Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Letters Leave Lingering Questions

Picking up where I left off, not that this blog will make any sense to anyone but me anyway...

The next part of "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" is a letter from Boo Boo to Buddy. In it she tells Buddy that Seymour will be getting married, that no one else can go (mostly due to various and sundry duties related to the war effort) and relays her (unfavorable) opinion of Seymour's bride to be (who we find out later is a woman named Muriel).

Buddy notes that the letter is undated but does his best to give us an approximate date of May 22nd or 3rd.

Boo Boo says:

[Seymour] weighs about as much as a cat and he has that ecstatic look on his face that you can't talk to. Maybe it's going to be perfectly all right, but I hate 1942. I think I'll hate 1942 till I die, just on general principles.

Why does Boo Boo hate 1942? From the letter we get that maybe Seymour is sick (we don't know about his attempt at suicide until later...) but one gets the impression that there may be more going on with Beatrice as well. Will have to see what I might have overlooked in my first read that would tell me why she doesn't like 1942.

According to Wikipedia, here are some of the events which had occurred from January through May of 1942:

February 2 – WWII: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs an executive order directing the internment of Japanese Americans and the seizure of their property.
February 10 – In the early hours of the morning the SS Normandie capsizes at pier 88 in New York City.
February 22 – WWII: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt orders General Douglas MacArthur out of the Philippines as American defense of the nation collapses.
February 24 – Propaganda: The Voice of America begins broadcasting.

March 9 – WWII: Executive order 9082 (February 28, 1942) reorganizes the United States Army into three major commands: Army Ground Forces, Army Air Forces, and Services of Supply, later redesignated Army Service Forces.
March 28 – The Battle of Midway.

April 13 – The FCC's minimum programming time required of TV stations is cut from 15 hours to 4 hours a week during the war.
April 15 – WWII: King George VI awards the George Cross to Malta (from January 1 to July 24, there is only one 24-hour period during which no bombs fall on this tiny island).

May 15 – WWII: In the United States, a bill creating the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) is signed into law. be continued...


  1. Speaking from the author's point of view, Salinger's army enlistment papers is dated April 27, 1942. I'd say that pretty much killed the year for him. Boo Boo's comments certainly echo his opinion, but knowing how close the Glass family was, she may simply be lamenting their forced separation.
    I love Boo Boo. She's down to earth and perhaps the least self-absorbed of all the Glasses; but she's made a mistake in judging Muriel. It's the same mistake made by the Chinese Duke who dispairs at first sight of the steed brought to him by the lowly vegetable hawker, and one that - by story's end - we discover Seymour has overcome.
    Which brings us back to Salinger in 1942 when he served in the Army Air Corps at Fort Monmouth, just as Seymour does in "Carpenters". When not at base, Salinger spent his weekends and furloughs in New York - not so much to visit home as to see his girlfriend at the time, Oona O'Neill. Contemporary descriptions of Oona were pretty much unanimous: she was beautiful but shallow, very much the same as Boo Boo describes Muriel. Salinger, however, disagreed, and percieved a value in Oona that often evaded others and that time would prove to be true.
    "Carpenters" is a wonderful piece (I enjoy it more each time I read it). It's airy, constructed with a flawless tempo, and exudes an unencumbered playfullness rare for Salinger's later works. I think it's a great place to start when reevaluating Salinger. Just don't over-think it. Feel it - then ask the questions.

  2. Interestingly the WAVES also started in 1942. I am actually quite getting into Salinger. Thanks for the comment, sorry I just now caught it...

    Also, wasn't Oona O'Neil involved with Charlie Chaplin? Or am I mixing her up with someone else?