Why Catcher in the Rye is vastly over-rated and three other heresies

There are things book lovers are not supposed to admit to. It’s just an unspoken rule. But rules are meant to be broken so here you are some heresies for you.

Based on a Book Riot reader poll. Only half of these respondents were lying. Maybe.

Based on a Book Riot reader poll. Only half of these respondents were lying. Maybe.

1. Catcher in the Rye. Why?

Look. There’s classics, there’s classics taught in high schools and then there’s the books you like. The venn diagram is complicated and quite often people who bang on about symbolism and tone don’t know what they’re talking about. Catcher in the Rye was a tale about a kid who thought a bit too much of himself. He just learnt the word bourgeois and now he’s sliding it into every second paragraph. If you’d listen to him he’s the only genuine person on the planet. Holden was the proto-hipster.

Completely unrelated but one of my favourite roller derby names ever is Scratcher in the Eye and it makes it difficult for me to remember what the book is actually called. Another one is Hellvetica Bold.

judgeabookbyitscover2. Always judge a book by its cover. 

But also, judge a book by the font it’s printed in, the texture of the pages and the reviewers or authors chosen to recommend it in the blurb. There aren’t any recommendations? Perhaps it’s not that great? Or perhaps you’re about to make an amazing discovery. But more likely it’s not that great.

You can absolutely judge a book by the company it keeps. Don’t fall for the hype if everyone is talking about it on Facebook. Generally speaking the people who rave about books on Facebook have terrible taste. If there’s a typo in the first few pages put it down immediately, go to a safe place, call your mum.

outside-bookshelves-stall3. Books want to roam free.

To me the best thing about books is their tactile nature. Their weight, the corruptibility of the page, their vulnerability to water. Their tendency to collect in optimistic little piles around the house that you label in your head: To Read, To Review, Who Did I Borrow This From? Why do people insist on putting them on shelves, all pristine in alphabetical order, like this is some kind of library? Like the books, and ideas therein, need to exist in a sanitised echo-chamber. All the books in my house are somewhere they shouldn’t be. The books on my shelves are arranged according to spine colour. It creates uncomfortable shelf-buddies and that’s the way I like it. I imagine Will Self being seated next to Charlotte Bronte at a dinner party and what conversation might arise. Sometimes I leave books in public places just because it makes me happy to see them get out more.

4. Writing is really, really hard. 

I am not a novelist. I am a wanna-be novelist in the sense that I always have plans in my mind to “one day” write an amazing novel that people really read, that is sold in real life book shops, but I have never actually sat down to do so. I consider myself a writer, because it’s my job, and because it’s just my way. I have been neglectful of this here blog and that’s just a small, low pressure past-time. I cannot fathom how difficult it must be to conceptualise a whole plot arc and follow it through with words from your brain without being distracted by some other project or watching TV or discovering Letris in the App Store (seriously, it’s amazing). Virginia Woolf didn’t have these problems because Facebook wasn’t invented yet but she also didn’t have a room to write in so, you know, swings and roundabouts. Imagine writing Mrs Dalloway by hand. At least we know Buzzfeed is there to get us back to the grindstone. Sorta.

Of course, I’ve included the link to Buzzfeed purely for the gratuitous delight of the last gif, which forced me to coin the euphemism “sly Cumberbatch smile”. Not sure what it’s a euphemism for yet but it sounds fantastic. Your suggestions are welcome.

Happy Friday everyone. Get back to work.

About Rachel Watts

I am a writer from Perth, Western Australia. My speculative fiction novella Survival will be released in early 2018. View all posts by Rachel Watts

4 responses to “Why Catcher in the Rye is vastly over-rated and three other heresies

  • JulieG

    Books want to be free. So true. Why else do they put so much effort into escaping my shelves only to lounge around on every flat surface in my home?


  • Jane Bryony Rawson

    I almost entirely agree, except that the first time I read ‘The Light Years’ by EJ Howard it was in an appallingly proof-read edition littered with typos and if I hadn’t pressed on I never would have read the rest of the series and then where would I be? Here at work, wasting time on your blog probably, but still…
    One of my dearest friends arranges her books by which authors would most like being near one another.


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