I have mentioned before that I am a student of creative writing. For those who may have known me in school this may come as a surprise. I was never the best student, and certainly this was most evident in my English classes. I hated reading. Today, I LOVE IT! Books are an absolute pleasure for me! In all mediums too! Physical, Kindle, Audible, you name it. I have a decent collection and honestly have read the vast majority of them in the last three years or so. But before we get much further, I’d like to take this opportunity to share a little story with you about the book that started it all. This is sort of an off the wall, review/discussion with an autobiographical tie in. I hope it interests you enough to read the book, but also hope that you can appreciate it serving as a testimony, for what the book meant to me.
The Catcher in the Rye
Like many others, this story is timeless. A coming of age story. A very polarizing book by all counts. Even for those who love the book, it often is for different reasons. Even individual readers grow to have new opinions both good & bad as they grow and mature. I for one read it the first time in High School. To give a bit of background, I was the kid all English teachers endeavored to change. I hated reading. Required reading USUALLY didn’t interest me with few exceptions, and reading for pleasure was almost completely out of the question. To make matters worse, we had a required reading program linked to our English classes that required us to read so many books by the end of each quarter. Of course I didn’t participate, because I was a horrible student with a disdain for reading. Enter Mrs. Jensen my Grade 7 & 8 English & Language Arts teacher, who would become one of my most influential people throughout my entire education. She had a profound impact on me, and not just because she was(is) a great teacher, but she genuinely cared about me as a student and wanted to ignite that passion for reading. She also seemed to understand me better than most, even though I didn’t understand myself. She met me where I was, and taught there, and not ahead of me leaving me behind. Evidenced by several occasions sprinkled throughout the 2 years in her class, and topped off with a continuing interest in my career and reading.
By the time I got to high school, I had developed a need to belong to something. So, I started to idolize Punks. Punk rock was everything that I wanted to be. Teen angst, loud music, and fun! ANARCHY we used to say, although I knew nothing of what it meant. The Catcher in the Rye is almost required reading for this crowd. It is packed with teen angst, dark humor and an unrelenting need to belong, even though the hero of the story, Holden Caufield never really has or does. He hates his home, his school and his life and wants to get away. For what? He’s not sure. Just something else. After I finished, I took great pleasure in telling Mrs. Jensen all about it the next time I saw her. Letting her know that it FINALLY clicked. I finally found that one story that I could grab ahold of, that fueled a desire for me. I would later find out that this very encounter meant enough to her, that it became a teaching tool. She let me know years later that she would often cite me as an example to other non-reading misfits. Trying to instill in them, that all it takes is one. One great story to open the door to a world of greatness
Now a grown up, no longer a semi angst-y teen, I have found my belonging. Married in my small hometown, with a career that I love, and continuing education because I want more! Rereading this book back in 2016 yielded a much different perspective on Holden’s story. I am no stranger to depression and anxiety, and even though I know I happy with my life, there are times when the weight of depression is too much. I am reminded of a much simpler time, with no worry or care about the future, and how my teen angst was selfish and stupid. Seeing Holden’s story unfold is darker than before, heavy with depression, and painfully sad to me. After I finished was flooded with so many raw emotions it actually took me a while to recover. And although I went through all that, right along with Holden I still came out the other side better for it. And I am in love all over again. And ever since that first book that chose me, I continually find more! And every time I chance to meet Mrs Jensen, at the grocery store, or anywhere else, I try to go out of my way to share whatever I am reading, and probably talk about the Catcher in the Rye.
Look for all of the posts by me by clicking on the “Chances Taken” tag, under the tag menu. Image Credit: The Catcher In the Rye – Holden Caulfield by Melissa Hatford