Posted in Short Stories


7♥  7♥  7♥  7♥  7♥  7♥  7♥

I’ve come to the end of J. D. Salinger’s collection Nine Stories.  “Teddy” tells the story of a ten year-old genius who in many ways seems more mature than his dysfunctional parents. But an old saying rears its ugly head – “there’s a fine line between genius and insanity”.

Teddy travels home from Europe on a ship in 1952 with his parents and younger sister, Booper.  The story implies that Teddy has been interviewed at several prestigious European universities.  A man named Nicholson appears on the ship.  He and Teddy know each other; however, Salinger doesn’t give his readers much detail as to how they are acquainted or why Nicholson is also on the ship.  I have the distinct impression that Nicholson has a psychology degree although he makes a comment to Teddy that he is in “education”.


The majority of the story involves Nicholson and Teddy’s discussion about some taped interviews Teddy had with the European university staff.  During these interviews, Teddy discusses his ideas about religion and philosophy.  Teddy believes in reincarnation and tells Nicholson about his previous lives.  Teddy also decides humanity is better off without logic. In fact, he indicates his belief that when Adam ate the apple in the Garden of Eden, he brought all this pesky logic into the world.

As the reader, I can’t help but wonder how Teddy’s philosophy lines up with Salinger’s.  Is Teddy simply a literary device for Salinger’s own ideas?  It’s tempting to see the story that way; however, much like “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, the story’s ending throws the reader for a loop – not just a plot twist, but an abrupt wrench in the thinking that Teddy’s ideas are the same as Salinger’s.

I highly recommend this collection of short stories; however, I recommend some of the stories more than others with my favorites being For Esme – With Love and Squalor, DeDaumier-Smith’s Blue Period and The Laughing Man.  If you don’t feel like reading the entire collection, try checking these out.

If you have read any of Salinger’s other works involving the Glass family, you will appreciate A Perfect Day for Bananafish and Down at the Dinghy.

The other three, Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut, Just Before the War With the Eskimos, and Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes, while not my favorite, serve to complete a thought-provoking collection of short stories.  If I would ever reread this collection in the future, I might try reading all the stories at one time.  That tends to be a big question for me when it comes to short story collections: whether to read the whole collection at once or read the stories separately over a long period of time.  I haven’t really perfected any sort of formula as to how to determine which way to go.

Anybody out there have any ideas as to how to read short story collections?

Posted in Short Stories

A Perfect Day for Bananafish

A♥  A♥  A♥  A♥  A♥  A♥  A♥  A♥

I tried to read J. D. Salinger’s short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” with two mindsets at the same time.  The first mindset encompassed the background of the Glass family that I’ve read in Salinger’s other works.  The ending of “Bananafish” didn’t take me by surprise even if it was rather sudden and abrupt.  Almost all of the other stories about Seymour Glass and his family at least briefly mention this story’s ending.  The other mindset involved pretending that I didn’t know anything else about the Glass family.  If that was the case, I probably would have found the ending a little disturbing.  Even having previously read about the Glass family, there really isn’t any reason or rationale to the ending – just a little more preparation.


The story focuses on two women (actually one is a child) in the life of Seymour Glass.  I can’t exactly express fondness for his wife, Muriel; however, Salinger paints a vivid picture of her in a small amount of space.  She seems the typical late 1940’s New York sophisticate. She smokes a cigarette while crossing her legs and talking to her mother on the phone from her hotel room in Florida.  Muriel and Seymour are potentially on their honeymoon.

Meanwhile, Seymour, hanging out on the beach, encounters a child named Sybil Carpenter. From the descriptions in the story, Sybil is probably around five.  Sybil and Seymour’s exchange is rather innocent and it contrasts drastically with Muriel’s part in the story. After their friendly conversation, Seymour leaves Sybil and  returns to his hotel room. Seymour’s chat with Sybil has a prevailing, maybe even a foreshadowing, sadness to it. Lost innocence or perhaps even innocence never found could be considered the theme. A theme that’s not uncommon in Salinger’s writing.

Posted in Short Stories

“Just Before the War with the Eskimos”

Q♥  Q♥  Q♥  Q♥

I didn’t think J. D. Salinger’s short story “Just Before the War with the Eskimos” lived up to its catchy title.  It also could have been called “Meeting Strangers While I’m Sitting Alone In My Friend’s Living Room”.

Ginnie Mannox has insisted on waiting in the living room of her tennis partner, Selena, with whom Ginnie has become fed up because Selena always leaves her with the full cab fare.  Selena, making numerous excuses, goes to get the money at the risk of waking her “sick mother”.  While Ginnie is waiting, she separately meets Selena’s brother, Franklin, and his friend, Eric.

Salinger’s writing elevates the two conversations to full-fledged “encounters”.  I’d call it small talk with a little edge.

For those Salinger aficionados out there, feel free to explain to me the significance of the chicken sandwich.

Posted in Short Stories

Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut


J. D. Salinger’s short story “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” perhaps is not my favorite of Salinger’s stories, but as with any great writer, there are flashes of genius.

For me, the conversations between Mary Jane and Eloise, two former college roommates, gave a wonderful snapshot into the semi-high class society of 1940’s New York City and it’s suburbs.  I am assuming that the story took place in Connecticut but very close to New York City.  The women themselves talk in a slightly overbearing manner but neither are uncomfortable with the other.  Mary Jane has a career and Eloise has a family.  While they both sometimes question the other’s choices, they both take these questions in stride.  Maybe the free flow of alcohol accounts for some of this “stride”.

The strange part of the story deals with Eloise’s daughter Ramona and her imaginary friend, Jimmy Jimereeno.  Mary Jane goes out of her way to make Ramona and “Jimmy” feel comfortable; however, her mother seems to find Ramona’s ways difficult to handle.  There is a hint of racism on the part of Eloise toward her maid – but only a hint.  This is similar to Salinger’s story “Down at the Dinghy” where the racism is buried until the very end when it becomes subtly apparent.

Uncle Wiggily's Adventures

And then the even stranger part comes with the mention of Uncle Wiggily when one of the ladies relates a story about her hurt ankle and a former boyfriend.  Why Salinger brings Uncle Wiggily into the picture, I’m not sure.  I’m only vaguely familiar with Uncle Wiggily, who I believe was a rabbit in children’s’ stories.  I remember playing a very old version of a board game designed around Uncle Wiggily.    I’m still not sure, though, about his role in the story, unless it is simply an example of pop culture in the 1940’s.  Or perhaps it has something to do with the innocence (or loss thereof) of children – another theme Salinger intertwines into his writing.  Or there could be some kind of secret to the title that I just haven’t figured out.

I think I’m going to go with the representation of innocence and it’s loss.

This is the sixth story I’ve read from Salinger’s compilation,  Nine Stories.  Three more to go!  And these three are still “in the deck”.

Here is another post on this story by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.  It’s interesting that this story was his “King of Hearts” last year.  And also a thanks to him and his post for allowing me to not publish this post with “Uncle Wiggily” misspelled.

I’ll also use this story for a tie-in to my recent vacation.  I visited New York City for the first time.  I didn’t travel there by way of Connecticut, though.  It was Philly, across the Delaware River, then New Jersey to the Lincoln Tunnel and there was Manhattan – Times Square, Central Park – it was everything I thought it would be!

Posted in Short Stories

Boo Boo Tannenbaum: An Admiral and a Lady

10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥ 

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.

Nine Stories

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.

10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥  10♥ 

Posted in Short Stories

Salinger’s “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes” and a lot of question marks…

J. D. Salinger’s short story “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes” gave me a film noir impression and many questions.

A “girl” is in bed with a “gray-haired man” when the phone rings.  The man (named Lee) answers it to discover that it’s his acquaintance or perhaps colleague, Arthur.  Slightly drunk, Arthur expresses his concern to Lee that his wife or girlfriend, Joanie, has run off.  First question that pops into my head is:  I wonder whether Joanie is the girl in bed with Lee?  Arthur, apparently an attorney, rambles on about Joanie and their relationship while Lee questions him about a case he had that day.  Arthur lost the case due to a chamber maid, some sheets and bed bugs (?).  According to Arthur, their boss, Junior (Junior?) won’t be happy.  Another impression comes to me at this point.  I don’t think Junior is really the head partner of a law firm(?).   While the phone conversation is taking place, the girl is playing around with cigarettes and the bed sheets (sheets, again?).  Lee hangs up and the girl seems a little surprised that it was Arthur (maybe worried that it was Arthur?).  Arthur calls right back to tell Lee that Joanie came home and went right to the bathroom (in other words, he hadn’t actually seen her come in).  Now it’s time for Lee to be surprised.  Is the person in the bathroom really Joanie?

The title of the story comes from a poem Arthur wrote to Joanie when they first met.  The poem jumbled up the words to a “Roses are red” kind of verse.  I’m not sure what this really says about Arthur or about Joanie?

In some ways, the story reminded me of a few of Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories.  I get another impression that other stories might exist that fill in some of the blanks.  Whether those stories are actually published or were simply in Salinger’s head, I don’t know – another question?

Anybody with some insight into this Salinger story feel free to chime in.  I would love to be enlightened!

Any story that makes me wonder about so many things can’t be all bad, but I don’t think this one rises to the level of the other three of Salinger’s stories that I’ve read:

For Esme – With Love And Squalor

DeDaumier-Smith’s Blue Period

The Laughing Man

Posted in Short Stories

“The Laughing Man” by J.D. Salinger

Drawing the Jack of Hearts this week gave me another story from J. D. Salinger’s Nine Stories.  When I began reading “The Laughing Man”, I realized that I had read it before.  I’ve had this collection for a long time, so I’m wondering if I will remember other ones.

The narrator, who isn’t named, tells this story as a flashback to 1928 when he was nine.  As a member of a scouting organization called the Comanches, on weekends, he hops on a bus with his Chief and the other Comanches to go to a park to play baseball or football or some other sporting activity.  The Chief is John Gedsudski, a mild mannered young adult whom the boys idolize.

Salinger easily combines the innocent expectations of nine year-old boys with the sadness that can come with growing up.  One day the Chief brings a girl, Mary Hudson, along with him when the boys play baseball.  Much to the dismay of the boys, she politely insists on playing.  Much to their surprise, they discover she can hit the ball – really well.  The nine year-old narrator describes her in one of my favorite lines:

Her stickwork aside, she happened to be a girl who knew how to wave to somebody from third base.

During the bus rides, the Chief tells the boys stories he makes up about an action hero called The Laughing Man – a name given to the character due to a facial deformity.  The boys sit on the edge of their seats while The Laughing Man gets out of life-threatening situations while fighting various arch-enemies.

The fact that Salinger uses baseball in this story makes it another favorite of mine.  He uses the game, the boys, the Chief, The Laughing Man and Mary Hudson to drive home (pun intended) the point that all good things come to an end.

Posted in Short Stories

“De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period” by J. D. Salinger

J. D. Salinger’s short story “De Daumier’Smith’s Blue Period” sealed the deal for me in regards to his genius as a writer and apparently my selection of short stories for this year contains a high percentage having something to do with art.

A nineteen year-old American boy returns to New York in 1939 after living in Paris for nine years.  While in Paris, he dabbled in art.  Upon his return, he applies and is hired as a teacher for a correspondence art school run by a Japanese couple.  During the application process, the reader discovers how much this kid likes to lie, embellishing his background, only to find that he is the only teacher at the school and probably would have been hired regardless of his background.

I had a brief notion at the beginning of the story that this boy was going to be a pretentious  art snob (he had lived in France).  Though cynical and sarcastic, De Daumier-Smith (any reader would be 99% sure that this is not his real name) doesn’t take his art or anyone else’s art seriously.   To me, this made him likable, maybe even endearing, and unbelievably funny.  This is probably the funniest story I’ve read since Jack London’s “Moon Face”.  It’s not as dark as that one, though.

He hits on (via mail, of course) his female correspondent students, including Sister Irma, much to the dismay of her superiors.  He has what he calls an epiphany when he sees an attractive sales clerk in a department store window dressing a mannequin.  He goes to what I consider great lengths to let his reader know that this was NOT a mystical experience – just in case someone might think that a nineteen year-old boy seeing an attractive girl in a window WOULD be mystical.

I highly recommend this story not just for a good laugh – but for a brilliant one!

Posted in Short Stories

For Esme – With Love and Squalor

A few posts ago, I indicated that Jack London’s “Moon-Face” was my favorite short story that I’ve read so far this year.  While I still think it’s brilliant, I’ve read another one that may have topped it.

It’s another one of those stories that got mentioned in a book that I read a while ago.  My former book club read Michael J. Fox’s book  Always Looking Up:  The Adventures of An Incurable Optimist a few years ago.  Fox happens to mention that one of his daughters is named Esme after J. D. Salinger’s short story “For Esme – With Love and Squalor”.  At that time, I had pulled out my copy of Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger that I’ve had since around 1982 and looked up the story…but never read it until now.


Nine Stories

An American soldier, who’s also a writer, on duty in England in 1944, wanders into a church where a children’s choir is practicing.  He notices that a girl of around thirteen has one of the better voices.  After the practice has ended, he stops by a cafe where the girl from the choir along with her governess and younger brother also happen to visit.  The girl, whose name is Esme, seems rather intelligent and forward.  She strikes up a conversation with the soldier.  Her younger brother, Charles, takes a liking to the soldier, too.  The short conversation that takes place impressed me as the type of conversation one would have that, when it’s over, one thinks “I’ve just made a friend”… even if one never sees them again.  Prior to leaving, Esme asks the soldier if they can write to each other.

War and a nervous breakdown happen and in the midst I admit I had to look up the word “squalor” – it meant what I thought it meant, filth and misory.  Again, in the midst of all this, the innocence of the conversation in the cafe kept coming back to me, adding a beauty to the story that I was not in the least expecting.