This is something I wrote in a discussion group on The Catcher in the Rye . Every time I go back to that book I see something new:
I just finished reading Phantom of the Opera and am amazed at what a compelling story it is. I know I read it years ago, but I don't think I was in the right frame of mind. You have to have the time to live through it instead of just reading it.
Like Dracula, the tension builds throughout the book until you are holding your breath, especially in the torture room. I was also intrigued by the descriptions of the vast underground warren and lake that exists under the Paris opera house. This underground world is also glimpsed in Les Miserables.
I recently read a popular novel that concerned the underground bone churches that was fascinating. http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/09-05/bone-churches-europe.html and again was amazed at the vast underground world that ancient cities have.
All this is to say that many books like The Catcher in the Rye need to be read slowly and with your imagination as well as the literal part of your brain. Injecting yourself into CTTR evokes the confusion and inconsistency in the adolescent mind and it makes me think about various times in my life when I was trying to juggle a number of inconsistent, and largely unconscious thoughts in my life and how that led to some wildly embarrassing actions; something like that wonderful commercial where the woman says, "I wonder about other questionable decisions in my life." Then there is a video of her as a semi-hippie in 70's garb dancing wildly.
I looked at Holden's life and mine and thought that they were like an underground warren that exists under ancient cities, sometimes even including a "church of bones." The question then becomes how do you forgive yourself for actions in the past, some which have consequences in the present? Things like, "I lost that scholarship, just because I wanted to have a good time. What might my life be like now if I hadn't been so stupid?"
Reading about Holden's world reminds us that he was just a kid making stupid decisions because of churning unconscious struggles that he was unaware of...just like most of us. It makes it easier to laugh at our early life and then bury those bones.