Title: Nine Stories.
Author: J. D. Salinger.
Genre: Fiction, literature, short stories, romance, family saga, mental health, WWII, war lit, philosophical fiction, eastern philosophy.
Publication Date: 1948-1952 (collection 1953).
Summary: A collection of 9 stories, 3 of which begin the Glass family saga, which comprises most of Salinger's written work. A Perfect Day for Bananafish (1948) is an enigmatic examination of a young married couple, Muriel and Seymour Glass, while on vacation in Florida, through his interaction with a little girl on the beach, and her phone conversation with her mother. In Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut (1948), Eloise struggles to come to terms with the life she has created for herself with her husband Lew, while her true love is Walt, a member of the Glass family, for whom she pines in the wake of his death during his service in the army. In Just Before the War with the Eskimos (1948), a tale of adolescent alienation and redemption in a post-WWII setting and focuses primarily on 15-year-old Ginnie Mannox's meeting with her classmate Selena Graff's older brother, Franklin. In The Laughing Man (1949), an unnamed narrator recounts his experiences as a 9-year-old member of the Comanche Club in New York City in 1928, where the a young law student coach, The Chief, tells the boys an ongoing story about the eponymous Laughing Man, and as the Chief’s relationship with Mary waxes and wanes, so too do the fortunes of The Laughing Man. Down at the Dinghy (1949) includes “Boo Boo” Glass Tannenbaum, one of the key members of Salinger’s fictional Glass family, and makes reference to two of her brothers, Seymour Glass (deceased) and Webb “Buddy” Glass, and is told in two distinct segments, the first involving a discussion between two house servants about their employer’s little boy, who has a history of running away, and the second explores the mother's efforts to reassure her son and help him cope with his fears. In For Esmé—with Love and Squalor (1950), Sergeant X, an American training in Devon, England for D-Day, meets a fascinating and touching young woman orphaned by war, a letter and package of whom takes him back from his traumatic break-down after D-Day. Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes (1950) is the story of an old man who speaks to his friend on the phone about his wife, while the old man appears to be with her. In De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period (1951) John Smith, as an adult, is reassessing an episode in his life when he was 19, when, seeking escape from his dysfunctional relationship with his step-father, Smith is accepted as an instructor at a Montreal, Quebec correspondence art academy under false credentials, and has an experience of egotistical alienation and existential crisis. In Teddy (1952), Salinger creates an engaging child character, Teddy McArdle, a 10-year-old mystic-savant returning home to America with his entertainer-socialite parents and his younger sister to introduce some of the basic concepts of Zen enlightenment and Vedanta reincarnation.
My rating: 7.5/10.
My review: As a person who absolutely hated Catcher in the Rye and loved everything else, I am of the firm opinion that Salinger's métier lies in shorter fiction.
♥ “Well,” Mary Jane said. “That isn’t everything. I mean that isn’t everything.”
“Oh… you know. Laughing and stuff.”
“Who says it isn’t?” Eloise said. “Listen, if you’re not gonna be a nun or something, you might as well laugh.”
~~Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut.
♥ Her joke of a name aside, her general unprettiness aside, she was - in terms of permanently memorable, immoderately perceptive, small-area faces - a stunning and final girl.
~~Down at the Dinghy.
♥ ...I walked down the long, wet cobblestone hill into town. I ignored the flashes of lightning all around me. They either had your number on them or they didn’t.
♥ It was a long time before X could set the note aside, let alone lift Esmé’s father’s wristwatch out of the box. When he did finally lift it out, he saw that its crystal has been broken in transit. He wondered if the watch was otherwise undamaged, but he hadn’t the courage to wind it and find out. He just sat with it in his hand for another long period. Then, suddenly, almost ecstatically, he felt sleepy.
You take a really sleepy man, Esmé, and he always stands a chance of again becoming a man with all his fac-- with all his f-a-c-u-l-t-i-e-s intact.
~~For Esmé - with Love and Squalor.
♥ I prayed for the city to be cleared of people, for the gift of being alone - a-l-o-n-e: which is the one New York prayer that rarely gets lost or delayed in channels, and in no time at all everything I touched turned to sordid loneliness.
♥ Her eyes sparkled with depravity.
♥ I pictured both Yoshotos coming to me in the morning and asking me, begging me, to hear their secret problem out, to the last, terrible detail. I saw exactly how it would be. I would sit down between them at the kitchen table and listen to each of them. I would listen, listen, listen, with my head in my hands--till finally, unable to stand it any longer, I would reach down into Mme. Yoshoto's throat, take up her heart in my hand and warm it as I would a bird.
♥ The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid.
♥ Then something altogether hideous happened. The thought was forced on me that no matter how coolly or sensibly or gracefully I might one day learn to live my life, I would always at best be a visitor in a garden of enamel urinals and bedpans, with a sightless, wooden dummy-deity standing by in a marked-down rupture truss. The thought, certainly, couldn’t have been endurable for more than a few seconds.
♥ The worst that being an artist could do to you would be that it would make you slightly unhappy constantly. However, this is not a tragic situation, in my opinion.
♥ “I am giving Sister Irma her freedom to follow her own destiny. Everybody is a nun.” (Tout le monde est une nonne.)
~~De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period.
♥ Life is a gift horse in my opinion.
♥ “Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They’re always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.”
♥ “Yes, sure I love Him. But I don’t love Him sentimentally. He never said anyone had to love Him sentimentally,” Teddy said. “If I were God, I certainly wouldn’t want people to love me sentimentally. It’s too unreliable.”
♥ “I have a very strong affinity for them. They’re my parents, I mean, and we’re all part of each other’s harmony and everything,” Teddy said. “I want them to have a nice time while they’re alive, because they like having a nice time… But they don’t love me and Booper - that’s my sister - that way. I mean they don’t seem able to love us just the way we are. They don’t seem able to love us unless they keep changing us a little bit. They love their reasons for loving us almost as much as they love us, and most of the time more. It’s no good, that way.”
♥ “Well, if Sven dreamed tonight that his dog died, he’d have a very, very bad night’s sleep, because he’s very fond of that dog. But when he woke up in the morning, everything would be all right. He’d know it was only a dream.”
Nicholson nodded. “What’s the point, exactly?”
“The point is that if his dog really died, it would be exactly the same thing. Only, he wouldn’t know it. I mean he wouldn’t wake up till he died himself.”
♥ “I know I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t start with the things schools usually start with.” He folded his arms, and reflected briefly. “I think I’d first just assemble all the children together and show them how to meditate. I’d try to show them how to find out who they are, not just what their names are and things like that… I guess, even before that, I’d get them to empty out everything their parents and everybody ever told them. I mean even if their parents just told them an elephant’s big, I’d make them empty that out. An elephant’s only big when it’s next to something else - a dog or a lady, for example.” Teddy thought another moment. “I wouldn’t even tell them an elephant has a trunk. I might show them an elephant, if I had one handy, but I’d let them just walk up to the elephant not knowing anything more about it than the elephant knew about them. The same thing with grass, and other things. I wouldn’t even tell them grass is green. Colors are only names. I mean if you tell them the grass is green, it makes them start expecting the grass to look a certain way - your way - instead of some other way that may be just as good, and maybe much better… I don’t know. I’d just make them vomit up every bit of the apple their parents and everybody made them take a bite out of.”
♥ “I grew my own body,” he said. “Nobody else did it for me. So if I grew it, I must have known how to grow it. Unconsciously, at least. I may have lost the conscious knowledge of how to grow it sometime in the last few hundred thousand years, but the knowledge is still there, because - obviously - I’ve used it… I would take quite a lot of meditation and emptying out to get the whole thing back - I mean the conscious knowledge - but you could do it if you wanted to. If you opened up wide enough.”