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In which John discusses the first fifteen chapters of J. D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye." Sorry it's late! (Lots of travel.)

p.s. It's hard to say anything interesting about a book in four minutes.


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A Bunny
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Good morning, Hank, it's time to belatedly talk about the first half of "Catcher in the Rye".

By the way grammar nerdfighters, I apologize for splitting that infinitive. So I want to apologize for making this video late. I know this isn't an excuse but my whole life I've basically been that kid who asks for an extension... and I guess I'm just clinging to my childhood.

JUST LIKE HOLDEN CAULFIELD! Okay, let's begin by summarizing everything that happened in the first fifteen chapters in one long sentence: Okay, a year after all this happened Holden Caulfield sits down to tell the story of how he got kicked out of a fancy prep school, got in a fight with one of his friends, took a train to New York, caught a cab to a hotel where he asked a lot of weird questions about ducks, went to the hotel, had some drinks with some women at the bar at the hotel, then left the hotel, caught another cab, asked more weird questions about ducks, then went back to the hotel, met a women who is definitely a prostitute after earlier in the book not meeting a women who is maybe a prostitute, then didn't do anything with the prostitute, went to bed, woke up the next day, had breakfast with some Nuns, and that's the end of the first fifteen chapters. Oh, except for the fact that the entire book he's like, "why am I putting on and taking off this red, hunting cap?" Poor Holden, your putting it on because it's your protective shield.

Now Hank, whenever people talk about "Catcher in the Rye" they always talk about adolescence as the tension between innocence and experience and I think that's right on, but I also think that that's more interesting to talk about after you've read the whole book. Instead, maybe just because I'm sitting in a hotel room alone on a Saturday, I want to talk about how incredibly lonely it is to be sitting in a hotel room alone. Like the beginning of chapter nine.

Chapter nine starts out "The first thing when I got off at Penn Station, I went into a phone booth. I felt like giving somebody a buzz." So who does he call? NOBODY!

HE HAS NO ONE TO CALL! I mean its the equivalent of opening up your cell phone, scrolling through your contacts and realizing that there is no one on that list who wants to talk to you. Even if you're rich and everything going for you, that is a profoundly un-jokes experience.

Then when he's on his way to the hotel he tries to talk to the cab driver about a question that's really important to him: "what happens to the ducks in the Central Park pond in winter?" And the cab driver won't take him seriously. Then he calls this girl who is possibly/probably a prostitute, and even she won't talk to him! I mean Jesus, when you call a prostitute and she won't talk to you, you are in dire straights.

Pretty much for the whole first half of the book all he is trying to do is talk to someone. So no wonder he needs a security blanket, no wonder he puts that red hunting hat on after his teacher humiliates him. No wonder he only takes it off when he's in a situation where he knows that adults will be making fun of him for wearing it.

I mean anybody whose held onto a stuffed animal a little bit to long because it provided them comfort knows how that hunting cap feels to Holden. And Hank I'm not specifically referring to you although I do believe you still have that stuffed ferret. Okay, before I briefly talk about Holden and the ladies, I want to talk about one more way that Holden is trying to protect himself from the pain of his world.

When I was reading Catcher this time I kept noticing how often Holden says "you" when he means "I". Like in chapter eleven he's talking about holding hands with Jane and he says; "you never even worried with Jane whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was you were happy." Of course he doesn't mean that you were happy, you weren't holding hands with Jane.

But to put himself back in that place is so painful, partly because he's remembering the feeling of intimacy with a person which he no longer has with anyone, and partly because he's remembering that feeling of innocence, of playing checkers and holding hands. It's so painful to remember that that he can't say "I". He has to take a step away from it.

He has to say that that happened to "you". IT'S FRACKING SAD, MAN! Okay so last thing, Holden and the ladies.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think this book is just a wee bit misogynistic. Like the part where he talks about how once you get past second base girls lose their heads and can't control themselves. Hmm... that's a little troubling.

And also it sometimes feels like Holden's desire to protect people and to keep them innocent, is in some ways a way of kind of inhibiting the empowerment of women. I think we should discuss that and everything else in this video and any other topics you found interesting in the first fifteen chapters over at the Ning where I have started an official "let's talk about Holden Caulfield and the Catcher in the Rye" thread.