Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blog Hop: Hated it.

Literary Blog Hop
This meme's from The Blue Bookcase's blog hop today.
Go visit other hoppers:
 http://www.thebluebookcase.blogspot.com/
Discuss a work of literary merit that you hated when you were made to read it in school or university.  Why did you dislike it?

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.

MFB,
L

10 comments:

Teacher/Learner said...

I read Catcher in the Rye on my own, having (surprisingly) not read it in high school or university a few years ago. I liked the writing style & didn't mind Holden overall (being completely aware that he had annoying traits) but didn't think he was worthy of the pedestal he's often held up on. Here's my retro-read review from a couple of months ago.

petekarnas said...

Good choice. When I read Catcher in the Rye, I found Holden to be almost unbearably annoying. I hated following him around for the day, I just didn't see the point. Good post!

LifetimeReader said...

Excellent post. I especially love your comment that "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." I also love that you question the literary merit of Catcher! What a perfect critique. Isn't it interesting how well it starts discussions, though?

eatthebooks said...

I couldn't understand The Catcher in the Rye--but for some odd reason, I loved it! Maybe because the character was so obnoxious.

parrish lantern said...

am in total agreement, although have a fondness for obnoxious characters ,reminds me of my youth, this one I wanted to flog with nettles.

Laura C. said...

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on liking and not liking. I feel similarly.

I don't remember Catcher in the Rye that well, which is a sign that it wasn't my favorite. I do want to read it again someday though, because I really like Salinger's short stories and Franny and Zooey.

Dana KBS said...

Now that there are so many great books with relevant, teenaged narrators, Catcher seems quaint and outdated. I bet it was a revelation in the 50's--imagine going from didactic books where heroic hunky brothers solved mysteries to one where not only could the protagonist could not solve his problem, he was in complete denial that he had one!

Great example--I'll write about mine soon over on knitsmith-wordpurl@blogspot.com (I don't know how to add an RSS feed button, but I know I just pasted the address into my google reader and it found the RSS feed, so it's there!)

Laurie said...

Thanks all. I do agree about scarcity of relevant teen protagonists being a factor in Catcher's original popularity, D, not to mention the lure of the 'forbidden' language therein. And, L, I too have enjoyed some of Salinger's shorter works.
Looking forward to our conversation when the next Blue Bookcase question comes out in two weeks...
L

gautami tripathy said...

Some books are so difficult to get into. And those put us off that author too, for always.

And my teacher spoiled A Passage to India for me. But I did go back and loved it!

Here is my Literary Blog Hop: Disliked Book post!

Elizabeth said...

My read was STONEHENGE DECODED...uggh. Did anyone else have to suffer through it?

Stop by my blog if you like to see my full answer...I also have a giveaway that isn't very literary, but check it out.

http://silversolara.blogspot.com

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