Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

9780241950432To be totally honest, I found The Catcher in the Rye a bit of a grind. While I admired J.D. Salinger’s insight into teenage life — who didn’t feel alienated and angry at the world at one point or another during their adolescence — I found Holden Caulfield to be the most infuriating character. Which is odd, when you think about it: his discontent and cantankerousness, so vividly portrayed by Salinger, are traits I can absolutely relate to: but in this case, I found them irritating.

Maybe my apathy is linked to the fact I’ve read so many stories about characters who’ve unashamedly rejected societal values and parental pressures in order to chase their dreams, and the casual, conversational narrative style is now a stalwart of most YA fiction. It’s only when I truly thought about the context of The Catcher in the Rye — it’s publication in post-WWII America, when individuality wasn’t approved or celebrated, and people were expected to exist within an established framework — that I appreciated its impact. So while it’s not a book I’ll rush out to read again any time soon, it’s one I’m so glad I finally got around to. I wish it had been an ascribed text at school: reading it in my teenage years, when I struggled to fit in and understand my place in the world, might’ve had a cathartic effect. Then again, I had a habit of not reading the books assigned to us . . .

ISBN: 9780241950432
Format: Paperback (198mm x 129mm x 15mm)
Pages: 240
Imprint: Penguin Books Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publish Date: 4-Mar-2010
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


Review: Superman – Earth One Volume 3 by Straczynski and Syaf

Superman Earth OneThe third volume of J. Michael Straczynski’s re-imagining of Superman is flawed, inconsistent, and ultimately brings into question the purpose of DC Comics’s entire line of ‘Earth One’ original graphic novels in a post-New 52 world. Look closely and you’ll see, this is a story full of good intentions, but inept execution means it’s filled with more valleys than peaks.

Superman: Earth One – Volume 3 immediately loses appeal because it’s yet another retelling of the General Zod storyline we recently saw come to life on the big screen in Man of Steel. Regular readers, such as myself, have seen Zod’s origin retold on innumerable occasions over the years, as the elastic band of modern day continuity twisted and tweaked the character to suit a particular moment in Superman’s history. Straczynski’s take is particularly uninspired; almost a cardboard cut-out of what we’ve seen before. A shame, as with supposed free reign, surely the writer could’ve thought outside the box, just to differentiate his Zod from countless others. Artist Adrian Syaf’s redesign of the character is similarly uninspired; a hood shrouds Zod’s eyes in darkness, making him look especially untrustworthy, which makes the United Nation’s decision to back him over Superman even more laughable.

As Volume 3 opens, Superman remains an enigmatic figure, a super-powered threat that must be taken very seriously. Considered a saviour by some, a menace by others, young Clark Kent’s alter-ego is suffering from a case of the Spider-Man’s – – hey, it could be worse, at least he doesn’t have J. Jonah. Jameson giving him grief. The US Military have employed Mr. and Mrs. Luthor – that’s Alexandra and Lex, by the way – to develop the means to harm, or ideally destroy, the Man of Tomorrow. And they choose the moment Superman is battling Zod to test the device; targeting only Supes, naturally, not the other Kryptonian, because the UN have granted him a free pass (for nonsensical reasons).

Amidst all the fighting, Clark Kent’s relationship with his neighbour takes a romantic turn, and Superman’s gradually developing an affiliation with Lois Lane, too (who uses a Superman-symbolled Bat-signal, yes, really) to get his attention. Straczynski’s most comfortable during these quieter moments, nailing Clark’s general unease with himself and his struggles to lead a successful double-life, but these fleeting moments aren’t enough to salvage this convoluted mess. The Luthor’s are underdeveloped, and the culminating battle, which has fatal consequences, lacks any sort of resonance. The artistic highlights, which include some wonderfully dynamic iconic shots of Superman doing battle, or taking to the skies, are let down by occasionally clunky layouts and shot selections.

Superman: Earth One – Volume 3 is undercooked, almost rushed; from its overall plot, to its dialogue, to its art. Plot contrivances abound; the art fluctuates between very good and average; Straczynski’s characterisations of his cast vacillates uncannily. It’s all a bit of a mixed mag, and severely disappointing.