One-Minute Book Reviews

January 12, 2010

J.D. Salinger’s ‘Tin Ear’ in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ — Quote of the Day / Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post

Filed under: Classics,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:28 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Jonathan Yardley‘s late “Second Reading” column for the Washington Post included a scathing and widely read assault on The Catcher in the Rye, “Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, Aging Gracelessly.” Here’s an excerpt from the review, which you can read here:

“The Catcher in the Rye is now, you’ll be told just about anywhere you ask, an ‘American classic,’ right up there with the book that was published the following year, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. They are two of the most durable and beloved books in American literature and, by any reasonable critical standard, two of the worst. Rereading The Catcher in the Rye after all those years was almost literally a painful experience: The combination of Salinger’s execrable prose and Caulfield’s jejune narcissism produced effects comparable to mainlining castor oil. …

“The cheap sentimentality with which the novel is suffused reaches a climax of sorts when Holden’s literary side comes to the fore. He flunks all his courses except English. ‘I’m quite illiterate,’ he says early in the book, ‘but I read a lot,’ which establishes the mixture of self-deprecation and self-congratulation that seems to appeal to so many readers. …

“Salinger has a tin ear. His characters forever say ‘ya’ for ‘you,’ as in ‘ya know,’ which no American except perhaps a slapstick comedian ever has said. Americans say ‘yuh know’ or ‘y’know,’ but never ‘ya know.’”

You can also follow Jan Harayda (@janiceharayda) on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda. She satirizes American literary culture, such as it is, at www.twitter.com/fakebooknews.

2 Comments »

  1. I have never entirely understood why Salinger’s novel is so highly regarded; I love “The Old Man and the Sea”, a book which, despite its slender spine, takes some effort to finish.

    Regardless, I can’t help but feel that it is at least somewhat fashionable for a reviewer to attack books that are held in high esteem. Dale Peck certainly comes to mind. (I’m sure one could argue that reviewers are similarly prone to offering praise to the books of certain writers–regardless of the quality.)

    Comment by bippityboppityboom — January 14, 2010 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

    • You’re right that some writers do seem to attack books because it’s fashionable. It’s just that in this series, Jonathan Yardley seems to have liked more books than he disliked, so the theory doesn’t work as well here as elsewhere.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — January 14, 2010 @ 10:03 pm | Reply


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