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“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

Nataliya's quotes

"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

The Catcher in the Rye - and my sincere dislike of Goodreads new 'off-topic' excuse

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

"Oh, I don’t know. That digression business got on my nerves. I don’t know. The trouble with me is, I like it when somebody digresses. It’s more interesting and all.”


Yes, this review eventually will be about the book. My reviews always are. I'm boring this way. I envy the ability of my friends to digress in their review space and tell me a story which in some way was inspired by something in the book they just read, or its blurb, or - god forbid now, in the land of GR censorship of anything that does not look like a book report - author behavior, the new scary censorship-causing phrase out there, together with the now-used 'OFF TOPIC' excuse.


Because - oh the horror! - they dare to focus on the readers' opinion rather than the coveted by conglomerates endorsements of THE PRODUCT. 


Because for some of us literature does not equal product. Because for some of us, literature is what is designed to make us think and speak up, and not mindlessly consume (consumer instead of reader - that's making me shudder).


But first I WILL digress (and it seems I already have). And Holden Caulfield, the conflicted rebel with all the makings of a phony of the kind he detests, would probably approve. And if Holden approves, who the hell cares if Goodreads or Amazon do?


"It’s this course where each boy in class has to get up in class and make a speech. You know. Spontaneous and all. And if the boy digresses at all, you’re supposed to yell ‘Digression!’ at him as fast as you can. It just about drove me crazy. I got an F in it.”

“Oh, I don’t know. That digression business got on my nerves. I don’t know. The trouble with me is, I like it when somebody digresses. It’s more interesting and all."


You can't really love The Catcher in the Rye if you are feeling happy and content. At least I can't. When I'm happy, all I see is a moody overly judgmental privileged teenager looking for reasons to bitch about the world and being immature and a phony. I have to feel some discontent to appreciate the hiding behind that facade helpless anger, pain, loss and a rebellious streak. Holden is - or at least sometimes unsuccessfully trying to be - a rebel. A troublemaker. A square peg in a round hole. (Yes, I am very aware I'm quoting the Apple commercial. So sue me. Maybe it's off-topic or something. You decide.)


And right now I am not happy and content seeing the site I used to love heading down the road that is perilous at best. The road that clearly shows preference towards consumers over readers. The consumerism mantra of buy-buy-buy is taking precedence over think-disagree-discuss-passionately argue-watch the truth being born. Holden Caulfield would not approve of such change in direction. And neither do I or so many people I have come to respect, people whose opinions help me discover the works of literature that I love.


Holden Caulfield's views and his expression of them were, admittedly, often juvenile, poorly thought-through and frequently just as phony as those of people he reviles. He was quick to jump to judgment, ignoring those who really cared for him. He was prejudiced, snobbish and arrogant, and a habitual liar, too. How often do the readers want to reach into the book and shake some sense into this boy spiraling down into desperation and a breakdown?


And yet there is something about the unhappy rebellious teenager that still resonates with us despite the obvious flaws. It is his anger itself, the rage against the world that is fake and all about appearances, about the power imbalance, about the smugness the powerful of this world carry with them. His emotions are so raw and so sincere that I may disagree with some of them but I sure as hell can't ignore them.


As we probably all know too well, The Catcher in the Rye has been one of the most challenged books of the 20th century, riling up the emotions and protests of the wannabe censors who thought it was their sacred duty to shield and protect the public from the work of literature that dared to offend their tender sensibilities. These self-appointed sensors were (quite ironically, if you think about it) trying to be nothing less than the self-appointed Catchers in the Rye, protecting our childlike innocence from falling prey to The Catcher in the Rye. What they fail to grasp is that the point of the book itself is that such seemingly noble efforts are useless, worthless, and quite phony in their presumptuousness of knowing what's best; that these efforts are a slippery slope that is futile and dangerous.

Just as it is equally presumptuous and patronizing and dangerous for any power to tell book readers there is a proper way to express their opinions, that they need to stay ON TOPIC (or else there will be a delete-button action equal to the shriek of 'Digression!' gleefully coming from Holden's classmates).


Playing self-appointed Catcher in the Rye to the delicate sensibilities of certain bookselling sites, entitled writers or a bunch of offended fans, shifting the focus from discussing literature to reviewing product and collecting data - all this is just as misguided as Holden's futile efforts of saving children from growing up.

You see, this is what I love about Salinger's so often contested work - its ability to stir thoughts and opinions that go beyond the plot and the book report and make you think, and maybe -just maybe - be a touch rebellious, too. This is dangerous, in the best meaning of this word, the meaning that makes all the self-appointed censors uneasy. These censors would rather have everyone toe the line and do what's expected and never have to face anything that even remotely upsets delicate sensibilities. 

But Holden Caulfield goes on being subversive. And occasionally being off topic - and that's perfectly fine by me.


"Oh, I don’t know. That digression business got on my nerves. I don’t know. The trouble with me is, I like it when somebody digresses. It’s more interesting and all."