Since the publication of The Catcher in the Rye in 1951, the world of literature has been fascinated by its reclusive author J.D.Salinger (Salinger died in 2010).
However, it is more interesting and more rewarding to investigate the main character of the novel: Holden Caulfield.
A clue to any person's character can often be found in the books they read, and what they think of these books. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield tells the reader of several books he has read. In the first paragraph of Chapter One, Holden makes known his irreverent attitude to literature.
He describes details of a person's birth, childhood and parents as "David Copperfield kind of crap". This, despite the opening lines of David Copperfield - "whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show" - being the work of a master writer.
In the third chapter he declares that, after his brother, his favourite writer is Ring Lardner. Lardner was an American sports journalist and a short story writer.
His novella You Know Me Al is the comic/tragic story of two years in the life of a semi-literate baseball player - told in a sequence of semi-literate letters the baseball player writes to a friend.
Lardner - like Holden - has a good command of the vernacular and he writes English as it is spoken. Lardner delights in exposing hypocrisy which is close to Holden's determination to identify anything he considers "phoney".
Holden then praises Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (Isaac Denison). This book is an anecdotal account of the author's experiences while running a coffee plantation in Kenya. While many of the anecdotes can be described as uplifting, the author's life is tinged with sadness - even tragedy.
Next, Holden talks of The Return of Native by Thomas Hardy. Hardy's novels are usually bleak and The Return of the Native is no exception. Holden declares his love for its sad heroine, Eustacia Vye.
Similarly, sadness tinges most of the characters of Somersett Maugham's novel Of Human Bondage. Holden declares this novel to be "a pretty good book and all". Maybe he felt some empathy with its long-suffering protagonist, the handicapped orphan, Philip Carey.
Holden says that while he would like to talk to ("call up") Lardner, Denison and Hardy, he "wouldn't want to call someone like Somerset Maugham up". Is this because he identifies too closely with Philip Carey and his troubles?
While Holden enjoys magazines, he doesn't "read much poetry" and he does not like the movies. "The goddam movies. They can ruin you. I'm not kidding." Most movies he talks about he describes as "phoney."
He is very critical of the movie of the James Hilton novel Random Harvest (an ill-fated love affair), yet he is tolerant of his sister's favourite movie: the Hitchcock/Robert Donat version of The Thirty-nine Steps. Maybe he is reluctant to disagree with his sister.
Holden confesses that he has not read the play Hamlet and is critical of Lawrence Olivier's portrayal of Hamlet in the movie. But he praises the scene in which Polonius is giving his son Laertes serious advice before he leaves home, while the daughter, Ophelia, is playfully distracting her brother who is "trying to look interested in the bull his father (is) shooting".
Holden seems more impressed that Ophelia, and even Laertes, are taking little notice of their father's advice - rather than considering the nature of that advice.
Holden has no sympathy for Romeo and Juliet. He is of the opinion that they caused their own deaths, and he sees the real tragedy of the play in a - "very smart and entertaining" friend of Romeo's, Mercutio, dying, and it being "somebody else's fault".
Holden's elder brother, "D.B.", saw action in World War II and is anti-war. He persuades Holden to read A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway).
Holden is not impressed with this story of a badly wounded ambulance driver, in the First World War, and his agonising love affair with a nurse - a story with no comic aspects.
D.B. tells Holden that he is too young to appreciate it. Holden cannot understand how his brother can like this book and still like The Great Gatsby. He was "...crazy about The Great Gatsby. Old Gatsby. Old sport. That killed me."
Gatsby is another character who, despite all his flamboyance, is not a happy man and dies tragically.
Holden was a dedicated reader. "Guys" he considers "dopey" are "guys that never read books". To have read all these books before turning 17 indicates he was a keen reader.
But most of the books he writes about feature troubled people - many succumbing to their troubles. If Holden identifies with these people it is possible he was suffering depression.
He should have read some happier books: The Pickwick Papers (rather than David Copperfield), Huckleberry Finn, certainly Damon Runyon's short stories ... perhaps even C.J. Dennis.
But being American, he must have read Huckleberry Finn, and having read Ring Lardner, he is likely to have read Damon Runyon.
Yet he chose not to mention either.
The final scene of Holden watching - with so much pleasure - his young sister Phoebe on the merry-go- round indicates that he is not "a lost cause".
Reading may be recognised as a laudable activity but it is an introspective, rather than outgoing one.
If Holden had a preference for books featuring troubled people, he may well have been better off reading far less than he did.