J.D. Salinger died this week, so last night I decided to read Catcher in the Rye, which I've been meaning to read for a while now. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I ended up really liking it. People criticize the book because Holden Caulfield is unlikable, but to me that seemed to be the point. He is a completely self-involved, cynical, sexist, judgmental, and miserable guy. But he's also relatable. Maybe not everyone has the same problems as Holden, but I think we can all relate to the feeling of disenchantment with the world that leads us to also sometimes be cynical, judgmental, and self-involved.
Salinger himself apparently wasn't able to overcome the personality flaws he shared in common with Holden.
[He] was pathologically self-centered and abusive... and to the homeopathy and food fads she added a long list of other enthusiasms: Zen Buddhism, Vedanta Hinduism, Christian Science, Scientology and acupuncture.
To me, it seems that Holden Caulfield was miserable because he wanted to connect with something bigger than himself, but he'd lost faith in the world, and was miserable because he couldn't find anything to believe in. I feel like maybe Salinger was the same way, because from what I've read of him, he was pretty messed up and unpleasant. But I'm choosing to believe that underneath it all, he was just disenchanted and needed something to believe in. RIP J.D. Salinger, who was, at the very least, was a great author who's inspired many readers already, and will do so for many more still, after his death.