A Salinger September


 

I was predictably introduced to Jerome David Salinger as the voice behind Holden Caulfield. After completing the rite of passage that is The Catcher in the Rye, I met the Glass family in Franny and Zooey, and like many before me, I matriculated at the school of Salinger. I was lucky to be introduced to Franny and Zooey by an English teacher who guided her class through an intense and labored dissection of the stories, so that I was trained from the start to read Salinger’s work with extreme care. She taught us that even within the landscape of reading, there is a direct correlation between effort and reward.
 
I ventured into Nine Stories, Raise High the Room Beam, Carpenters, and Seymour: An Introduction on my own, and in due course re-read all of Salinger in varying degrees of frequency. A Perfect Day for Bananafish and For Esmé – with Love and Squalor, both from Nine Stories, along with Franny, remain my favorite.
 
Through Holden Caulfied’s adolescence, Salinger introduces us to one of his main themes: the competing interests between self and culture, or even, self and circumstance. As we further explore Salinger’s work, we quickly learn that the struggle goes well beyond teenage angst, and that his characters are fraught with deeply existential questions; questions not of the pretentious kind but of the wide-awake-at-3AM kind. The struggle can be terrifying, but Salinger gets that, and his characters respond in their own unique but Salinger-esque ways.

 
Salinger was driven to an extremely private life after the release of The Catcher in the Rye, and subsequently became the world’s most famous recluse. Salinger was obsessively protective of his writing, going as far as to ensure that some stories remain unpublished until 50 years after his death, in 2060.
 
This summer, an independent publishing company, Devault-Graves, announced its release of Three Early Stories, which includes The Young Folks, Go See Eddie, and Once a Week Won’t Kill You. These stories have already been published in magazines between 1940 and 1944, but never within their own jackets. Would Salinger be upset? Most likely. Would purchasing the book and reading its stories flagrantly disregard a beloved late author’s wishes? I remain conflicted, though I plan to proceed. The release of Three Early Stories has inspired me to once again dive into Salinger’s work. That can’t be a bad thing.
 
This shall be a Salinger September.

 

Photo: The Story Factory

 
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Comments

  1. As strange (and unusual) as this may seem, I wasn’t first introduced to Salinger via The Catcher in the Rye. Instead, I first read Nine Stories in a class the summer before 8th grade. Silly me didn’t realize that the stories we were assigned all came from a book; I thought our teacher just assigned random stories on whim! Though I never got to finish reading all nine stories, I definitely remember “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” (a favorite) as well as “For Esmé – with Love and Squalor.” One of these days, I think I may need to pick up a copy of Nine Stories and finally get around to finishing them all. Until then, I suppose I’ll have to be satisfied with learning more about the man behind the words.
    Based on just a quick reading of a Salinger biography (via Wikipedia), I feel like he led such a fascinating life. I think it would be really interesting to see that life played out before our eyes in the form of a movie or TV series. That being said, I also think Salinger would roll over in his grave if that were to ever happen.
    Those unpublished stories intrigue me. Supposedly, Salinger had a timeline of the stories he wanted published between 2015 and 2020. The existence of more stories about the Glass family and further insight into Holden Caufield makes me so excited. While I do wonder if the stories would be published with Salinger’s permission, I do also wonder what the stories are like. The two sides are sort of at war but in the end, I think Salinger would want his words to be read and appreciated by people. Or that’s at least what I hope.

    (P.S. I’ve been having issues commenting due to OpenID. Hopefully take 4 will work out!)

  2. Such a good idea! I still remember reading Catcher in the Rye in Englunds class, probably one of the best classes I’ve taken, including at Berkeley! This makes me want to reread that book 🙂

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