesn't have the stomach for it - so he never fits in and keeps getting in trouble. Or maybe he's not so special, maybe he's a lot like the average teenage boy, only a little more so. He's difficult to explain, and seems like a complete jerk, but you can't help liking him.


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August 2011

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