Monday, May 30, 2016

Nine Stories by JD Salinger

This was an interesting little book of stories. I enjoyed them all and went out on the Interwebz to read a little more about them. Salinger, obviously, is a great writer and short stories are some of the hardest to tackle, I think, because you have to capture the audience quickly and leave them satisfied with the story in just a few pages.

A Perfect Day for Bananafish is the opening story and, at first, seems very frivolous and materialistic. Nearly all stories in this book touch on war and it's aftermath. We have a daughter and mother discussing fashion while the mother expresses worry about her son-in-law's "funny" behavior. The story ends in such violence that I needed to go back and re-read, sure I had missed something.

Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut and Just Before The War With The Eskimos feel connected in a way. Uncle Wiggily shows us a housewife who is realizing her own unhappiness in her life and marriage and is drowning it in alcohol. Just Before The War... show us children starting off making connections with others and realizing there could be happiness. Some of the internet notes say that the latter story is a symbolism of Christ. I didn't see that and don't know if that was the intention.

The Laughing Man and Down at the Dinghy were good stories: the former depicting the end of youth and told from the POV of a man looking at the past. The latter gave us a little boy who frequently runs away to avoid conflict and his mother, whom I was pretty impressed with, connecting back with him to get his confidence to come home.

For Esme - With Love and Squalor was a bit brutal with the wartime references. We start off with a young solider meeting Esme, a little girl, who wants to write to him. We abruptly move into a room with Sargent X, a war harden solider, who has suffered a nervous breakdown.  I really liked this story. I think, even now, we romanticize war much more than we should and "forget" the reality that the soldiers have to face.

Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes is a phone conversation with a, to me, ambiguous ending. Why did Arthur lie?

The last two, I liked very much: De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period and Teddy. John Smith, in the former story, is a narcissistic, arrogant young man who eventually has some revelations that lead him in a better direction. Religion is heavy in this one as Smith tries to communicate with a nun whose art he is tasked with evaluating.  The latter, Teddy, brings us to a close with a very ambiguous ending and quite a bit of Zen and reincarnation as presented by a child. Ten year old Teddy is a mystic prodigy and has several conversations aboard a luxury liner that show his depth of knowledge (he is not an "apple eater"). The ending, where we've been prompted to believe in Teddy's eventual death, may or may not be so.

Excellent little collection of stories to pass an afternoon. You'll need to go back and re-read several of the stories as you hit the end, but it's worth it.

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