Perspective

Or: What it’s like to read a book as an adult that I last read as a teenager.

For book club this month, we read The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger. I hadn’t read it since high school. I didn’t remember a whole lot about it, but I remembered that I liked it the last time I read it.

Have you read it? I believe it’s considered a classic.

As I read it this time, I kept thinking, “I liked this?” This time I found it so sad, that I couldn’t imagine having enjoyed it. Then again, I have read a fair number of ‘dark’ books that I definitely found worth reading, although I couldn’t say I enjoyed them. It wasn’t necessarily fun to read, but I was glad to have read it, if you know what I mean. It gave me something to think about or informed me of something worth knowing.

This post is NOT a review of The Catcher in the Rye. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, in case you haven’t read it but would like to (and I do think this is a book well worth reading). I just want to consider how the same book, read by the same person, can seem so different. It’s a difference in perspective, and I just found it so interesting.

I don’t know if it’s just the years that have passed, or if being a mother plays into it, but I just found Holden Caulfield, the main character, haunting. I wrote down a passage from the book that, coincidentally, ties in really well with how I felt about re-reading it.

The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket. Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you’d be so much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that, exactly. You’d just be different, that’s all. you’d have an overcoat on this time. Or the kid that was your partner in line the last time had got scarlet fever and you’d have a new partner. Or you’d have a substitute taking the class, instead of Miss Aigletinger. Or you’d heard your mother and father having a terrific fight in the bathroom. Or you’d just passed by one of those puddles in the street with gasoline rainbows in them. I mean you’d be different in some way – I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.

Reading The Catcher in the Rye certainly isn’t the only time I’ve felt this way. There are things I have enjoyed in certain seasons of my life that wouldn’t have been enjoyable in some other season. One example I can think of is a television show. When Everybody Loves Raymond was new, I was NOT in the right season of life to appreciate it. I have seen reruns since I’ve been a wife and mom and thought it was pretty funny. I’m not a big fan of the way the husband and wife treat each other, but that’s another topic. The point is that I can relate to the storylines better now that I have a family.

It just goes to show that life is not something that just happens to us. Even something as passive as watching t.v. is impacted by what we bring to the table, or to the couch as the case may be.

Our past experiences contribute to the people we are today and how we approach new situations, how we process information, and even how we feel about a story we’ve read.

Interesting to think about.

But this isn’t the end of the story, either. We can’t change our past, but we can keep reshaping our futures with the choices we make everyday. Knowing where we’ve been and how our past experiences have affected us (for better or worse) can help direct our current paths.

My hope is that I will learn from my experiences as I go through life, and use all of that information to make good choices now that will positively impact my future.

Have you ever noticed a definite change in perpective like that?

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2 thoughts on “Perspective

    • There are others that I’ve been thinking I’d like to reread. After this experience, I can’t help but wonder how differently I’d react to a lot of books that I enjoyed in the past. But then again, there are always so many books on my to-read list. I can’t get to them all, or maybe it will just take a very long time to get to them all. 🙂

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