3/14/15

"The Catcher in the Rye" Discussion, Part I


Hello, Book Chewers! 

One of my favorite things about TBC's blogging team is how different each of our literary diets are. We each have our own specialties . . . Cait is the Queen of YA, Charley is our Tolkien expert, etc. Unfortunately, that makes it difficult to find a book that we can all discuss. So to solve that dilemma, we've started inviting various guests to weigh in. 

Today I'm discussing The Catcher in the Rye with Charley and MV, and we've asked Shelumiel from Bookish and Awesome and Emily from Emily Etc. to join us. There's a lot to cover, so this will be the first installment of our discussion. Hope you enjoy it! 

-Lydia

. . . 


Lydia
The first question we're addressing is: What was your original reaction to The Catcher in the Rye? What are your overall feelings now? 

MV
I went into it with an open mind, despite the fact that nothing about the premise of the book interested me. I made it about twenty pages before I started groaning and rolling my eyes at it. Once I read the last line, I slammed the book shut and tossed it across the room with an audible, "Thank god." I absolutely loathe it. I'm glad I read it, because now I'll get references to it in other books and TV shows, but I'm so, so glad to be done. It's definitely one of my least favorite books.

Charley
I first tried to read it when I was about twelve, but it was a bit too dense and slow for me, so I got no further than about half a chapter. Picked it up again at seventeen to give it another go. I think I might have expected too much of it - or at least been ready to rip it apart, because when people rave and rave and rave about a wonderful classic book that I'm an absolute pleb for not having read, that gets my hackles up.

I read it pretty swiftly, then threw it at a wall with a sense of smug superiority, knowing that it was by far the most over-hyped, pompous and deadly dull book I had picked up that year.

Now, I think I might have been a little hard on it. But I still hate it. I hate it a lot.

Shelumiel
Whoa. Those are strong reactions both from Kate and Charley.

Okay. I read TCitR when I was nineteen. I recall being so pumped for it at that moment, as you all know, it's constantly getting references from different books and films and TV shows. I actually enjoyed parts of it, especially the one with the professor what's his name? Ha! Antolini. (Thank you Goodreads!) I remember being deeply moved by Holden's last conversation with him, which was towards the almost end of the story? And, sorting through it now, I guess was telling that I liked the book in some inner levels. Does that make sense? But any road, after turning the last page, this I have in mind vividly, I was like, what was that? What's the point?! So yeah. That ending really ruined the whole book for me.

Lydia
The Catcher in the Rye seems to be polarizing. People love it or hate it. I expected to fall in the latter category, but instead I came away with mixed feelings. The book was fairly absorbing and I read it quickly, but I felt distant from the characters. I was rarely able to sympathize or identify with Holden, because he was spoiled and irritating. At the same time, I found his thought process fascinating; and at different points, I even understood/agreed with his cynicism.

Frankly, my overall feelings are still confused. I liked Salinger's writing style. I enjoyed some of the scenes, particularly those involving Phoebe. I could even argue that a few sentences hint at the profound. But I still feel detached and indifferent to Holden's problems, which isn't a feeling I'm accustomed to.

MV
Yes, "distant" is a good word for it. Part of our mixed feelings about the book could be because we don't relate to it personally. I know a lot of people identify with Holden, and therefore they love it. My life is nothing like Holden's and I can't relate to him at all, so maybe that's why I have a hard time liking him and the book.

Charley
I have a pretty privileged upbringing too, and I still thought he was (pardon my French) a whiny, self-absorbed tosspot. Sounds too much like a kid who wants to feel special and above it all but has no reason to, so he makes up a bunch of empty existential angst to make up for it. For people who may have genuine reasons where Holden doesn't, maybe that would match up. Perhaps I just saw too much of the sort of people I knew and grew up with in him to take him seriously?

MV
Oh, he totally was. He had no right to complain nearly as much as he did. He had it pretty good. There were people willing to help him, but he just. Didn't. Care. But you're right, I think some people do have genuine reasons for their angst, and so Holden feels like a friend to them. Where some people felt right at home with Scout Finch or Ramona others sought out Holden. And if that works for them, great. I personally don't get him.

Shelumiel
Yes! "Detached" is the term that best describe our collective feelings toward Holden, right? And I also agree with Charley and Kate, not to heed to invalidating other's emotion, he's too whiny for a privileged kid.

Emily
I was told that The Catcher in the Rye "would change my life". The friend who told me this had said the same about The Great Gatsby, which I found definitely underwhelming (having subsequently studied it, though, I am head over heels for that book, but beside the point). However, about Catcher, I found my friend's high praise totally justified.

I see you saying that you can't relate to Holden, and I understand your feelings about his being spoilt. However, I personally was able to identify hugely with the character: a seventeen-year-old who is, when it comes down to it, confused about everything. He's searching so hard for truth and meaning that he's drowning in all the conclusions he's trying to draw from the world; he's lost, ultimately, for much of the novel, and I found this a deeply touching study of teenagedom. I'm aware that Holden's feelings of "angst" or confusion were to a greater extent than many teenagers will face, but that didn't stop me from relating to the character. In the end I found him lovable and moving; I pitied him. I sympathised.

The writing, also, I thought was beautiful. My favourite thing about the book was probably Holden's relationship with Phoebe; she was in so many ways his anchor point, which I loved.

RE: your "but what was the point": reading Salinger's Franny and Zooey in the summer, I was left with those very feelings. It was clever social commentary and I thought that someone could write a darned good essay on it ... but to me, it wasn't that interesting. However I found none of those problems with Catcher, which had me gripped from chapter to chapter!


As for the ending ... If I summed up the book in one picture, it would be this one.

. . . 


On that note, we're turning the discussion over to you! Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts on The Catcher in the Rye and Holden Caulfield. And tell us: what would you like us to discuss further in our next installment? 

3/12/15

Books for the Late Night Reader

by MV

So I know we don't usually do blog memes here at TBC (other than our awesome link-ups), but The Broke and the Bookish had a great Top Ten Tuesday prompt that I couldn't resist! The prompt is: top ten books for readers who like x. But since I'm already breaking the rules by posting this on a Thursday, I'll also be breaking the rules by listing more than ten books/book series that kept me up at night.

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

You knew this one was coming, didn't you? The Harry Potter series is action-packed and full of danger and adventure. Every book has a plot twist, and the Deathly Hallows is especially exciting. If you haven't read it already, please do!

2. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

This may not be high adventure, but the story sucks you in and won't let you go. The snarky dialogue and steady pacing made me turn page after page until I stumbled out of my room at three in the morning for tissues. It's a fantastic read.

3. Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

This is the kind of book that almost requires to be read underneath the covers in the dead of night with a flashlight. This series is one I read over and over again when I was younger, and is still something I go to for comfort and plenty of giggles. For those of you who had a special stuffed animal you carried around with you everywhere as a kid, Calvin & Hobbes is for you.

4. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

Obviously, THG had to be on the list somewhere. Teenagers in a fight to the death in a place where nothing and no one is safe and every chapter ends on a cliffhanger? I picked this book up before bed, and the next thing I knew I woke up with my face pressed against the pages. I finished it that morning.

5. The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

Yet another dystopian series that makes you bite your nails and wake up the next morning with bags under your eyes. Though these books tend to have slower starts, the endings are amazing and exhausting. You'll feel like you've just run a marathon by the time you finish.

6. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

THE PLOT TWISTS IN THIS SERIES, I CAN'T EVEN. I spend a lot of my time squealing over my OTPs and giggling at Iko and gasping at shocking reveals when I read these books. It's the best sci-fi series I have ever read.

7. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Two words: time travel. Not only will your brain hurt from trying to figure everything out, but you'll love it the entire time. "Doctor Who" fans will especially appreciate this book, but I recommend it to everyone.

8. The Darkness Rising series by Kelley Armstrong

I found this series purely by accident when I won a mystery box giveaway. IT'S SO GOOD. And it was my first paranormal series, which I loved more than I thought I would. I read the first book in one sitting on a long road trip. I read the entire series in about four days. It's not very well known, but it deserves way more attention than it gets.

9. The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce

Medieval fantasy! Kick-butt heroines! Magic, adventure, and epic battles! I am so in love with the Alanna books. The entire series is good, but the first book is especially fantastic. Read it. Now.

10.  The Ellie Sweet series by Stephanie Morrill

This is one of my favorite series. It's about a teenage girl who writes her friends and enemies into her stories while trying to balance her fictional life with her real life. It's simple and fun and totally relatable to anyone who writes. I highly recommend it.

11. The Host by Stephenie Meyer

This thing is a beast and is definitely intimidating, but even though it's 620 pages long, you'll eat it up in a couple of days. It's a great, unique concept that definitely delivers. I love the family aspect of the book, too.

12. Panic by Lauren Oliver

This book is pure fun. While I much prefer her Delirium series, Panic is a great hangover cure that takes almost no time to read. I love the plot and I love how fast-paced it is.

What are your favorite late night reads? Leave a comment!

3/4/15

Good, Bad, and Ugly: The Book-To-Movie Adaptations of 2015

Way back in the pre-industrial stone age of January, I made a post concerning some of the most exciting new book releases projected for this new year. But, of course, where there's books there's adaptations - and this year shows no dearth of those.

So, let's break this down; before you stand some of the most high-profile book-to-movie adaptations of 2015. And we're going to sort them out; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

1 - THE GOOD


Cinderella - While the Disney animated feature will doubtless remain the dominant cultural image of the fairytale, this live-action adaptation has a lot of good stuff going into it, all displayed in this big, splashy trailer. While adaptation of fairytales are gaining momentum, this will likely be one of the biggest splashes of the lot. Personally, I'm reckoning on a swan dive more than a bellyflop here.

Insurgent - Say what you like about Veronica Roth's original trilogy, this thing has chops. Will its star power and massive fanbase be enough to save it from 'middle movie' syndrome? By the looks of it, the film-makers certainly think so. From this trailer Insurgent looks like a lean, mean, franchise machine with a bark to match its bite.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Comic books count as books, shush. Besides, the Marvel movies are going from strength to strength, and any movie that can make a tune from Pinnochio sound menacing clearly isn't messing around.

2 - THE BAD


Frankenstein - Ech. Ech. Echhhhhh. Adapting Mary Shelley's genre-making classic is tricky enough without trying to turn it into a sci-fi Daniel Radcliffe vehicle. And here I was thinking I, Frankenstein was as daft as we were going to get. And sadly this film isn't looking half as enjoyably silly as that mess was...

Goosebumps - Was the hilariously bad TV series not enough to convince people to leave Goosebumps alone? As someone who enjoyed (and may or may not have been traumatised by) the books as a child, this just reeks of reaching for nostalgia dollars.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens* - Actually, I think this movie looks really good. But I'm the weirdo who only saw the Star Wars movies this year, liked the prequels better than the originals, and thinks Jar Jar Binks was way more entertaining than C3PO. Sadly, as is the way of the fan, this movie will probably be lampooned and torn apart upon arrival, regardless of its merits. Just look at what people have to say about that claymore lightsaber and you'll see exactly what I mean.

(*- And yeah, technically it's an adapation. There's books about the Extended Universe, this is supposedly designed to update / replace those . . . shush.)

3 - THE UGLY


Fifty Shades of Grey - This monster gets a category all to itself, mainly because I knew it was going here to start with and simply couldn't find anything remotely comparable with what this thing represents. The cinematic version of the biggest blowup in the book world since The Story of O (and markedly less tasteful) is an even bigger mess on screen - the director and the author fought like cat and dog from conception to completion, and even the two leading actors can't stand to be in the same room as one another for any extended period.

Rumour has it poor Jamie Dorman (the repulsive Mr Grey himself) was even taken out by Robert Pattison for a comiserative pint and a chitchat during filming. If the stars of Twilight are comiserating with you, you know something's gone wrong. Really, really wrong.

Did I miss anything, Chewers? How would you categorise this year's adaptations? Leave a comment, and let me know!