“I am not a sadist,” I said to my friend, Santosh, whom I called to brag about this book that ( I didn’t write ) I’ve read. Because it’s difficult to keep count on your own when you have read as many books as I have. A grand total of seventeen. Hehe, so, we were talking about ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by JD Salinger. After sensing my usual excitement when narrating these kinds of stories, he asked me, ‘Why are you so attracted to depressing books like “The Catcher in the Rye, The Diary Of a Young Girl, A Thousand Splendid Suns?’ I got defensive and answered ‘I’m not a sadist’ in half a breath. That was funny.
I never gave it much of a thought. It was that then an epiphany hit me. I realized why I gravitated towards such books. Hope. These books definitely do not have happy endings but they sure give you a sense of happy melancholia. Things eventually get better in one way or another. Some might say things do not get better, it’s just, you or those characters that grow immune to those situations. Isn’t that great?
After all, whatever does not kill you makes you stronger. But again, this stronger strange familiar pain or tragedy hits you leaving you helpless. As always, this too shall pass. And you grow even stronger. It’s a life long cycle. At those times, you might feel you were hanging on the edge since the time you had your memories. Push yourselves even if that means clinging on that burning rope because life always finds its way. That’s why I love these kinds of books, they take you on that journey, they show you hope, even if that looks like a glimmering light at the end of a dark, dreadful, desolated cave.
Speaking specifically about ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, it’s a story about a 17 years old boy, Holden and his inner conflicts. Actually, it’s much more than that, it is about love, death, change, depression, innocence and more. In a nutshell, it is about life.
It’s an easy read. No use of fancy or complicated words. There lies the beauty, in its simplicity. You can visualize those places with little to no effort. The story starts with Holden getting kicked out of this prestigious school on a chilly December day. The weather seems like a metaphor of his life. He finds almost everything and everyone boring, depressing and bogus. Death fascinates him.
Holden describes this book ‘Out of Africa’ as a very good book. His words – ‘It has these very funny, crazy play …’ that ends with this girl getting killed. Sometimes we don’t mean the words we say to hide our feelings. He is positive when speaking about Allie, his kid brother or a friend to whom he lends his sweater. And, they are both dead. My brother once said – ‘Death and depressed souls are drawn towards each other’. The promise of Death is the graveyard of a depressed soul. Suicidal thoughts often haunt him. Though it intrigues him, when confronted with the imminent possibility of death due to pneumonia, he is scared to death.
He sees everyone else as a pervert and then proceeds to call a stripper himself. Well, Holden is constantly complaining about things. He thinks the world as a phony place where everybody is lying to everybody else, but as if to fulfill the self-fulfilling prophecy, he lies to everybody else, more often than he would care to think.
As a defense mechanism, he assumes different identities in different scenarios in order to satiate his urge to escape the inanities of his life, an act of killing himself without committing suicide. He is always restless as if running from something. Everything. But most importantly from himself and his miseries. He longs for that ultimate escape. He often ponders upon his childhood memories and loves being around children. People do that when they miss their childhood. Yet he tries to act all grown up. He resents everything that resembles him, even the slightest. A beautiful portrait of Irony.
So would I recommend you to read this book? If you had asked me this when I had completed 10-15 pages of this book, I would have said no. You wouldn’t believe what I said to my brother, “I don’t know which is my favorite book but I do know now which is my favorite worst book.” Boy, was I wrong! I felt like I was watching a typical high school movie unfold right before my eyes. More than that the thought of seeing everything as depressing scared me . Right after 2-3 pages or even earlier, I thought this boy, Holden, was a depressed person which triggered not so memorable memories within me. Thereby pushing me away from the story. It had more to do with my own insecurities and anxieties.
It’s still vividly clear.
Ages ago, I was on my way back to Thuliama’s ghar at Baluwatar from Kathmandu University. While the bus stopped momentarily in Sanga for the passengers, I saw 3 puppies playing with each other across the road. People usually go, ‘aww so sweet, cute, aww’. They usually die of sweetness but I felt sorry for those puppies being far away from their mother. Then I didn’t even think of the possibility of their mother being around. I was that depressing.
No wonder even that thought of depression made me paranoid. I almost stopped reading this book. But after knowing Holden was really battling with depression it was much easier to read. These types of books make you feel— feelings, that you thought were long dead. But that’s how you know, you are alive. And that’s why I love them.
If you have encountered depression at some point in your life, then you can see reflections of that You in this character. If not, I would still recommend this book to better understand someone who has been depressed. There are these beautiful conversations that Holden has with himself, lovely gestures from his kid sister that melts your heart. So just go, read it. Before bidding adieu ( getting fancy here, huh, huh? ), I wanna say this. I know it sounds cliche and preachy but when you are down, remember you are not alone in this.
You might ask how is that helpful, that’s just more sadness in this world. Think this way, if someone else in that same place or even worse place than you, manages to get out of that hole. Then you too can do that. Just, hang on. Find your straw and clutch at it. Your straw might be talking to a person, reading, writing, coding, singing, dancing, drawing, music, movies or any form of art. Blackie, my guitar, was my straw, I can not give back the love it deserves. That’s another thing.
Point is just express yourself, talk to your Straw. You do not have to be good at it. Remember, art resides in every heart. Everything we put our hearts on is an art. We are all artists. Just dance freely with your brush and splash some paints on and around this world.
NOTE: If you are wondering who is that brother character in my review, he is Avnish Jha. But, if you’re wondering who are those 3 puppies, I’m really sorry. BTW, Avnish bro guided me to write this review and edited it too.