Title: Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.
Author: J.D. Salinger.
Genre: Fiction, literature, novella, family saga, philosophical fiction.
Publication Date: November 19, 1955.
Summary: Narrated by Buddy Glass, the second of the Glass brothers, the story describes Buddy's visit on Army leave (during World War II, in 1942) to attend the wedding of his brother Seymour to Muriel, and tells of the aftermath when Seymour fails to show. The events set the stage for Seymour's suicide in 1948.
My rating: 9/10.
♥ In doing it, I hit my head a very audibly (perhaps retributive) crack on the roof. One of the occupants of the car was none other than my whispering acquaintance, Helen Silsburn, and she started to offer me her unqualified sympathy. The crack had evidently resounded throughout the car. But at twenty-three I was the sort of young man who responds to all public injury of his person, short of a fractured skull, by giving out a hollow, subnormal-sounding laugh.
♥ Why, then, did I go on sitting in the car? Why didn’t I get out while, say, we were stopped for a red light? And, still more salient, why had I jumped into the car in the first place?... There seem to me at least a dozen answers to these questions, and all of them, however dimly, valid enough. I think, though, that I can dispense with them, and just reiterate that the year was 1942, that I was twenty-three, newly drafted, newly advised in the efficacy of keeping close to the herd - and, above all, I felt lonely. One simply jumped into loaded cars, as I see it, and stayed seated in them.
♥ I often feel a rather excessive pull toward people who don’t overapologize.
♥ It was a day, God knows, not only of rampant signs and symbols but of wildly extensive communication via the written word. If you jumped into crowded cars, Fate took circuitous pains, before you did any jumping, that you had a pad and pencil with you, just in case one of your fellow-passengers was a deaf-mute. If you slipped into bathrooms, you did well to look up to see if there were any little messages, faintly apocalyptical or otherwise, posted high over the washbowl.
♥ Her mouth was open. Absorbed, worried. The identification with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer tragedy complete. I felt awe and happiness. How I love and need her undiscriminating heart.
♥ She sat stirring her drink and feeling unclose to me. She worries over the way her love for me comes and goes, appears and disappears. She doubts its reality simply because it isn’t as steadily pleasurable as a kitten. God knows it is sad. The human voice conspires to desecrate everything on earth.
♥ The announcer had them off on the subject of housing developments, and the little Burke girl said she hated houses that all look alike - meaning a long row of identical “development” houses. Zooey said they were ‘nice.’ He said it would be very nice to come home and be in the wrong house. To eat dinner with the wrong people by mistake, sleep in the wrong bed by mistake, and kiss everybody goodbye in the morning thinking they were your own family. He said he even wished everybody in the world looked exactly alike. He said you’d keep thinking everybody you met was your wife or your mother or father, and people would always be throwing their arms around each other wherever they went, and it would look ‘very nice.’
♥ I think of him as I write about Muriel. he would despise her for her marriage motives as I’ve put them down here. But are they despicable? In a way, they must be, but yet they seem to me so human-sized and beautiful that I can’t think of them even now as I write this without feeling deeply, deeply moved. He would disapprove of Muriel’s mother, too. She’s an irritating, opinionated woman, a type Buddy can’t stand. I don’t think he could see her for what she is. A person deprived, for life, of any understanding or taste for the main current of poetry that flows through things, all things. She might as well be dead, and yet she goes on living, stopping off at delicatessens, seeing her analyst, consuming a novel every night, putting on her girdle, plotting for Muriel’s health and prosperity. I love her. I find her unimaginably brave.
♥ Another girl, if she genuinely wanted an evening free of her fiancé, would go through the motions of expressing regret over the phone. M. just said Oh when I told her. How I worship her simplicity, her terrible honesty. How I rely on it.
♥ I told him I’d said it was a bad speech for children to have to memorize in school. He also had the impression I’d said it was a dishonest speech. I told him I’d said that 51,112 men were casualties at Gettysburg, and that if someone had to speak at the anniversary of the event, he should simply have come forward and shaken his fist at his audience and then walked off - that is, if the speaker was an absolutely honest man.
♥ Much talk from him, and quite intelligent, on the virtues of living the imperfect life, of accepting one’s own and others’ weaknesses. I agree with him, but only in theory. I’ll champion indiscrimination till doomsday, on the ground that it leads to health and a kind of very real, enviable happiness. Followed purely it’s the way of the Tao, and undoubtedly the highest way. But for a discriminating man to achieve this, it would mean that he would have to dispossess himself of poetry, go beyond poetry. That is, he couldn’t possibly learn or drive himself to like bad poetry in abstract, let alone equate it with good poetry. He would have to drop poetry altogether. I said it would be no easy thing to do.
♥ M. loves me, but she’ll never feel really close to me, familiar with me, frivolous with me, till I’m slightly overhauled.
♥ I have scars on my hands from touching certain people. Once, in the park, when Franny was still in the carriage, I put my hand on the downy pate of her head and left it there too long. Another time, at Loew’s Seventy-second Street, with Zooey during a spooky movie. He was about six or seven, and he went under the seat to avoid watching a scary scene. I put my hand on his head. Certain heads, certain colors and textures of human hair leave permanent marks on me. Other things, too. Charlotte once ran away from me, outside the studio, and I grabbed her dress to stop her, to keep her near me. A yellow cotton dress I loved because it was too long for her. I still have a lemon-yellow mark on the palm of my right hand. Oh, God, if I’m anything by a clinical name, I’m kind of a paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.
♥ Marriage partners are to serve each other. Elevate, help, teach, strengthen each other, but above all, serve. Raise their children honorably, lovingly, and with detachment. A child is a guest in the house, to be loved and respected - never possessed, since he belongs to God. How wonderful, how sane, how beautifully difficult, and therefore true.