IT SEEMED kind of inevitable that I should get around eventually to the writings of J. D. Salinger what with his Franny and Zooey leading the best-seller lists week after week and, along with the fetching title, The Catcher in the Rye, giving me all kinds of curiosity. Then there was the parade of reviews, and it wasn’t just that some reviewers thought Salinger clever (which he is), and funny (which he can be), and very much the fad right now (which gets me into the picture, I guess), but the big boys among the reviewers thought he was of great importance. So I read The Catcher in the Rye which I maybe read too rapidly because I read while I was on a trip, in bits and snatches; and I felt after the rapid reading, which is unfair for judgment, that I came out just about where I went in: there was this poor, touching, adolescent boy who had to leave school and didn’t like to face his parents, and he had enough money in his pockets to have a few days on the town, and we get the impression he has a nice heart and that he is kind and compassionate in a kind of rebellious sort of way, and that he’s a mixed-up kid, and that maybe with a little direction or motivation he might just turn out all right although it is hard inside this little story to figure out just what being “all right” would include. The scenes are vivid and the characters are clear, but the total effect of the book for me was just about the same as seeing that adolescent with his baseball cap on backwards—sort of silly, especially if he knows any better. Only catchers should wear their caps backwards and any kid, adolescent or otherwise, knows that, but it is sort of the unbuttonness of the boy and the unbuttonness of the book ...1
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