Tuesday, 16 February 2010

X is the new Y

My book group has just discussed The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (thanks for lending it to me, Becca) - I don't have enough to say about it to make a whole blog post. Basically it's trying to be Catcher in the Rye for the late'90s - and it more or less succeeds, but is rather less annoying than Catcher in the Rye (does ANYBODY here actually like the book, or did you have to be a disaffected youth in the 1950s? Or stoned?). I'd love to hear from anyone who has read The Perks of Being a Wallflower...

Anyway, the point of this post was my strong feeling that TPoBaW was trying to be an updating of CitR. I do think it's lazy criticism to just compare novels or writers, but I felt that Chbosky was deliberately trying to take on this mantle... do you ever feel like about a book? Other than obvious sequels, of course. Examples, please! Lots to give your feedback to there... c'mon, someone, defend the Great Disaffected American Novel.

20 comments:

  1. I remember liking Catcher in the Rye, but I read it when I was a senior in high school, so I don't remember much about it. I think I liked it because it was so different from other books that we read in English class. Before my senior year, we read the more traditional "classics" (Dickens, Shakespeare, Hardy, Twain, etc.), but senior year we read things that were more modern (Catcher in the Rye, Invisible Man, The Grapes of Wrath). Catcher in the Rye was one of the first modern "classics" that I read.

    I haven't read it since then (and have too many other things to read to revisit it any time soon), but there's my rather "disaffected" endorsement for the "Great Disaffected American Novel."

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  2. I liked Catcher in the Rye but I also read it when I was 16 and it really captured my imagination. I haven't re-read it but I agree with you that it was a slightly annoying book. Even at 16 I felt like given Holden a really good shake and saying get over it!!!

    It may be unfashionable but I think Brett Easton Ellis' early work had a lot going for it (Rules of Attraction etc) and in the same vein Donna Tartt's Secret History. But then I am not American so this is hardly a comprehensive list !!

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  3. As an American I would like to report my serious displeasure with the Disaffected American Novel. Did not like Catcher in the Rye although I read it in probably the most disaffected year of my life, and did not like Perks of Being a Wallflower either. Down with disaffected novels!

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  4. I love Catcher In The Rye. It's one of three books I try re-reading every year. I know most people focus on it being disaffected, and Caulfield being a hypocrite of the highest order, but, I absolutely loved him - from the way he talks about his dead brother's baseball glove, to how he is overprotective about Phoebe. The bit where the book explains the title gets me every single time.

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  5. I loathed Catcher in the rye. I had to read it in high school & I disliked it from the first page. But then, you're not surprised by that at all, are you Simon? You know my tastes!

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  6. Lyn, I misread your first line as 'I LOVED' rather than 'I loathed' - and I was very very surprised, because I do know your tastes, and I was pretty sure it wouldn't be included!

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  7. I read "Catcher" at c. 16/17 years olf & *hated* it. I took an instant dislike to Holden & that was it, I just wasn't that sort of teenager :)

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  8. I have to be honest and admit I don't remember anything about Catcher in the Rye (although I did read it eons ago). Wasn't it supposed to be the catalyst that put Mel Gibson's character over the edge in that movie Conspiracy Theory? In general, I can't stand "disaffected" novels of any type. I guess there are more American novels of this type because we as a nation tend to be so "self-absorbed."

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  9. I remember reading Catcher in the Rye in my first year of college and I still could only partly relate to it. I new it was supposed to be a great american classic but I assumed that I wasnt smart enough to get it :) Glad to know its not a universally loved piece of literature

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  10. I have to disagree with the majority. I personally feel that Catcher in the Rye is right up there as one of J D Salinger's best books.

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  11. I ditested Catcher in the Rye, it makes me feel bad especially with the authors death so recently but I just loathed it! I read it last year and was so disappointed.

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  12. Ah, ‘the interaction of different social strata, especially when it comes to literary circles and their inability to understand each other.’ I suggest you take two Christopher Brookmyers and call me in the morning. Go Team Colin!

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  13. I really disliked Catcher in the Rye, yet loved PoBaW. I read Catcher in High School and remember feeling utter frustration at Holden.
    Yet when I read Perks POST high school I wish I had had it by my side during those terrible years. Maybe you have to be a creature of the times to be affected by disaffected novels?

    (side note: I just finished 'Howards End is on the Landing' and 'The Heir'...Simon I will read anything you tell me, I LOVED them both!)

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  14. So glad you liked HEiotL and the Heir, Daniel - but that's a very dangerous thing to say, that you'll read anything I suggest..!! Well, of course, everything in my 50 Books You Must Read list is what I'd recommend...

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  15. I rather loved Perks... and I'm in my late 40s. Can't remember the Salinger - I should probably re-read it.

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  16. I like your selection of books though it is very unlikely that I will be able to get any of them. Your reviews on them are pithy and very "readable".

    I didnt like Catcher in the Rye but thats me. Though of course quite a few people seem to be like me!

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  17. Can't defend Catcher as I never liked it, not when I read it at 11 (on the sly, I might add) nor when I read it for school at 14. But I thought The Perks of Being a Wallflower was reasonably decent, definitely more enjoyable than Catcher.

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  18. I loved loved loved Catcher in the Rye as a teenager, but when I tried to reread it some years ago I found I had outgrown it.

    Perks didn't appeal to me when I leafed through it in a bookshop, probably because I wasn't a teenager any more.

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  19. I am a fan of Catcher in the Rye, but I first read it when I was 14, so that may have something to do with it.

    I've always meant to read Perks of Being a Wallfower. I'll get around to it eventually, I'm sure!

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