Currently reading

The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers
Ayn Rand, Tore Boeckmann, Leonard Peikoff
The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco
Ghostwritten
David Mitchell
To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Edward Gibbon, Daniel J. Boorstin, Gian Battista Piranesi, Hans-Friedrich Mueller
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
Douglas R. Hofstadter
Perfect Wrong Note - Learning to Trust Your Musical Self
William Westney
The Prince
Niccolò Machiavelli
The Varieties of Religious Experience
William James
Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy
G. Lee Bowie, Robert C. Solomon

The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye - I didn't know anything about this book before I started reading it other than that it is one of those books that teenagers read in high school or their freshman year of college and it immediately becomes their favorite book EVAR! It changes their lives etc. etc. It's the Atlas Shrugged and A Clockwork Orange and Brave New World are in for their much more controversial themes. There is a LOT of swearing in The Catcher in the Rye. Beyond that detail, it's a great story. Holden Caulfield is a great character. He's a kid growing up and struggling with moving from being someone with a pretty apathetic view of adults and adulthood to becoming an adult himself. He narrates the events and thoughts of a couple days after he gets kicked out of his school for bad grades. His honesty about how he sees people is so blunt and unapologetic that I found it impossible not to identify with him and love him.Holden points out the stuff that nobody wants to admit. For example, when he remembers back to a roommate that had cheap suitcases but who tried to pass himself as having nice, expensive ones, Holden observes how hard it is for people from different social and economic strata to get along:The thing is, it's really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs--if yours are really good ones and theirs aren't. You think if they're intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they don't give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do. They really do. It's true. People care and they have a hard time not caring. It's not impossible, but it's hard, and that's sort of a crappy truth about humanity.Similarly, throughout his story, Holden observes that a lot of people are perverts, that good looking people are usually wrapped up in their looks, that there are a lot of base extortionists, superficial and violent people, and in general, that a lot of people live in, or create, what appear to be really depressing situations. Holden doesn't exempt even himself from these observations. He realizes that in a way, he's crazy too. He's moody, sometimes half-delusional and flighty and he often doesn't understand even his own motives.The beautiful part of the book is that at the same time that Holden has these feelings of hate and disgust for people, he recognizes the beauty of humanity, and far from writing off mankind, he realizes how important it is to him. He sees beauty in children, in nuns and in the downtrodden. Even the people that annoy him the most he misses once he's left and, in a way, he loves them too. So, after reading it, I don't think it belongs purely in the realm of moody teenagers. Holden is self-absorbed but he's at the somewhat frightening time of his life where the bleak view teenagers form of adulthood is quickly becoming their reality. It's a time when most Westerners are selfish, whether they want to admit it or not. Holden is not a lost cause though, he's honest and he's got character. He won't take advantage of people and he knows beauty when he sees it. For adults who are perhaps beyond that transitional stage in their lives, The Catcher in the Rye is a good, and sometimes hilarious, reminder of how it feels to grow up in a confusing world.