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Thursday, January 27, 2005 

I Committed to a Book Club...and I Actually Finished the Book

I finished Catcher in the Rye a couple of weeks ago and am so glad that Rebecca forced me to read it! Okay, so she really didn’t…but dang, she totally started it all. For some reason, I totally escaped high school without reading so many of these classics that I really should have read. So while our little forum started with so many ideas and thoughts and goals, I’m excited that this book club was part of it. I’m just tickled pink.

I enjoyed this book and it is actually hard for me to explain why. What I’m going to tell you, though, is that this book brought some very hard feelings to face. And I’m not sure that ya’ll are going to like what I’m about to write. But then I remembered that I’m not writing for you to like it…I’m writing for you to know my opinion.

It makes me so incredibly sad when anyone feels like there is no way out. In the book, Holden just can’t take it anymore. He’s tired of pretty much every aspect of his life. I think much of that started when his little brother passed away. I just can’t imagine. In a lot of ways, Holden has given up. He’s “forced” to go to these schools full of “phonies” and people who ultimately make his life miserable. But he lets them do this…he let’s those people get to him. He just doesn’t know how to deal with much of what’s thrown at him…so he gives up or he fails all his classes except English…or he gets kicked out so many schools…or he gets in fights….or he leaves and hangs out in the city so he doesn’t have to go home to his parents and see the disappointment on their face. It makes me sad that he has to go through so much because he doesn’t feel like he has other options.

Much like Ian.

Ian grew up down the street from where my parents live and where I grew up. I remember when Ian and his family first moved in and I even remember babysitting for Ian and his brother several times. What I also remember are the problems Ian had. Let’s be honest, Ian had many issues and there were several challenges (chemically, emotionally, etc.) that he faced daily. Deep down (really deep down) you knew that Ian was a good kid…you just were never able to see this because all you saw were the terrible outbursts or fits…the trouble that he got in…and the hell he gave his parents, teachers and babysitters.

One day, Ian became tired of disappointed his parents. He couldn’t take the pain and consequences that came with the choices that he made. I honestly don’t think he was capable of processing these emotions, decisions and being accountable. (Holden and Ian seem to have MANY similarities in this way.) This young man who was always perceived as a demon, the bad kid…the trouble maker was just (I believe) a very scared “little boy” who could never process things the way many of us can. So when his mom left for Back to School Night, Ian knew that she was going to learn of all his failed and cut classes and just couldn’t take it. He just couldn’t hurt his mom anymore. Ian took his own life that night because he just didn’t think he had any other options. He couldn’t see anyway out. He was only 15 years old.

Holden Caulfield somehow made it through his battles. Somehow, he was able to pull through and find the light at the end of the tunnel. In this story, he made it through. It’s weird when you feel so much for a character in a book. It’s weird when you almost feel proud of Holden…or relieved that he made it through, at least to this point. It’s weird that you appreciate his sweetness for children. He thought that children shouldn’t have to see the ugliness that taints us a bit when we get older. His imagery of catching all the children (in the rye) so they didn’t get hurt or lost is very touching. In my opinion, that’s what kept him going. It’s what kept him pushing on. That vision, if you will, saw him through. Maybe that’s Salinger’s image of hope.


JP you are amazing. I love your Catcher in the Rye post and I am so very happy you picked this book for January. Your friend Ian felt so much pain, so much pressure to be something he is not. We all have known an Ian or have been a Holden. I find it interesting that while we are young we feel so much pain, we struggle, but as we grow older, as things actually become more difficult we no longer face the same level of heart wrenching disappointment, probably because we have accepted life as difficult and have learned how to cope with it. So really what Holden wants to protect the children from could possible be the thing that provides them with more comfort then they have in the rye… maturity.

Also, I love how reading a book evokes memories, puts our current situation, or past situations into perspective. This is what I love most about book club. I have never been to book club where the book has not been compared to our own lives. I have book club tonight at my dear Melissa’s house and I cannot wait to get another group of ladies perspective… and to hear how they view the book in relation to their own lives.

Posted by Rebecca

Beautiful post. Right on. "Being" with Holden as he is going through his confusion and frusteration makes my heart feel heavy, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It makes me want to reach out to all the Holdens and Ians to make sure they never get to a point from which there is no return. God bless the Holdens of this world... 

Posted by Carrie Ann

Normally I try not to disagree with people, wink wink, nudge nudge, but Becca, I must disagree. You stated “so much pressure to be something he is not”. I am a true believer in the greatness of the human being. I have hope for our future in that belief. I like to think that instead of trying to being something we are not, we try to be something we are, which is great. I do not think anyone was born for mediocrity, for failing out of school, for giving up on life and wanting to leave town and hitch hike west to live in a cabin. I hate Holden for the fact that he did not become what he had the potential to be. It was very clear that he had some apparent greatness. Carrie Ann said she wanted to reach out to all the Holden’s… Well I want to reach out and kick all the Holden’s in the butt, and tell them to get it going, because they can.
JP mentions how Holden somehow made it through his battles, how he somehow pulled himself through. I really do not think he made it through the battle, I think he slipped under the radar and did the bare minimum. Its sad to see people who are similar to Holden, like this Ian who do not, for whatever reason rise to the occasion. We all fail and we all have had times in our life where we have merely “slipped” by. But like the old saying the glory of life is rising each time we fall.

Posted by Cameron

Posted by Cameron

Cameron, you don’t think you have ever felt pressure to be something you are not? I know I have felt pressure to be something I am not before. I have felt pressure to be a good Mormon when inside I am not a good Mormon, but the pressure was still there regardless. I have felt pressure to concentrate more in school and be less of a chatty Cathy during classes, but I couldn’t change that no matter how hard I tried. I’ve felt pressure to please everyone around me before. Have I failed for not rising to the occasion and overcoming these pressures? I don’t think so… Why don’t I think so? Because I grew into adulthood. I woke up one day and discovered that if I just focused on how to make myself better by my own standards and not the standards that I felt were being assigned to me by others (whether they were or not isn’t important) that I would disappoint fewer people, especially myself. I rose the occasion of maturing into a sensible adult.

If Holden were thirty I would tell him to man up and stop being a cry baby, but he isn’t. He is a kid. Not every one is like him, there are the Phoebe’s of the world too, but there are some people who struggle through the transition of childhood to adulthood more then others. You clearly were not one of them.

Last, I, along with everyone else I assume, am simply shocked that you would disagree with me. I am used to you saying, “Man Becca, right again… how do you do it?”


Posted by Rebecca

Cameron...I would agree with you that there are MANY people in this world that do not rise to the occasion and who repeatedly give up. But there are also those people that suffer inside. There are those people that just cannot process or handle what's going on around them. I've heard it said that a person who would take their own life is a coward, that they took the easy way out. And while I agree with that in some respects, you just can't leave it like that. Mental illness of ANY kind can make it hard or impossible to process the most simplest thing or to rise to the occasion.

There is a fine line...but I believe we're correct. (If I can say that.) Great point, Cam. 

Posted by JP

Becca, I didn't even touch on that point...VERY well said. I think we've ALL struggled with outside and inside pressures and feel forced to behave a certain way or make certain decisions.

I'm about to say this and its going to open a BIG FAT CAN OF WORMS, but here goes: I couldn't fully enjoy my wonderful husband for the beginning of our marriage because I was caught up in the fact that I didn't "do it the right way"...the way that all of us here were taught. I felt the immense pressure to be like everyone else and live the life that I had been brought up to lead. I had guilt. I missed out. I guess you could say that I didn't "rise to the occasion" because I couldn't see that I wasn't. That sucks.

CA: Bless you for loving and wanting to reach out to the Holdens of the world. I think we all have lessons to learn from Holden...and from all of us.  

Posted by JP

Becca: I am not trying to be argumentive, but no, persoanlly I have not felt that in my life. My parents did a pretty good job at not pressuring me, and as to all the other pressures, I am, next to Holden the most pathetic person in the world for not caring one bit what pressures there are around me. In my mind I just grab those things that are important to me, and I run with them. They are not always the right thing, but if it turns out bad, the one thing I have learned in life is that "this too shall pass".

JP: I have a hard time believing that the number of people who are struggling in life are made up of people who have mental disorders, or chemical problems. I think the majority just don't care, are lazy, or a scared to death. I have recently experienced medical problems which have caused my body to sotp producing certain hormones that give a person the drive and the motivation to do things. The first obstacle I experience everyday is getting out of bed. I physically can not get out, but I do, I force myself too every morning. I have no desire to go to work, but I get there usually early. I get home at night and fall on the couch and want nothing more then to watch tv, (sorry that applies to every guy bad example). I work my tail off at work because I know if I stop, then my lack of desire and motivation will set in, and I will do nothing. There are days that I do "fall" and I want nothing more then to crawl up in a corner and never be seen again. But, (and this is what my blog tomorrow will be on) you have to change your attitude, you have to say, its time to get off my ass and do something about my struggles, there is help out there, be it friends, family church leaders, coworkers, social workers, or Latoya Jackson. Someone is there to help me. Holden is a character like I am talking about. He had people and friends willing to support him, even if he got gropped by one of them, all he had to do was change his attitude.
I am not including those who by certain chances of life, and misfortune have been put in a bad circumstance, I am saying most people don't make the effort that it takes to bring out the best in themself, regardless of what external pressures they are feeling. 

Posted by Cameron

You are just plain wrong Cameron... Holden didn't have Latoya! 

Posted by Rebecca

Ok, as I have said at each and every entry...I haven't read the book yet BUT I do have to comment on this string of comments.

There are those that just give up and refuse to try. There are also those who try desperately every day and never seem to get ahead. Some times you just don't even know what your potential is. Sometimes a person has been lost for so long and with little or no support that just surviving every day is the best they can do.

I don't have great aspirations. I am not trying for riches, fame or status. I am trying to get all my bills paid on time and be a good mom, a good friend, a good human. That is the greatest potential I can acheive right now. Could I be more? Probably but I don't choose to. I am ok with where I am.

And...I never had Latoya.. **sob, sob** 

Posted by EJ

But think what he could have accomplished if he had Latoya? Is it just me or is this the JP, Becca, Cameron show today? Oh well we are the best anyway! 

Posted by Cameron

Cameron- I agree that often even when some one does have a chemical imbalance or other similar struggles it is possible through sheer will to overcome those things- and I am darn impressed with your ability to do so.

But what if you were 14 when this happened? What if you were 14, and not only did you not want to get out of bed or do anything- but everything was even more scary. And you were also expected to do things beyond your ability even at your best, non-imbalanced self?
I think that yeah- sometimes people do need a good swift kick to get them going- but more than that I think a lot of people need to be loved- need to see that failure isn't really that big a deal as long as you try, and to be given support that both expects things out of them but also loves unconditionally. If all that is there is a "buck up" and expectations that seem impossible to meet it only deepens those feelings of wanting to do nothing other than never leave your bed.

Posted by Mike

Seriously, Mike... Will you be my internet boyfriend? You amaze me.

I remember being 16 and out of my mind. Bad, bad things had gone down in my life, and I had no one to show me how to deal with it. Worst of all, I was expected to just move on, to just get over it, to buck up. When I read this book I understood Holden's apathy because when you aren't being cared for (and let's face it, no one was caring for this boy who had been through the death of his brother and the suicide of a classmate) it is hard to care about anything else.

I think the best thing we can do when we happen across a Holden, or are with someone in the midst of a Holden moment of their lives, is just love the hell out of them. Tell them it is okay to be mad, or hurt or sad. Tell them it is fine if the want to try and push you away, to cut you out of thier lives - but when they are finished feeling the way they are feeling you'll still be there, you will still love them, you will still be their friend. I have had the great fortune of having people who have waited for me to come out the other side of several boughts with soul crushing depression. It breaks my heart that not everyone has that. 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

Cameron, you brought up your parents. I have absolutely amazing parents who I love dearly and who love me dearly. But you know what? My mom had a pretty screwed up childhood and she worked so hard to overcome the 'bad stuff' but there are struggles that she constantly faced. I don't for one second think that my mom gave up. She did the best that she could with what she was given. But some people might say that she gave up...that she was weak in some areas of her life. There are events that happen in our life that shape who we are...no matter what. It doesn't make us bad or good or better or worse...we are who are for a reason. 

Posted by JP

I've been waiting to post all day because I don't know how to say this.

As a teacher in a rough neighborhood, I have several "Holden"s in my class each year. It pains me, to the point of tears, to think of how I have failed them by not reaching out enough.

I often feel like I have to keep my emotions out of my teaching in order to have some measure of success. This seems contradictory, but I do it because I know which students have had parents murdered, which are in gangs, which barely have parents at all, and which have had thier innocence stolen from them.

I can't think about these things and teach them. I have to treat them as fairly as I can, while still compensating, somehow, where I can.

I know I don't do enough... but there's always something more you can do. Where does it begin... where does it end? And how do you do it while teaching math?

And... what's the point of trying if I'm just going to be a "phony" anyway? 

Posted by Kaycee

Tonight was my other Catcher in the Rye book club and I feel it would be wrong of me not to cover some of the themes we discussed, or the books we compared to Catcher in the Rye.

Style of writing: Salinger’s style of writing, voice, is truly unique. Holden will stop mid sentence and say, “oh and did I tell you about…” ‘You’ being the reader, ‘you’ being you and me. Reading the book feels much like a conversation with a friend with ADD, but once the reader is used to this conversation style of Salinger’s s/he feels they are walking along with Holden listening to his escapades, experiences and interpretations of what it means about life and the world.

Holden: Of course Holden was discussed to no end, but one thing that we brought up repeatedly that has not been brought up here is that we are peeking into Holden’s brain. The Holden we are reading about is not the same Holden that has relations with his friends, professors or family members. That Holden is a charmer, wins everyone over. Our Holden we grow to hate, get aggravated with, and want to scream at… Our Holden is the complete Holden, a character you don’t usually see in books… the outside, the inside, the crazy, the all of it Holden. If we could look into one another’s brains we would discover that we are all a little crazy, even Cameron.

Joyce Maynard: An ex live in girlfriend of Salinger’s that is also an author. Google her.

Books we compared to Catcher in the Rye

Lolita: both classics because they were so different for their time. Lolita because it was just… jaw dropping shocking and Catcher in the Rye because it brought depression to the forefront for the first time and because it was written in a voice unfamiliar to the world. (And because we have read it as a book club)

Tom Sawyer: Because both are banned from certain schools across our nation and both deal with the story of boys avoiding coming of age, becoming men, holding on to youth and "innocense" for as long as possible.

Kite Runner: Obvious symbolism created by the author v. Symbolism that we couldn’t determine as intentional by the author or not. (and because it was the last book we read for BC)

Well… there are my minutes. I hope they are useful to some of you… one of you… me.  

Posted by Rebecca

One thing I do want to say- I came down pretty hard on the side of "we've got to do something for these people who are struggling" in this whole discussion- but I do feel quite conflicted, particularly on what our role as friends and supporters should be.
Like you said Kaycee- no matter how much you do it always seems there was more you could have done/should have done.
It is important to be supportive- to be loving, to love unconditionally- but you can't let people use you, you can't feel like you're crap because you aren't convincing other people that they aren't crap. Sometimes you can’t help but get dragged down a bit- but really you can’t let that be extreme; especially since it often doesn’t really do anything to help the person. Sometimes I think because you love the person you have to do a bit of what Cameron said and not put up with crap that shouldn’t be put up with. Further- you have to love and respect yourself enough not to get totally crapped on. How can you help some one else realize they deserve to be loved, they are valid, and they don’t deserve to get crapped on if you don’t believe it yourself?

It far too often seems life’s tougher to balance than it really should be. But I guess that’s part of what we’re here for. At least- that’s what I think.


Posted by Mike

JP: I guess what you said is sort of my point about Holden. Your mom had struggles, and she never gave up, she did what she could do. How much better would the world be if everyone did that? I really do not think Holden made this effort. I think he just sort of gave up, and most of the problems he had came from this. 

Posted by Cameron

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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