Salinger

I’ve had the urge to reread some Salinger lately. What I really wanted to reread was Franny and Zooey, but the only Salinger book I seem to have in the house is the other collection of two long stories, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction. The rest of the books are, I assume, still in God only knows which box in the garage.

Franny and Zooey was the first Salinger I ever read, back in high school. I don’t remember why I read it, other than that I read a huge amount when I was young. It wasn’t assigned reading — they would never have assigned such a book at my high school. I can’t remember whether I bought it or got it from the library or came across it on my parents’ bookshelves; can’t remember what caused me to be curious about it. But I read it. I liked the Franny part all right, but the ending of Zooey just floored me. I’ve reread it several times since and I still consider it one of my all-time favorite books.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters is a terrific story. Seymour: an Introduction, on the other hand, is a rambling mess, and yet as I read it, it all came back to me how important some of the passages were to me and how their meaning had stuck with me even though I’d forgotten the source.

I read Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters in a hot bath (appropriately enough, given the ending of Zooey) several days ago after waking up at 3:00 a.m. with a headache and not being able to get back to sleep. Then yesterday, after working an excruciating number of hours the last week and a half (including both Saturday and Sunday) to get a very thick book ready for the printer on schedule, and with the book done and with another headache starting, I took the afternoon off and went home and sat in another hot bath and read most of Seymour: an Introduction. I stopped about 20 pages from the end because I found my concentration flagging — I was getting sleepy, and like I said that story wanders terribly. It’s also too precious by half, which I know a lot of people say is true of Salinger in general; I don’t agree in general, but I do about that story. There are long passages in that story that give me enormous pleasure and joy to read, but it meanders terribly and self-consciously in a way that Raise High doesn’t. I plan to finish it on the train home tonight.

So Dave and I were chatting about Salinger, and about one story I’ve never read, “Hapworth 16, 1924”, that was published in the New Yorker but hasn’t been collected or republished anywhere else; and Dave pointed out that I must have it on my set of the complete New Yorker on DVDs, which I bought four or five years ago and never got around to looking at. So I put the installation DVD in my Mac and got it started (the software is amazingly clunky and slow), and found the article. I’ve saved it, page by page (and it spreads out over fifty pages! fifty!) in PDF form to read on my laptop later. It looks if anything even more meandering than Seymour.

The fact that I have the New Yorker set also means I also have Franny and Zooey and the other stories at hand after all.

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