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August 6, 2006

“I was the only one left in the tomb then. I sort of liked it, in a way. It was so nice and peaceful. Then, all of a sudden, you’d never guess what I saw on the wall. Another “F*** you.’ It was written with a red crayon or something, right under the glass part of the wall, under the stones.

“That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write ‘F*** you” right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say ‘Holden Caulfield’ on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say ‘F*** you.’ I’m positive, in fact.”

Ahh…. so very, very priceless.

I was drawn to The Catcher in the Rye, oddly enough, not because of a strong recommendation somebody gave me, but a rather horrible review. Actually, that’s not really odd at all. You hear a million good reviews about a book every day, and it’s impossible to go and explore every book that somebody strongly recommends to you. But when someone hates a book enough to go and rant about it, that, my friend, will be enough to pique your interest.

Basically, my friend dis-recommended this book because the main character was so emo, and all he did was mope around the entire book. His impression of the book was, “I was just walking around, and then I looked at a tree, and it made me so depressed.” Now that I’ve read the book, I see that this was a rather accurate description. I can’t even attempt to summarize the plot, because nothing happens, really. But it’s better that way, because this is essentially a character study, and you shouldn’t bother trying to bog down a character study with needless and pointless plot twists (cough cough HAMLET cough).

Now, not only do I distrust my friend’s opinions of books—he hated Ender’s Game, which disqualifies you right there—but I also distrust his assessment of emo people. Whenever he talks about them, he goes on about how he gets so annoyed when they complain all the time even though they live in rich Folsom and have everything they need to live well, so they’re spoiled brats for complaining. I’m sure he’s not the only one who feels this way. It’s like rich people have no right to be sad, almost. Like lacking material wealth is the only thing anyone should be sad about. That pisses me off a little.

The thing is, emo people don’t get depressed and complain like spoiled brats about how their parents didn’t buy them that BMW like he seems to think they do. There’s a term for those people—spoiled brats. Emo people are more like, “My life is just a black abyss” and “Just because I feel like kissing two or three guys doesn’t mean I’m gay. My parents just don’t get me.” You know the song, it goes something like that. So, do you get it? They’re not depressed about lacking wealth. They’re depressed about this society that suppresses individuality and makes it impossible for anyone who’s a bit different to be understood. I ask you, is there any better reason for anyone to be depressed than that?

Of course, the emos (emoes?) do tend to take it a bit too far, to the point where they’re doing things simply because it’s weird and different, and not because it has anything to do with their own true character. And it’s actually kind of silly, the extremes they’ll go to just so they can set themselves apart from the rest of the world they look at so condescendingly, even though their persona is just as false as anyone else’s. So go ahead and make fun of the emo kids. They are kind of asking for it.

That’s what I would say, if I hadn’t already seen the damage that making fun of emo kids has done.

Because what happens is, people make fun of emo kids so much that it’s become the latest catchphrase, the newest derogatory term for people who do nothing more than… express emotion. It’s gotten so that anytime anyone decides to say anything with a hint of sadness or depression behind it, everyone just dismisses it like this: “Stop being so emo, you emo.” “Dude, that’s so emo.” “Cheer up, emo kid!” “OMG, Hamlet’s emo!” It seems like nobody’s allowed to express anything more intense than subdued happiness anymore.

You know, it’s said sometimes that atheists will be the last group to be fully accepted in society, even after gay people. Not so. The last accepted group will be none other than the emotional. It’s obvious to me that this is the case because it doesn’t seem to be obvious to anyone else. Nobody even notices what they’re doing when they do it. Nobody considers it bigotry, like it is. I could go on for pages about how much people shun and ridicule sadness with all of their might, having experienced it firsthand time and time again. God forbid that they might develop some empathy and be forced to feel what I did.

That’s the kind of mentality that seems to have infected my friend, because The Catcher in the Rye is one of the best books I have ever read. He’s not emo. He doesn’t wear girls’ pants and kiss a bunch of guys just to see what it’s like. What he does is tell the truth. I mean, here is a character is so completely opposite from me, and yet I relate to him, no, see myself in him at every turn. That’s because he’s exactly what I would be like if I hadn’t spent my years making every effort to veil from my eyes the shortcomings of everyday people. If you really take a look, and look closely, it really is almost sickening how phony people are, all the time, at every turn. It’s depressing. It really is. Holden Caulfield sees it all for what it is, and I tell you, it opened my eyes like few books have managed to do. And people just dismiss it as emo.

But here’s the clincher. Even after Holden tells about all these phony people, and how horribly depressed it made him to talk to all of them, he doesn’t hate them. He really doesn’t. He likes people in general, and misses even the worst of them after they’re gone. Can you imagine? To see everyone for who they are, and to still like them all. If that’s emo, then I tell you, those emo kids really have it all figured out.

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14 Comments
  1. I don’t like Catcher in the Rye much either. Does it perfectly describe the apathetic rage of teenage life, or did it instead predict it? Holden is an emo character, not in his extraneous features but by the attributes of his core–namely the hatred of things he fails to understand. And that’s what Salinger was getting at, I think; run around and preach the truth all you want, for in the end you are still only a child. Which isn’t to say that I dislike Salinger, because 9 Stories and Franny and Zooey are both amazing. Read ‘A Perfect Day for Bananafish’ and follow it up with F&Z and then come back and tell me how momentous a character Holden is. The latter is kind of like Catcher in the Rye if it had actual content. I would add ‘and actual characters,’ but unfortunately there are far too many people as actual as Holden in my life than I would like–at least on the outside. I can’t speak for their insides because their willingness to accept defeat at the hands of forces they do not understand and maintain an outer shell of ‘intelligent depression’ to that end disgusts me to no end, and I refuse to be infected by their oh-so-different-but-really-the-same lack of cheer and driven to the point of depression in the search for the inner truth at the hearts of mopey teenagers the world over. I would take phony peoples who indulged the world with their phony happiness any day. Because let’s face it, the only logical response to the world is utter and complete despair, but it also happens to be the easiest way out. Easier than ignorant bliss by any and all means.Personally, I think Catcher in the Rye is leading a The Perks of Being a Wallflower-inspired second wave of inspiration for ‘misunderstood’ teenagers across the West. Which may make it timeless in the moment, but only because of our history-repeats-itself brand of adolescence finding some kind of value it CitR’s denial of value rather than in spite of it.But I should mention I liked it the first time around, on my cousin’s bookshelf waiting to be stolen in the summer of seventh grade. And Holden’s mentioned in one of my favorite songs ever. So don’t listen to me, because I’m just hating on things I like to think I’ve grown past enjoying and deriving meaning from.

  2. KIND OF LIKE HOLDEN HAHA JOKES ARE ON ME

  3. Hey, are you back in town? If so, hay un fiesta de fin de verano en mi casa cerca 2 en el 13 de augusto. Gimme a call, you know the number,
    S.

  4. Anonymous permalink

    emo kids dont exist?

  5. Don’t worry Chris, I like Holden.  A lot.  And I don’t care if my English teacher said he was a hypocrite for always complaining about everyone else and not being any better himself blah blah blah.  But then again I also like people who complain a lot because I’m used to people telling me I’m too negative………………. and I love how he exaggerates everything hahaha

    I know what you mean about the whole emo thing… don’t cry in public etc….. it was really embarrassing when I had a nervous/angry breakdown in front of my art teacher a few weeks ago and started bawling………………. it really makes me mad that I’m like, ashamed to cry in front of people.
    The Perks of Being a Wallflower is lame……………….. and the main character is kind of annoying if you’re expecting him to be like Holden b/c that book is like supposed to be “The Catcher in the Rye” for a new generation or something…. he’s too optimistic and loving and always writes “love always” after his letters (which I think is like the most annoying thing ever) but some parts are good.

  6. David: I do recall you saying at some point in time that we might be polar opposites, which is not unlike what I said about me and Holden. And really, I doubt if Holden would have liked himself a whole lot either. He seems to like his sister more than anyone, and his sister isn’t much like him at all.That’s exactly what I like about him, though. He doesn’t ask people to be depressed like him, as the blissfully ignorant often forcefully ask people to be blissful like them, or at least imply. So when you say you “refuse to be infected” by his demeanor, that seems to me to be an insecurity on your part, rather than any effort on his.And Rachael–I, for one, like your negativity. As Bill Maher says, “Be more cynical!” A lot of us could stand to take that advice. And I believe that happiness and cynicism would be able to coexist much more easily than it does now, if cynicism didn’t bother other people so much.That’s what it is. It’s not the depression I admire, but the cynicism. A happy cynic would admittedly be a more interesting character, but I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered that character in my reading.

  7. (Warning: I have not read Catcher in the Rye,hopefully that will not prevent this from being a meaningful post.)In a sense Cynicism does have a lot of value in a lot of situations today, as really the core beleif that defines cynics is the beleif that all people are motivated solely out of self interest, but while I do agee this is often an valid way to look at things, and an essential point of veiw to cosider when looking at anyhing dealing with why humans act as they do it certainly isn’t the only valid veiwpoint in all situations nor is it a world view that can explain all human behavior, and it is certainly invalid at least to the sensibilities of most people in its denial of the existence of innate human virtue.. Nor is the fact that humans are usually fundimentally motivated out of self interest something to be depressed about, on the contrary I would find it frightening if humans were motivated so greatly by anything else. It is with the acceptance of that one can really begin to understand other people, and if you understand someone it is neigh impossible to hate them, whether you like or what they are doing. I agree that loving everyone is silly, but so is hating them so Holden certainly has something there.Even the perceived bad state of society and the low overall level of human existence is not something to fear, and it is certainly not something that merits depression, indeed in my opinion depression, at least in the Emo sense is not merited by anything, as it is a state of forced inaction, and inaction should not be merited by anything, even the whole Everthing is meaningless argument. [I would respond; if nothing you do will have any meaning, you might as well make yourself happy, of couse being emo is seemingly about being depressed to be different.] Anyway, I would matter that the current position of society is unimportant, what matters is our velocity, anyone that has taken any amount of math knows that as time gets bigger and bigger the actual position at any previous point however low becomes irrelivant. I can with the utmost confidence say that although our society is far from perfect, in an incredible amount better than it was 50 years ago to say nothing of 100, 200, or 500 years ago, and in the grand sceme of things these numbers are unbeleivably small. So assumming that we dont cause ourselves to become extinct, or in some other way bring about some radically different new society, or world, society has plenty of time to continue on its upward path. And the most heartening thing of all, is that this upward movement of society has been because of the efforts of humans who differ only from you and me in their vision and commitment to creating a better world, with the help of people no different from any of us who had the wisdom to understand what they were doing and support them. Perhaps I am being overly optimistic, but I think there is a lot of truth in this veiwpoint, enough that even a cynic could hpoefully see the value of this view.If eveything is meaningless why spend life making blog posts? If eveything is meningless, why not spend life writing blog posts?In closing always face life with truth, justice, love, freindship, optimism, hard work, and guts! Also await future posts with hard work and guts!Thats what my posts are all about…Just like Gunbuster…hard work and guts…this post is long…and I’m making it longer..Don’t get too depressed with yourself Chris,-Andy, Out.

  8. “So when you say you ‘refuse to be infected’ by his demeanor, that seems to me to be an insecurity on your part, rather than any effort on his.”I’m talking about people superficially Holden in their lives, not specifically the kid himself. Holden’s a little deeper than that, but on the emotistical (hey, I just made a word up!) scale he still falls somewhere in between 11th grade neo-Transcendentalists and pre-enlightenment Buddha.I for one am a school of the “all of CitR is a big inside joke” interpretation of Salinger’s works. Read some of his other writings and see if you agree.Or take the cynic philosophizing to a higher level and read some absurdist literature.

  9. So, Are you back in town or what?

    S.

  10. Well, Holden certainly isn’t an “everything is meaningless” type, and I would even say he is hopeful in spite of his cynicism, which is what enables him to continue liking people.  In other words, yes, I do see how a cynic could not only see the value of the view in which everything is improving, but hold that view at the same time.
    And it’s that type of cynicism in particular, not the “woe is me” kind, that appeals to me, because I think it’s that type that drives those who are committed to making the world better.  It’s not enough to just be optimistic and want it to be better.  If you want to make it better, you have to recognize its flaws in their full fury–and then believe they can be changed.
    Of course Holden’s not perfect or even a real force for change as he is now.  He’s still 16, for crying out loud.  He doesn’t have a clue how he’s supposed to go about changing the world.  That’s not the point.  The point is, his heart’s in the right place for it.  Why should we condemn him just for not knowing what to do, as if any of the rest of us know better?  It’s like what I said about condemning rich people for being sad when they have nothing to be sad about.  Just because they’re rich doesn’t mean they automatically must be happy.  And just because someone has the ability to perceive flaws in the world doesn’t mean he automatically must know how to do something about them.  It’s like we resent him for failing because we counted on him to be better than that, to be a model for the rest of us.  And so we hate him.  Hate him for not using his potential, when he has no one to help him figure out how to use it because everyone else is doing the exact same thing.  And because he’s such a stinking failure, we discredit everything he says as we would any other failure.  Who is he, after all, to tell us anything about the world, or especially, God forbid, about our own shortcomings?  So it becomes that vicious cycle, where we ignore him because he doesn’t know what to do, and he doesn’t know what to do because we ignore him.
    So no, Holden’s not an amazing revolutionary, but maybe he damn well would be if the rest of us swallowed our pride and admitted that maybe the cynic who doesn’t do crap could actually be right, and maybe we’re all not so great as we like to think we are.  Why does Holden bother people?  Because, like I said before, he speaks the truth.  And WE CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

  11. Also, if Salinger actually wrote an entire book just to have a good laugh with “those in the know,” his horse is so high he’d break his leg if he tried to get off it.

  12. The problem with emo kids is 1. They exaggerate and 2. They aren’t unhappy in spite of all their material possessions. They’re unhappy because of them.I’m all for self-expression—even if that means Frenching a bunch of dudes while you’re all naked. Whatever, your life. But to me ‘Emo’ is where a bunch of kids get together and find solace in having no solace. WTF is that?? Yeah, life blows sometimes. The problem is it doesn’t just blow for emo kids. For the most part, everyone gets all the same problems going on. It’s like Emo kids have some more serious problems. (Not to say they don’t have problems—especially if they’re Frenching a bunch of dudes while they roll around in a naked pile. But can you say non-Emo kids don’t have problems?) And what’s worse is misery loves company: Emo-kids see the world as Emo. We non-Emos (emoes?) have our own view of it, and they are literally incompatible. But even if the emo kids are right, well, we enjoy life (to some extent) – so what; we’re ignorant? The whole thing is an affront.Now about the material possessions thing—yeah, people can have other problems, but again: we all have similar problems. What’s fucking ironic about it is a real-world comparison.Folsom-Emo-Boy: “I hate life—what is up with all this pain. My gf of 7 months just totally dumped me. Life is horrible.”Afghan-Boy-1: “Mommy, my stomach feels on fire. Why haven’t I eaten in 4 days? I think that shrapnel shell killed sister, and I’m sorry my left arm-stub is bleeding anywhere. I know I should know better than to try and steal fruit at the market.”Dude—I get it, your gf is gone. Hey, maybe your parents even split up! But odds are if you live in Folsom your parents are together, both of your parents are probably alive, and you’re almost certainly well-fed and have access to whatever kind of positive environment you CHOOSE to create for yourself. No, the real problem is “Nobody gets you”, and I get that—but guess what? Everyone wants to be got! Surprise, you’re not alone! We all crave understanding and most of us feel we rarely get it.See the problem with emotions is that they aren’t always genuine. People can be emotional, but if you’re in a constant state of suffering, it’s a high probability that you just desire attention (especially when you like to wear it on your sleeve like a badge of “LOOKA T ME DAMN IT!”), or want to fit in with ‘SOMEONE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, ANYONE!’ or and here’s the spite/material possessions factor. Emo is closely associated with drama—and drama does not take place. People manufacture drama. Why would we manufacture drama? Entertainment. Somethin’ to do.In its most revolting manifestation, Emo is just the creation of drama in a life where none would otherwise exist. Funny how I don’t hear about Emo kids in the 3rd world… I wonder if they have them.

  13. Yeah if you go by ‘Nerds’ that is true. Of course ‘Nerds’ is a huge generalization as well. But from that perspective, maybe Emo is just outright drama-manufacture; it’s easier to ignore subtle drama manufacture (and it’s easier to pass off as natural) and probably is “more” natural. After all, the harder you have to workt o create drama the less you’d think it would be

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