Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

This is a very strange book.

How come this got to be a best seller? There is nothing at all happening in the whole goddam book. The plot is boring as hell. I was always waiting that the goddam story would actually BEGIN some time. But it didn’t. It really never started. There was nothing worth writing about in the whole book. I suspect the author was deliberately screwing his readers over and trying to get over the distance without having any plot.

I hate it when these famous authors write such lousy books. I really do. They always write about their little brother’s baseball mitt or something. Boy, does that depress me. It really does. I must admit it.

Again, how could this ever find an audience?

My theory is that it became half way interesting at the time because it was a big deal if someone wrote “goddam” or “fuck”, or mentioned that there may be sex happening ever once in a while.

That said, it is actually written rather well. It needs to be. Without a plot to keep readers awake, there is nothing left except the voice of the main character and all the detail in which he is developed. Here are a couple of techniques I would like to learn as an author of fiction.

For one, I learned that you can always address the reader directly. Salinger does it all the time. He tells the reader what he isn’t going to write. He tells the reader how his main character feels. He tells the reader that the story is over (you wouldn’t know otherwise, because there is nothing happening anyway). That’s interesting, and even I can easily do that.

Another thing is the extreme detail in which the lead character is developed. After reading the goddam book people know more about Holden Caulfield than about themselves. Or their spouse. Or their children. That makes the lead sympathetic. So people care for what happens to him, even if there is nothing really happening.

One other thing.

Salinger published this in 1951, at age 32. That one hit was enough for him to live happily ever after from the royalties. He never needed to publish another book.

So he didn’t.

Clearly he was overcompensated for this effort. They paid him so much that he stopped being a writer, and became a person who wrote earlier, instead.

That is one of the inherent flaws in copyright law. There is nothing to stop famous authors from making so much goddam dough from one smash hit that they never need to write another word. That obviously will not help motivating them to write more.

And one last note. I actually found a typo in this book, after all these years. That’s of course not counting all the places where something is spelled wrong or the grammar doesn’t add up deliberately, so as to mimic how a teenager at the time would speak.

Here it is.

Salinger wrote: “I quick jumped up and ran over”. He really did. That must of course be “quickly”.


Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

One thought on “Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

  1. Well, Its just a story rather a very realistic story that just keeps happening and keeps you make turn pages in anticipation of a grand event. The book does keep you interested throughout. At the end it is sort of a story that makes the reader feel that there are no miracles around and everything around is as grounded as it seems. If you are a person with depressed soul or in low spirits this is definitely not the book for you. An average book reader would however read it and say “HUH!!!!!!!” If you are the kind of person who expects a gush of good or bad emotions after reading a book I must warn you this one wouldn’t even cause the slightest ripples to alter your mood. Just read it if you are curious enough or If you have lost a bet to someone.


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