Thursday, January 28, 2010

Salinger

The New Yorker has graciously opened the archives for twelve stories, including the extraordinary and once ubiquitous A Perfect Day for Bananafish as well as the jaw-dropping (for different reasons) Hapworth 16, 1924, his last story, never published other than here.

If you haven't read these, or if you haven't read them since you were a kid, you should read them here, in context, ads, cartoons, and all.

I find it eerie, myself, since he was hugely influential in my life, to see these bits and pieces of thoughts and dialog, long internalized, appearing again.

6 comments:

Christian Lindke said...

Alas, such "pleasures" are reserved for subscribers. Would that I had access to works that would change my low opinion of Salinger -- based entirely on Catcher in the Rye. The protagonist was so beyond my capabilities to empathize, yet teachers assured me that he would "resonate" with my angst. What piffle! Some amoral, worthless, expression of the male was supposed to resonate with me?

Sorry, I'll take Achilles, Robin Hood, John Carter, or Flash Gordon over Holden. Hell, give me someone who acts on his amoral rejection of social norms like Elric or Conan. Give me someone striving to be something other than the "Last Man," rather than the embodiment of nihilism.

I'll read these stories, on your recommendation, on my New Yorker DVD-ROM at home.

Tulkinghorn said...

They've opened them up for non-subscribers: in the nature of a tribute.....

An inability to sympathize with Holden Caulfield, is, for me, like color-blindness or tone-deafness. I am not unaware, though, that Holden has become like Silas Marner..

In any event, although he's no John Carter, he's still far from a nihilist.

Tulkinghorn said...

I just noticed that they closed the links.... They were open before, really.
Bastards! Somebody must have made them do it

Christian Lindke said...

Maybe calling Holden a nihilist is a bit strong, but for me he seems extremely mentally unbalanced. His fears, desires, and fantasies are so far removed from my experiences that he is an annoyance. None of his motivations seem remotely human to me and he seems dissociative -- closer to what I meant by nihilism, but fitting with my comparison to Nietzsche's last man.

Silas Marner, on the other hand, makes sense to me as a character and his story moves me more than that of Holden.

None of this is to say that Salinger isn't a good wordsmith. I don't think I could have finished Catcher if he had been a bad writer, and the fact that I had such a strong negative reaction to the character is another hint regarding the power of his writing.

Tulkinghorn said...

Interesting.

I have always thought Caulfield to be an everyman -- clearly not true any longer if it ever was.

The Silas Marner reference was intended only to point out that Catcher (once to be discovered and carried about completely apart from the world of school) has in recent decades become a set text -- to be hated and snored over by teens anxious to get back to Grand Theft Auto.

Bob Dylan went around before he was famous telling everybody that he had been cast as the lead in a movie of Catcher.

At any rate, I blush even more to note that it was not Holden who inflamed my early teen years (although I still retain faint traces of his speech -- like a kid making faces that froze) but the Glass family.

Make of that what you will.

Generic said...

Sarah W. on the coming Salinger estate wrangle:

Checking to see if links work in comments.