Thursday, February 4, 2010

J.D. Salinger - 1954

"You know, I'm the only one in this family who has no problems," Zooey said. "And you know why? Because any time I'm feeling blue, or puzzled, what I do, I just invite a few people to come visit me in the bathroom, and -- well, we just iron things out together, that's all."

This appeared in The New Yorker in 1954, and was the second part of Franny and Zooey by the time I read it in the '70s. This story, that book... I can't say enough about them. Along with Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Just Before the War With the Eskimos: pivotal to my understanding of and desire for life.

I thought that more glorious noise would have been made about Salinger's death -- front-page banner headlines, I suppose. Yes, the world is a mess. But we just lost the only major writer of my lifetime (even if he didn't actually write when I could read).


  1. i must have been a very obtuse teenager. but somehow i didn't GET how important salinger was. i DID read raise high the roof beam, carpenters later and have confused it with a william maxwell book in retrospect and have very emotional associations with the title even though i'm not sure i remember it. so guess i must go back to them ALL and figure out what it is all about.

    yes, poor salinger, but apparently the world has moved on from him and if he ever had a publicist, he would have fired him/her a very long time ago.

  2. The problem, I think, was the almost-demanded adoration of Catcher in the Rye when we were growing up. I think it's his worst work, basically because Holden Caulfield (have I spelled that right?) is on the edge of insufferable. Which Salinger may have intended... but the book was received and delivered differently -- taken to heart by teenagers, bestowed upon us with a satisfied smile by English teachers. Try Raise High again (I think it's perfect) and Franny & Zooey. Approach it as comedy. And tell me what your favorite William Maxwells are!