Reading Club: The Catcher in the Rye

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J: What’s up morons?

A: What does “morons” mean?

J: You don’t have to know, but I just learned the word from the book “The Catcher in the Rye”. Have you ever read this book?

A: Nope.

L: Don’t be mean, Joy. He hasn’t but I have.

A: MeowMeowMeow? Tell me about it.

L: The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger. A classic novel originally published for adults.

A: For adults? Emmmmm…Interesting.

J: Well, not exactly. It deals with complex issues of innocence, identity, belonging, loss, and connection, so I personally recommand you to read as well.

A: Intriguing, what’s the background of this story?

L: Many events from Salinger’s early life appear in The Catcher in the Rye. For instance, Holden Caulfield moves from prep school to prep school, is threatened with military school, and knows an older Columbia student. In the novel, such autobiographical details are transplanted into a post–World War II setting. The Catcher in the Rye was published at a time when the burgeoning American industrial economy made the nation prosperous and entrenched social rules served as a code of conformity for the younger generation.

J: Yeah, Larry know-it-all Li. Because Salinger used slang and profanity in his text and because he discussed adolescent sexuality in a complex and open way, many readers were offended, and The Catcher in the Rye provoked great controversy upon its release. Some critics argued that the book was not serious literature, citing its casual and informal tone as evidence. The book was—and continues to be—banned in some communities, and it consequently has been thrown into the center of debates about First Amendment rights, censorship, and obscenity in literature. However, the book still managed to become a hugely popular bestseller and general critical success.

A: Wow, Salinger’s writing seemed to tap into the emotions of readers in an unprecedented way. I just read on the Internet that the Catcher in The Rye has been translated into almost all of the world’s major languages and around 1 million copies are sold each year with total sales of more than 65 million books. The novel was included on Time’s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923 and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2003, it was listed at #15 on the BBC’s survey The Big Read. So… can you guys tell me a little more about stream-of-consciousness literature?

J: Oh well… it’s kind of complicated. Stream of consciousness is a narrative device that attempts to give the written equivalent of the character’s thought processes, either in a loose interior monologue , or in connection to his or her actions. I once read the book Ulysses by James Joyce, it was torture, I could not keep up with the characters’ thoughts.

L: Yes, there is flow in the seemingly disjointed ideas and episodes; for example, as Holden Caulfield, the narrative, sits in a chair in his dorm, minor events, such as picking up a book or looking at a table, unfold into discussions about experiences.

A: Oh right, you guys haven’t told me about what this book is about.

J: We won’t spoil it for you, so all I can tell you is that the story takes place in America featuring a teenage boy called­­­­ Holden Caulfield, who had literally no interest in staying in school. He dropped out and wanderred around New York, soul searching, and realized the most important thing in life in the end.

L: And according to most analyses, The Catcher in the Rye is a bildungsroman, a novel about a young character’s growth into maturity. While it is appropriate to discuss the novel in such terms, Holden Caulfield is an unusual protagonist for a bildungsroman because his central goal is to resist the process of maturity itself. As his thoughts about the Museum of Natural History demonstrate, Holden fears change and is overwhelmed by complexity. He wants everything to be easily understandable and eternally fixed, like the statues of Eskimos and Indians in the museum. He is frightened because he is guilty of the sins he criticizes in others, and because he can’t understand everything around him. But he refuses to acknowledge this fear, expressing it only in a few instances—for example, when he talks about sex and admits that “[s]ex is something I just don’t understand. I swear to God I don’t.”

A: Wait, did you remember the “most important thing” that you just told me? What is it?

J: Nah, you find out yourself.

编者按

到现在我也认为,《麦田里的守望者》是一本名不符实的小说,名字是是那么的美好,而内容上却让人很难接受—大量的脏话,消极的念头,荒诞的情节,再加上意识流的写作手法,感觉那个”不良少年”霍尔顿进入了自己的脑子,时刻都想把他揪出来,我不得不承认我只读到了一半,是真的受不了。也许某天我会重拾这本书。网上有那么多人把这本书列为SAT必读书目,我个人感觉是不应该的,里面的内容十几岁的孩子们不一定会理解,反而受到不好内容的影响。

本期读书会的三个同学, 算是大佬云集,Joy是国际部学生会主席,2017CCTV“希望之星”英语风采大赛全国总决赛特等奖,Larry是计算机大佬,Alex是机器人大佬, AP全才,精彩内容还请收听读书会录音。

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