Salinger on the web
January 16, 2005 9:15 PM   Subscribe

Read J.D. Salinger's "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" if you're bored at work this week (or stuck in a Mexican hotel). And when you're done with that dig into the rest (with a couple of exceptions) of Salinger's published work.
posted by cmaxmagee (50 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I found the first few pages of this in a trash can a few months ago -- I read them and spent the day wondering about the rest of the story. Then I forgot all about it, of course, until now! Thanks.
posted by Marit at 9:25 PM on January 16, 2005

It seems like everyone but me is stuck in a Mexican hotel today. I feel like I must be missing something.

Seems like the referenced links have some serious copyright issues but, hey, free lit!
posted by mudpuppie at 9:33 PM on January 16, 2005

Whoa. There is some interesting subtext here. Uh, bananafish? C'mon. . .!
posted by punkbitch at 9:34 PM on January 16, 2005

Given Matt's involvement in Creative Commons, I wonder if this thread will live on in the blue...
posted by billsaysthis at 10:06 PM on January 16, 2005

Ah, this is nice, I grew up reading every Salinger I could get my hands on but I missed most of these.

posted by fenriq at 10:19 PM on January 16, 2005

This is a godsend - I was just looking for an e-text of "For Esme" the other night... thanks.

Reading these does sure bring back memories.
posted by licyeus at 10:20 PM on January 16, 2005

I seem to recall that the loony recluse loves to sic his lawyers on this type of stuff. Yes, yes, we all love that anti-establishment rapscallion from Catcher in the Rye, but JDS is nowhere near as cool as Holden Caulfield.
posted by Skwirl at 10:28 PM on January 16, 2005

Does anybody have a good link to that picture of Salinger being surprised by a journalist from 5-10 years ago? It is one of the most upsetting photos that I have ever seen and I would like to look upon it in horror once again, but I can't seem to find it no matter how hard I google.
posted by mokujin at 10:34 PM on January 16, 2005

JD Salinger is my favorite author, so thanks cmaxmagee! I hope this stays alive...
posted by amandaudoff at 11:03 PM on January 16, 2005

And mokujin: this one?

posted by amandaudoff at 11:24 PM on January 16, 2005

Salinger is my favorite author, too. So I hope this gets taken down. Go to a library.
posted by webmutant at 11:28 PM on January 16, 2005

webmutant- There were quite a few things at this link that I hadn't seen before, namely the Esquire stories. The only way that I can imagine that these would be accessible at a library is via microfiche and with these short stories being digitized I can download them for offline reading at my leisure.

I'm just not understanding why this is a bad thing, copyright violations nonwithstanding.
posted by amandaudoff at 11:43 PM on January 16, 2005

So I hope this gets taken down. Go to a library.

yes, by all means, the plight of poor, destitute mr. Salinger really breaks one's heart. the internets are evil, children.

anyway "Bananafish" is still sooo good (the aforementioned Esmé, too). even though I don't agree with the Salingerettes who say it's the best American short story of the 20th Century (off the top of my head more serious contenders for the title like "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities", "So Much Water So Close to Home", "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber", "Imagine Kissing Pete", "The Swimmer" immediately come to mind)
posted by matteo at 12:33 AM on January 17, 2005

Barnes & Noble (couldn't find it on Amazon) says Hapworth 16, 1924 was released three years ago, but I don't believe that's correct.

I see I have some reading to do, but I still hold that Nine Stories is what was meant to be done with words.
posted by emelenjr at 2:18 AM on January 17, 2005

If you like Salinger, you may find this interesting. Not a "straight" biography, but well written and interesting in its own right.
posted by johnny novak at 2:24 AM on January 17, 2005

posted by TwelveTwo at 4:09 AM on January 17, 2005

I'm, er, looking forward to the day when his unpublished work is available. Salinger must have at least some squirreled away somewhere, and he's 85 years old.
posted by orange swan at 4:59 AM on January 17, 2005

Thank you thank you thank you. Esquire published an index of Salinger's uncollected stories in the early eighties and I recall spending a lot of time hunting them down among the dusty old magazines in the university library. How nice to be able to access them so easily now!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:14 AM on January 17, 2005

thanks, amandaudoff, that's the one.
posted by mokujin at 6:20 AM on January 17, 2005

Barnes & Noble (couldn't find it on Amazon) says Hapworth 16, 1924 was released three years ago, but I don't believe that's correct.

You are correct about that not being correct.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:29 AM on January 17, 2005

Salinger is an asshole. When he discovered that the Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui had done a movie, Pari, based on his Franny and Zooey, he went into full-bore legal-attack mode and successfully kept it from being shown at the Lincoln Center Iranian Film Festival, despite the fact that it's won all sorts of awards and despite the fact that people had already bought tickets to it. Fortunately, I had seen it at an earlier festival, before the Great Man learned about it, so I can tell you it's a magnificent movie that preserves Salinger's spirit beautifully while translating the action to Tehran. But what's important to JDS is Total Control. If he's not going to write any more, the least he could do is get out of the way.
posted by languagehat at 6:44 AM on January 17, 2005

languagehat: I'm jealous (I've long had a big crush on Franny and wouldn't mind hanging out with Zooey--or Seymour or Buddy for that matter). As for Salinger being an asshole, isn't he more just plain nuts?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:51 AM on January 17, 2005

Excellent find. Catcher in the Rye is my favorite book and I really like his short stories...but here's a whole bunch of stories I never knew existed!
posted by SisterHavana at 7:05 AM on January 17, 2005

Bill Gates thinks you all are communists. Holden Caulfield would be proud.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:08 AM on January 17, 2005

I read Catcher in the Rye and thought Holden Caulfield was a stupid little prick.
posted by driveler at 7:43 AM on January 17, 2005

Was Salinger getting paid for Pari? Did they get his permission, or buy the rights, the way they would have to if they were making the movie in the U.S.? Were they planning on giving the proceeds to charity? Why is he an asshole because he wants to exercise his right to make decisions about who makes use of his work at a professional level? Are other writers 'assholes' when they decide that they would rather not have any given piece of work made into a movie, a transformation that is almost always for the worse?
posted by bingo at 7:44 AM on January 17, 2005

I'm trying to figure out the difference, in practical terms, between going to a library to hunt down these stories and reading them on the Internet. Salinger makes no extra money in either case.

It's true he wants total control over his output, particularly "Hapworth" and the earliest stories. But I'd say, in strictly Buddhist terms, which seems like something he ought to appreciate, if not agree with, that he let go of that control when he originally published them.

We often wish we hadn't said things after we say them. Doesn't make the fact that we said them any less true.

By the way:
This is Kaliyuga, buddy, the Iron Age. Anybody over sixteen who still prefers Catcher in the Rye to Franny and Zooey is a goddam spy.
posted by divrsional at 7:50 AM on January 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

I read "Bananafish" in high school and loved it. Thanks for the links.

Divrsional: beat me to it.
posted by absalom at 8:09 AM on January 17, 2005

Barnes & Noble (couldn't find it on Amazon) says Hapworth 16, 1924 was released three years ago, but I don't believe that's correct.

You are correct about that not being correct

Hapworth was published in the NYer in 1965, like B&N says. B&N shows a pub date of 2002, but here's a 2002 story that speaks of a delay. Orchises Press first announced publication would occur in 1997, but Hapworth is not on their current book list. I suspect the delays are just ongoing.
posted by beagle at 8:26 AM on January 17, 2005

Interesting story about this short.

In high school, I took a class called "Adolescents in Literature", taught by one of the more controversial teachers in the school (she was later fired for getting too many piercing and "subverting" the students). At the beginning of class, the teacher asked us to take out a page of paper and pencil and draw what we thought was a bananafish. The class worked for a minute or two, drawing what they thought a bananafish would look like. Then, she had us read the story, and then pass around our pictures of bananafish. It was slightly embarrassing, slightly funny, but I am sure that there were at least a handful of students in the class that wouldn't have picked up on what the main character was doing without the bananafish sketches.
posted by shawnj at 10:04 AM on January 17, 2005

ok, i'll bite - what is the main character supposed to be doing that makes bananafish sketches so important?
posted by andrew cooke at 12:02 PM on January 17, 2005

Turtles also has a nibble.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:37 PM on January 17, 2005

Is that a bananafish in your swim trunks or are you just happy to see me?
posted by brheavy at 1:46 PM on January 17, 2005

Bananafish don't look like bananas. They look like regular fish. They eat bananas.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:18 PM on January 17, 2005

Regarding the raves that this story is receiving, I must confess to feeling a bit like Homer Simpson looking at the Gary Larson calendar here; I don't get it. Can someone help me out a bit here? I mean, I get that poor Seymour is clearly cracking up after seeing god-knows-what in WWII, very sad, but why do so many here consider this tale to be the ne plus ultra of short stories? It moved me, but didn't blow me away.
posted by Scoo at 3:21 PM on January 17, 2005

And I really do not want to hear anyone say that Seymour was being a pedophile for kissing the little girl's foot. He did so, of course, out of the sheer perfection of her answer as to whether the fish she saw had any bananas in his mouth.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 3:23 PM on January 17, 2005

OK, so why did he kill himself?

And is it that this specific story is so good, or is it that this story, in light of the other Seymour stories, is that good.

In other words, is this something you would have to read Raise the Roofbeams High Carpenters to understand?
posted by Mid at 3:39 PM on January 17, 2005

I have to say this is the best link I've ever seen on Metafilter, so thank you. I agree with some of the above sentiment. These stories are hard as fuck to find. It's funny how the man can't seem to take the advice he dishes out in Seymour: An Introduction. Again, thanks for the links.
posted by chunking express at 5:22 PM on January 17, 2005

Mid: As to your second question (I won't attempt the first), I think yes. At least as far as the other story in Raise High the Roofbeams Carpenters--"Seymour, an Introduction". Franny and Zooey and other stories established the Glass children, via their involvement in the fictional radio series "It's a Wise Child" as a group of uncommonly gifted individuals. Other stories (I'm guessing Seymour: but I haven't read them all in a while) pointed to the role of Seymour and Buddy, who were the two eldest and shared a room, as the, I don't know, progenitors or models, of the succeeding children's intellectual development (sometimes harshly imposed, at least from the point of view of Zooey). But yes, my reading of the other published stories set the stage for "Bananafish": one got the sense of Seymour as someone so smart, so impatient, so searching that he would never fit in; given the description of his wife in Bananafish his suicide seems the logical conclusion, and so gains resonance.

Why do I love the Glasses? Why do I love Zooey in the bathtub telling his mother (paraphrased): "Buddy, you're wearing out your welcome here."?

Don't know. I think I'd like to be like them.

/and on preview I guess I did try to answer your first question!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:21 PM on January 17, 2005

Why do I love the Glasses?

Maybe one little stab at it: the combination of intelligence, wiseassedness, cleverness, human sympathy and affection that I see also in Richard Russo's characters.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:26 PM on January 17, 2005

Thanks, TATWD.

Ok, so what's the story with the Glasses and the characters in the Royal Tennenbaums. Hello, plagiarism.
posted by Mid at 8:28 PM on January 17, 2005

Too late to add anything useful so I’ll just say thanks for a great link!
posted by arse_hat at 9:51 PM on January 17, 2005

The way JDS writes about children just kills me (this is high praise), and I don't even particularly like children. Also, my favorite line in Bananafish is when whatserface is on the phone with her mother, who is anxiously asking about Seymour's mental health. Can't recall the exact wording, but it's something like "No more of that business with the trees?" Truly the ne plus ultra.
posted by scratch at 8:07 AM on January 18, 2005

"A Perfect Day for Bananafish" represents the published genesis of the Glass family. Seymour's suicide is the point of the entire series, not only in terms of how anyone deals with such a traumatic loss, but also in the light of the specific conditions of Seymour's choice. Wise beyond his years and his era, Seymour dies of joy, not despair.

What Salinger did was to create, in terms a 20th Century audience could grasp, a fictional character whose loss might come to represent the anguish that is life. In the 1940s, with the ironic juxtaposition of Fascism and the American Dream, it was becoming overwhelmingly clear (at least to the kind of character Salinger created, the one he longed to know in real life) that humankind was approaching an apotheosis of cultural advancement. Soon the possibilities of living in material ease will make it impossible to hide from the fact that life is built on faith.

Even Salinger's technical cleverness is merely a foil obscuring the blinding light of our own nature. The closer he gets to the real Seymour (Seymour, an Introduction, and "Hapworth," in particular) the more intractable the stories become. It's a painful experience, so painful that we manifest the pain in a myriad ways every day. The contempt we feel for those who abuse the concept of faith is not unlike the contempt Franny and Zooey feel for professors and producers.

We'd rather not go on, but for the most part we do. We do it for the Fat Lady.
posted by divrsional at 11:40 AM on January 18, 2005 [4 favorites]

divrsional: man, that was pretty. ("We do it for the Fat Lady"--my jaw drops.)

at least to the kind of character Salinger created, the one he longed to know in real life

You nailed it there, buddy.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:23 PM on January 18, 2005

Thanks. I've read his stuff every year for over 25 years. That's how stimulating it is to me.
posted by divrsional at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2005

Okay, divrsional. You got the chops. Why do *we* love Salinger?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:02 PM on January 18, 2005

Beats me. If I could answer that, I'd write more in the same vein myself.

I know what I love about "Zooey." Near the beginning, the author (or Buddy) describes what follows as "a sort of prose home movie." Read through the story carefully. Look for any direct statement of what the characters are thinking or feeling. Other than Buddy's voiceover and the implications the reader brings to the dialogue and action, there is none. (There is, I believe, one such instance in "Franny," however.) It's something I've never seen anywhere else in fiction. In fact, it's better than a movie, because we get to bring our own popcorn.
posted by divrsional at 3:58 PM on January 18, 2005

btw, the turtle story made me happy.
posted by divrsional at 4:01 PM on January 18, 2005

I am the turtle.

posted by spincycle at 8:14 AM on January 20, 2005

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