Catcher In The Rye

url“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused  and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that  score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records  of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”

You know how good it feels when you just pick up a book with absolutely no high expectations but it turns out exactly what you needed to read to not feel alone. This is that book. No fantasy, no big dragons and wise wizards, nothing about any star crossed lovers, nothing about civil wars or fights against rascism, no murder mystery or thriller. Just a 16-year-old boy narrating a couple of days of his life after he’s expelled from his school. I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if I had known what it is about. I’m SO glad I didn’t.

523d43599af7aeac69bdf5f2538bf101There’s this thing about this book, that you either identify with it, or you don’t. There’s no in between. And that’s why a lot of people think that this book is another one of those young adult novels about a whiny teenager who rants about how he hates literally everything and everyone around him. And then there are other kind of people who can relate to it and I’m one of them. Because honestly, we’ve all been through that phase, that period of alienation and estrangement in our adolescent years when so much as our routine life depressed us and broke us down. And we still go through those emotions once in a while. It’s really surprising how you could feel so close to a book which was written 63 years ago. But then again, human emotions never change whether it’s decades ago or centuries.

18dbf47906d7aa00bfb6f8c47439ce68Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of this book, isn’t an exceptional A grade student, or a child prodigy or a sports star of his school. He’s just a below average student who flunks all of his subjects except English, but that doesn’t mean he’s not intelligent. He’s always curious for knowledge he finds interesting. He thinks that adults are all pretentious and despises this world for being so phony and fake. All he really likes is reading books and going to the museum. A few pages into this book and you would realize what kind of person he is. He loathes everything. He’s aimless. He’s angry. He’s devastated. He’s frustrated. He’s depressed. He doesn’t have anywhere to go, not even his own home. But among all of this, there’s one person he really cares about. And that’s his little sister, whose childhood innocence is real and honest, unlike everything else. And he wants nothing more than saving her from this corrupted, hollow, hypocritical world. After all, this is all this book is about. Saving childhood innocence. This boy is not an adult yet, but he’s mature enough to understand what most adult people are like. And he doesn’t want his sister or any other children in general to be exposed to that world of phoniness. And this is what the title actually means. As he says…

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.

So seriously troubled and distressed this boy is, that I desperately wanted to read a happy ending for him.  I needed to know that he finds a way in the end, that he somehow fits in somewhere. That he finds answers to all his troubles. That if life looks so bad at the moment, it doesn’t mean that it’ll not get better. To know that everything becomes okay in the end. But this book doesn’t have that end. It just ends on the same frustrated note with which it starts, probably J.D. Salinger’s way to tell the readers who relate to Holden to find their own ending. To find their own way. To find their own answers.
I would just say that if you have ever, ever in your life, felt like a misfit and have had that feeling of alienation from the rest of the world, this book is for you.

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The Help

“I always thought insanity would be a dark, bitter feeling, but it is drenching and delicious if you really roll around in it.”

Book Review The HelpI risked to read this book when I had an exam coming up at the end of the same week. It just sat on that shelf, staring at me, waiting to be read so I told myself that it wouldn’t hurt if I read no more than a couple of chapters in a day. Because that’s the kind of excuse I give myself every time, believing that I’ll stick to it, but never do. Obviously this time it was a lie too, because I finished it in 5 days (just 2 days before my exam) going along with a hectic routine, and procrastinating all my homework. All because it was just SO unputdownable. I literally used to spend all my time thinking about going back to this book at the end of the day.

This book, in simple words, is basically time machine which takes you back to the 1960’s America, a time when racism was hugely prevalent. This book is alternatively narrated in first person by 3 people. Two black maids, Aibileen and Minny, and a white woman, Skeeter who’s writing a book on the lives of black maids in Jackson, Mississippi and the relations they share with the white families they’re working for. It is, obviously, a clandestine project because of the sensitive topic which could put them at a great risk.

Kathryn Stockett did a wonderful job on this book, especially considering that it was her debut novel. The plot is really strong and powerful, and the way she breathed life into the characters of this book, it all really came alive for me. Not just the three protagonists, but all the secondary characters were fairly well developed. This book doesn’t just tell us about how the lives of black people were dominated and controlled by whites to a large extent, but it also has just as much to say about how important freedom is. Freedom of expressing opinions, freedom of fighting back, freedom from societal norms, freedom of living the life on our own terms and nobody else’s, freedom of loving someone irrespective of their color and freedom of living as equals. Because there’s one thing which is common in all of us and which goes beyond any differences of race, color, gender, etc. and it’s that we’re all human beings. All of this and so much more in one book, all with a pinch of feminism to make this book stronger. Like one of the quotes from the book… “Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.”  

Kathryn shared a quote at the end of this book by Howell Raines whilst talking about her inspiration for writing this book which was…

There is no trickier subject for a writer from the South than that of affection between a black person and a white one in the unequal world of segregation. For the dishonesty upon which a society is founded makes every emotion suspect, makes it impossible to know whether what flowed between two people was honest feeling or pity or pragmatism.

I’d say it may be a tricky and sensitive subject but Kathryn handled it brilliantly, especially with the thick southern dialect which made the characters all the more real. I was only 10 pages into this book and I already knew that I’d love this one. It’s just that gripping. It stays on a very serious note for the most part, but turns effortlessly amusing at times. And most importantly, it ends on a rather positive note saying that it’s never too late to start a new life or start doing something you’ve never done.

I would love to say a lot more about this book and right now I’d want nothing more than to discuss and talk endlessly about this book and my favorite parts but that would ruin it for you if you haven’t read it. So I’m going to keep this review spoiler free. But there’s one thing I’ll say… There are a lot of books which i have read and loved but there’s only a few which have actually teared me up. And The Help is one of them.

So I ain’t on tell you how good this book be in my words any more. I on tell you in Minny’s words. Law! This book be real good. So you don’t walk your butt to a book shop and buy it, you run it!