This is a book that I feel like I should have read years ago, but somehow I missed that lesson in school. It’s one of those books that is referenced a lot in pop culture so I felt it was time for me to familiarize myself with the source material.
I thought it was strange too that he would go to clubs or ride in taxi cabs and invite the singer or driver to come have a drink. He reeked of desperation. He’s also one of those people that’s too cool for school and doesn’t have interest in the things kids his age have interest in. Football games? Nah. Fraternities? Lame. Conversation? Only if it’s something of interest to him. Something of substance in his opinion.
Which would be fine, but his conversations are awful. In one, he calls up a girlfriend and takes her out and tells her that she’s a royal pain in the ass when she says she doesn’t want to just up and run away with him. Then he calls up an old friend and pesters him about his sex life multiple times even after the poor guy repeatedly tells him to stop. And Holden literally begs, “Have just one more drink…please. I’m lonesome as hell. No kidding.” And in a conversation with the one person that actually likes him, his little sister, she keeps asking him to stop swearing and he ignores her. And at least two different people complained he was talking too loud and he just ignores them. He is the worst.
And the way he talks is like an 80 year old curmudgeonly woman. He sounds like my grandmother, God rest her soul. But her complaints were tolerated because she was old and had bad knees and lived a sucky, hard life. He complains about the piano player at a bar who plays the piano stinking and an old classmate who was one of the biggest bores he ever met, and a phony movie he saw. and the lousy light from the street lamp, and his stupid aunt, and the phony party, and the bartender who is a big snob and doesn’t talk to people, but when he does talk to people he’s even more nauseating. I just can’t.
And he constantly repeats himself. For example, “He adapts himself very well to things. He really does. I mean he really knows how to adapt himself.” Or “I thought maybe I might give old Jane another buzz and see if she was home yet. I mean I had the whole evening free, and I thought I’d give her a buzz and, if she was home yet…” Or this gem, “What would he do to me? I mean what would he do to me?”
I have to admit, I didn’t get what the book was about. I read it and thought, “nothing really happened.” I just know what Holden did for 2 days in New York after being kicked out of school because he was too afraid to face his parents. But g’dam, it was like I was stuck in a room with him for days when one minute would have been more than enough. Sure, there’s a lot of imagery you could analyze about the loss of innocence and youth, but Holden stinks. So I don’t want to linger on the finer details. It seems like a book that could be fun to discuss in a class, but absent that, it’s just an annoying 2 days with a guy with a grating personality.