Song of Solomon and The Catcher in the Rye
A particularly moving passage in Song of Solomon that really captured my mind.
Song of Solomon
by Toni Morrison

The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger

Yep, I just came out of a deep dive into two heavy classics. I recently gave Song of Solomon to my wife as a gift because we once saw an article in a magazine where someone said he “envied anyone who hasn’t read Song of Solomon yet because he wished he could have that feeling again after having read it for the first time.” Or something like that, which seemed to be very high praise for a book. Once my wife finished that one, she checked our shelves and strangely took out The Catcher in the Rye. I figured leaping from Milkman Dead to Holden Caulfield was a pretty heavy thing to do. Turns out it was and I know, because I took the same leap a week or so after she did.

Song of Solomon is a beautifully written book. It’s a Nobel Prize in Literature winner and it was created by a poet so of course it is rich, descriptive, eloquent, and a little rambling. The best I can describe the book is...reading it feels the same as walking through a big and fancy museum. You won’t like everything in there. Though a lot of the works you see are similar and seem to be interconnected, somehow, you don’t feel a traditionally strong and coherent plot as you stroll along. Some of it is a little vulgar, some of it flies way over your head. A few pieces are extraordinarily beautiful and truly catch you just right. Sometimes you may get a bit bored and want to get the hell out. But, you’re already all up in there, so you figure you might as well walk through the whole thing. You’d like to see where it all ends up, anyways. And you hope you’ll be better off in some way when you finish.

Afterwards, you may find it a little tough to recommend that museum, as I’m finding it difficult to truly recommend this book. Not because I didn’t like it, ‘cause I did, I just wasn’t as knocked out by it as I expected. So there’s no way to guess how others will feel about it. All I can say is: if you feel drawn to Song of Solomon someday, go for it. Stick with it, and I’m sure you’ll find something completely different in it than I did or anyone else who’s read it before has found.

Also, know there is not a tremendous amount, but certainly a fair amount of strong profanity in the book (the real, George Carlin type cussing). And some other adult content that makes this one for college readers or adults.

And now, on to The Catcher in the Rye, featuring the infamous Mr. Holden Caulfield. Yes, to him, everyone is a phony and life is awfully depressing. Holden doesn’t feel like doing anything and he doesn’t like anything. Though he’ll tell you he does like some things, just nothing that’s phony. Yet I think he has a warm heart, deep deep deep down.

Crazily enough, reading about ol’ Holden is probably not that different from talking to some teenagers these days. Perhaps most of today’s youngsters aren’t quite as sick of everything phony as Holden is, but I bet some are. Overall, I did like this character, even though you probably aren’t supposed to like him and it’s awfully hard to stick with him and pick out his good parts. Salinger did give him a good core and if you read carefully, you can find the small bits of life young Caulfield doesn’t hate.

I can strongly recommend this book to all mature, older high school readers and up. Yes there are lots of bad words and some insensitive language. However, they are what I’d call soft cusswords. And the “non-P.C.” language is a product of the time in which the book was written. Speaking of the writing, I truly do find the style and tone of The Catcher in the Rye to be extremely well done and terrifically unique.

Parents, you should check this one out, or re-read it, especially if your teen is reading it for school or on their own for fun. You can then jointly dissect Holden’s antics and I’m certain you’d both learn much. The book is quick and straightforward, I finished it in two days. Read it, share about it, and discover together the ways that life is not all phoniness and teen angst. Our kids--even the Holden Caulfield types--can, and will, find what they love in life if they truly seek it. As long as we give them the love and support needed to encourage them to look.

Happy Reading! (yes, even and especially when the books are deep, heavy classics!)