2017年5月13日 星期六

My thoughts on 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J. D. Salinger

  I am happy that I found a story that I can relate so much.

  Holden Caulfield is a 16-year-old who is a terribly 'bad student'. To most adults, he seems to be throwing his life away. He got kicked out of school several times because he fails most of the courses. He thinks most of the people around him are 'phonies', his schoolmates and teachers, even the girl he finds attractive. The story is the days about he left the boarding school he kicked out from. He went back to New York, his home city, and goes 'underground' for three days to wait until the start of Christmas holiday to get home. He does not want his parent to know that he got kicked out of school before they receive the official notice.

  The characters Holden hates or described as phonies are the people who do things not out of sincerity but only to impress others, make themselves feel good or simply to follow the rules. One scene that I like very much is Holden's description about 'digression' in English oral exam. Each student will choose a topic to give a speech in front of the class. If the student is out of topic, the audience can shout 'digression'. This makes some students nervous and unable to continue. 'What I think is, you're supposed to leave somebody alone alone if he is being interesting and he's getting all excited about something.(240)'  I think the reason he hates this is that the teacher's lack of empathy of student's feeling and respect of student's voices. They just want them to do what they are supposed to.    This is also what I hate about my school or education in general. I really hate school stresses on competition all the time. In our speaking exam, in which a group of students are assigned a topic to discuss, we even have to compete for a chance to voice out our opinions! My teacher sighed, 'Are the students that are good at speaking exam (those who are outspoken and spontaneous) really what the society needs?' Maybe we should ask the question, 'is this what we want to be?'
   Holden is also sarcastic about people who deliberately impress the person of a higher hierarchy or to 'like' something that is considered high class. During a break of the show 'the Lunts', he thinks, 'you never saw so many phonies in all your life, everybody smoking their ears off and talking about the play that everybody could hear and know how sharp they are'(164).
  This kind of snobbery exists everywhere. I really hate to introduce myself as a Philosophy major since many people will start to name drop, asking whether I have read this one and that one. But they actually mixed up some of the ideas. When I was younger, I was also very annoyed by the phoniness of adults. I even thought my parents are phonies sometimes. My parents are being extremely nice when they are talking to relatives they don't know very much and even offered to pay the lunch. Now I get used to it and this is just what they are supposed to do.

   I think Holden is a very good-natured boy who cares about people genuinely. 'The catcher in the rye' is what he really wants to be: 'I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all...And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everyone if they start ti go over the cliff... (224)' He wishes everyone to be happy genuinely and be safe and sound. He loves people who really care about others but not to just do so to make themselves feel good about themselves.

  I do not mean to agree with everything that Holden thinks. People are much more complicated than what a 16-years-old sees. But we need an angry and innocent voice to talk about the phoniness in society and embrace love and sincerity.

2017年5月3日 星期三

Review:Kazuo Ishiguro's Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

    I really like Kazuo Ishiguro as a novelist so I was curious to check out his short stories collection. As the title suggests, these five stories are about music and four of them are about musicians. Similar to most of Ishiguro's works, they are stories of memories, more specifically, dreams and wonders when one was young. These short stories that are not as good as his novels. Quite easy reads, and not many deep implications and messages. They are simply stories that are shorter, capturing an event in a short period of time, but do not express some inspiring truth or have an interesting twist as great short stories do. The character also does not change much after the story. Yet they are still quite enjoyable and fun to read. Some of them make me wonder how I would I think of myself when I get older.
    My favourite story is Cellists. The narrator sees his previous band mate Hungarian bandmate, Tibor, when he was performing music in a piazza. Then he remembers a Summer several years old when they were in Italy. Tibor met an American woman who claimed to be a famous cellist in a cafe in a piazza. That woman, Eloise, claimed that he has a special gift but have not fully developed his potential. She offers free tutorials in her hotel room and Tibor was very inspired by her for the first time and then kept seeing and playing for her. Yet, it turns out that she finally confessed she has never played the cello since she was eleven and she claimed that it is to protect her special gift. Tibor still had faith in that 'special gift' and kept seeing her until he had to leave for a job as a cellist in a hotel.  Tibor has not made a name as a famous musician in that seven years.
     This story strikes me as the weirdest among the five. It is quite ridiculous that the musician would believe one still have a special gift of music after many years not playing the instrument. They may be misunderstood the metaphor of a talent as 'a gift': It is still good enough when you just leave it there. I think of the compliments a child received when he did something good. One may be smart, gifted or creative but somehow life makes a person ordinary. Maybe Tibor indeed has a special gift, but somehow a repetitive job destroy it?