Well, I suppose I’ll chime in, if not to add anything revolutionary.
I first read Catcher in the Rye when I was 16 (I’m 17 now) and I really liked it. I suppose that it might be the ultimate hit-or-miss book. I’ve never met someone who wasn’t quite sure how they felt about it. As we see here, there doesn’t appear to be a middle of the road. Anyone who gets a sense of “meh”, feel free to prove me wrong.
dantheman, you said that you think that a lot of people like it because it’s a counterculture parable and they only read it because it is assigned and labeled as a “classic”. Well, if every book that was counterculture and a “classic” was as popular as CITR, we’d be having debates about The Awakening and The Scarlet Letter every week.
I just think that CITR is a compelling story that may not be realisitc, but it does capture the angst of unrealistic expectations (both put on you and put on by you). It’s a chronicle of giving up and growing up. I can relate.
I also think that it’s necessary to really examine Holden for what he has experienced. I think he has a right to be cynical and jaded after what he’s been through (Allie dying and the harrassed kid who jumped out the window). Most people who don’t like the book would say that his expectations are unrealistic and make him an asshole. Well, yeah, but it’s not as though he’s imposing this arbitrary set of behaviors on everyone. To me, he’s eccentric and likable, to others, he’s an insufferable jerk.