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J. D. Salinger’s short story, “Down at the Dinghy”, centers on Boo Boo Tannenbaum, the oldest daughter of the seven Glass children that frequently populate Salinger’s stories and novels. I found this to be a pleasant surprise, as up until now, the stories about the Glass children that I’ve read have only mentioned her in passing.
Boo Boo is now an adult with a summer cottage on the lake and a four year-old son, Lionel. The story begins with the cottage hired-help (two older ladies) talking about the issue of Lionel frequently running away. As Boo Boo enters the scene, she indicates that Lionel is now hiding out in the dinghy on the lake.
The scene switches to Boo Boo and her son having a conversation at the dinghy. The grace, poise and strength Boo Boo possesses as she figures out why her son has run away this time adds to the depth with which Salinger paints his Glass family portrait. He throws in just enough motherly frustration to keep it real. During this conversation, Boo Boo alludes to her time in the Navy and Lionel seems fascinated with the fact that she was an Admiral and a lady. I recall from Raise High The Roofbeam, Carpenters that Boo Boo missed her brother Seymour’s wedding because of World War II. Lionel’s Uncle Seymour is mentioned briefly by his mother.
As the conversation , and the story, finishes, Salinger reveals to the reader why Lionel was hiding in the dinghy. I really would not consider it a spoiler if I mentioned the reason here; however, I don’t think I’ll do that and encourage anyone reading this to read the story themselves. It’s not very long; and while it may not be my favorite Salinger story, there is something hidden in Boo Boo’s character that keeps me thinking about her and the Glass clan.