I just finished reading THE worst book I have ever read in my life. Before I give the gory details of this travesty that somehow has been termed a story, I must give you a little background on me so you may properly gauge my point of view. Once you get this info, you can judge for yourself on whether or not you agree with my assessment on what I believe is absolute trash and how I am absolutely perplexed on how this thing is considered a classic.
I like to read. I don’t read as much as I’d like to now, with life being so busy and so much on my plate, but I read quite a bit when I was younger. Now before you get the impression that I’m a reading snob, one of those elitist who looks down on anything that is printed for the masses, let me assure you, I am not. My tastes are pretty much middle of the road. I have not read Tolstoy, and I have not read Nieztsche. Some of the classics I have enjoyed are Tom Sawyer, The Count of Monte Cristo, Gone with the Wind, and A Tale of Two Cities. Some of the modern authors I have enjoyed reading are David Baldacci, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Larry McMurtry, Tom Clancy and Alistair Maclean. I’ve read a few biographies, and a few historical accounts. It’s a brief background, and you might get the impression that perhaps this novel I will describe may be too deep for me as I’ve listed a number of authors of what is sometimes called “throw-away” novels as ones I enjoy reading. That might be the case, but I highly doubt it. Now, on to this drivel.
I will first say that there has been only one book I started reading that I didn’t finish. It was a book that my boss at the time had given to me. He enjoyed reading, and noticing I read all the time at my lunch, he would often give me paperbacks to read. In fact, he was the one who first got me into McMurtry. I was never interested in reading a Western, but he said I might like it, and sure enough, it was an impressive story. But he did give me one that was excessively boring, and I got about halfway through before putting it down.
This one, this “classic,” and I use those quotation marks in the most sarcastic air quotes I can muster, is one that I felt like putting down after getting through a quarter of it. The only reason why I finished it is because it’s considered a classic and I sincerely thought it would get better. It did not, and the more I read, the angrier I got.
It starts off decently enough. It’s written in the first person, which I thoroughly enjoy. By consistently reading “I did,” “I thought,” “I saw,” it puts me right in the narrator’s shoes and into their mindset. Books written in the first person are generally my favorite, so we were off to a good start. It went downhill very quickly.
The main character of this thing is the least likable character I have ever read or seen portrayed in film or TV. This character has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He has no vision, no direction, no purpose and no relationships. This annoying character has problems with everyone he comes into contact with. “This person does this too often, therefore he’s prideful,” “this person has this kind of luggage, therefore he’s stupid,” “this girl says this word too much, therefore she’s phony.” Everyone he talks to, everyone he sees is phony, annoying and stupid, according to him.
This character has a few minor quirks that are neither here or there. Some little things that he does that are a bit humorous, but quickly loses its humor when he describes himself as a madman every time he does it. “I did this. I’m a madman.” You add that to his constant use of the phrase, “if you want to know the truth,” and he uses it for the most inane things. “I had a choice between red and blue, and I chose blue, if you want to know the truth.” That’s just an example but it’s an overused phrase for something that’s really not that important.
This character goes through the entire book overusing these phrases and loathing every person around him that it gives a sickening feeling reading it. At one point, he makes mention of the war, the second world war, and how he was thankful for the bomb so that he didn’t have to fight. And so fearful of having to fight, he vowed that if another war broke out, he would find the first bomb and sit on it. Now I can understand that fear, some men are not born to fight, but I found myself wishing that as the author wrote this book, another war did break out, so that he would nuke himself and save me from reading this garbage.
A little side note. It’s not major, but as I trudged through the mire, it helped increase my displeasure with the whole experience, and that was the cussing. I’m no prude, I’m not the type that gets offended when I hear cussing. In fact, one of my favorite movies is Goodfellas, and there’s language flowing through the whole movie. That’s the culture and I understand it. But in this book, curse words are thrown all over the place, and there really isn’t a reason. It just reeked of a lack of vocabulary. And I know it was written from the point of view of a teenager, but it just seemed very stupid.
I’m wrapping this up, because it’s getting long, but I’ll end with this. Throughout this whole book, NOTHING happens. This whole story is about a teenager getting fed up with his prep school and leaving. The next few days he muddles through doing little of anything. The most exciting thing he does, which he describes as the biggest problem he’s ever dealt with, is a hooker and her pimp push him around a little bit because he needed to pay them an extra five dollars. Other than that, it was a complete bore.
What is this waste? What is this monstrosity that absolutely astounds me that it’s considered a classic? The answer
The Catcher in the Rye
The title itself is taken from a career he tells his younger sister that he wants. For him, what he wants to do in life is that when children are playing ball in the rye field, and when they chase the ball out of it, to prevent them from falling off a cliff, he wants to catch them. Was there an epidemic of children running out of rye fields off cliffs? Was that a huge problem?
Do yourself a favor. Don’t EVER read this book. It is a complete waste of time. I only finished it because I thought there was going to be some great point at the end that made it all worth it. There isn’t. There’s no point. It ends with nothing being accomplished and with no indication of how those few days affected his life. The fact of the matter is that what you did in the last week amounts to a heck of a lot more than the experience the author describes in this book. I’d venture to say that even some coma patients accomplished more this past week.