|This meme's from The Blue Bookcase's blog hop today.|
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As a teacher, I always advise my students to approach their reading as Taoists: liking and disliking arise together - they are two inextricably bound aspects of the same energy. So reacting to a text solely with "I liked it"/"I didn't like it" is just a lazy fallback into the most common response mode of our consumerist culture. That isn't to say that we will not or should not harbor personal preferences or that we should not critique the merits of a work, but rather to offer the notion that if we allow those personal preferences to halt additional interaction with a text, then we cultivate intellectual shallowness and solipsism. The path of the citizen-reader is to earnestly consider arguments and positions and texts that challenge his/her opinions, and then to decide how the arguments, positions, and texts will affect future actions and opinions.
This philosophy has in part sparked my reading-for-change/action-reading experiment, testing the notion that any book - whether I like it or hate it or feel ambivalent or indifferent toward it - can benefit me and the world by what I do, make, or think as a result of interacting with it.
All that being said (and assuming we can classify Catcher as a book of literary merit, which is perhaps a dubious notion): I couldn't stand The Catcher in the Rye when I was in high school, and I still can't find much merit in it, even though I've had to teach it. Although, as an adult, I harbor a bit more sympathy for Holden's character than I did back in the day, and I've read enough criticism to understand what others have found moving or unique or thought-provoking in this novel, I still find the protagonist to be an utterly shallow, simpering, annoying character, and I find little of Salinger's writing to be either insightful or appealing on the level of craft. My guess is that I am a 'decadent audience' for this book, so that it feels "been there, done that" on every level, but I can imagine naive or sophisticated audiences who would learn with and through Holden's challenges. And, in fact, my students and I have engaged in animated and thoughtful discussions of this work that made the actual reading of it well worthwhile.