Friday, May 22, 2009

Beginings of Research

Most of the articles I am finding in MLA and ABELL and such, so far at least, are dealing with either, the damnable, "Catcher" or with religion and philosophy. I am pretty sure already that these are avenues I don't want to pursue in Salinger's fiction, but I don't know exactly what I do want to get at.

Speaking of, I need to look for the following article anyway...

O'Connor, Dennis L.: "J. D. Salinger's religious pluralism: the example of 'Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters'." Southern Review (Baton Rouge, LA) (20) 316-32. (1984)


Salinger says he was influenced by Sherwood Anderson.

*whew* I can do this after all!

*although I wish the seminar was on Anderson instead...

More on BooBoo's Letter...

"The mother is the end - a finger in all the arts and sees a good Jungian man twice a week..."

Much is made of Seymour's mother-in-law to be and her therapist.

In If You Really Want to Hear About It John Updike says:

"Few writers since Joyce would risk such a wealth of words upon events that are purely internal and deeds that are purely talk. We live in a world, however, when the decisive deed may invite the holocaust, and Salinger's conviction that our inner lives greatly matter particularly qualifies him to sing of an America where, for most of us, there seems little to do but feel." (Crawford, 122)

It's clear that Salinger's interest is in the internal and given his time and circumstance Jung seems a much more appropriate fit than Freud.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Still Reclusive After All These Years...

Even after 35 years, Salinger still not talking.

From the article:
Undaunted, the Spectator's man set off to interview Salinger's neighbours, who supplied a range of not-very-revealing anecdotes: one had seen the 90-year-old in the supermarket the day before, "leaning heavily on a trolley", and recalled an exchange with him in the 1990s when he was irritated with her for dropping a loaf of bread at his feet. Another provided the invaluable titbit that he enjoys spinach and mushroom wraps when eating in a local café, while a third is unlikely to shock the world with the revelation that Salinger is "not one for chitchat". be continued...

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...

This just in...

Okay, well not so new news about a possible sequel/parody of "Catcher".

Lawyers are already working on this, question is will he (or his publisher's) sue?

If there is any possible way, I bet he will!

*ETA: Decided to add a Salinger news feed at left. Enjoy! be continued...

An Important Note

On page 8 of my copy of "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" Buddy tells us that he is pretty exclusively concerned with Seymour's story. This probably shouldn't be a shock as the book also includes, "Seymour An Introduction" but Buddy adds that Seymour was in the Air Force (then still the Air Corps) and that he was probably (emphasis Salinger's) the "acting company clerk." [Incidentally, this detail has some ambiguity as the Air Corps itself began to serve under the Army Air Forces in 1941.]

We also learn that he was not a prolific letter writer. Since later in the novella, Seymour's diary is such an important part of the story, I find this an odd contradiction.

Buddy says he hasn't had more than five letters from Seymour in his whole life, and he is speaking AFTER Seymour's death.

In fact the narrative time of the novella is 1955 after Seymour's suicide and the completion of the war. Unfortunately, this detail is omitted from the Glass Family Chronology be continued...

A Bit on Vaudeville

In "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters," Buddy mentions that his parents were Vaudevillians on the Pantages Circuit.

Sidebar: Interesting tidbit, the Wikipedia Vaudeville article mentions Edward Albee's adoptive grandfather's role in Vaudeville and the emerging Motion Picture Industry:

Albee, adoptive grandfather of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, managed the chain to its greatest success. Circuits such as those managed by Keith-Albee provided vaudeville's greatest economic innovation and the principal source of its industrial strength, enabling a chain of allied vaudeville houses that remedied the chaos of the single-theatre booking system by contracting acts for regional and national tours that could grow from a few weeks to two years.

In 1919, the Orpheum Circuit was incorporated, which brought together 45 vaudeville theatere in 36 cities throughout the United States and Canada and a large interest in two vaudeville circuits. In 1928, the company merged with Keith's and Albee's chain of theaters to form Keith-Albee-Orpheum. The company soon became the major motion picture studio Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO).

Ok enough with my fascination with Edward Albee.

I find it very interesting that Bessie would have encouraged her children to use stage names and except for the fact that her concerns echo some of those echoed by the Matron of Honor later in the story, I am not sure why Salinger chose to include this item. be continued...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New York Then

Last Post for today...

Interesting and Beautiful but only tangenetially relevant:

Pictures of New York City in the 1940's.
Some gorgeous snapshots of old New York from teh early 1900's through mid-century.

...and this one by Helen Levitt:
Kids in New York.... be continued...

Seymour reads to Franny

So, it appears I have already skipped over a particularly important part of the opening pages of the story. On page 4 of my library copy, Seymour reads to his ten month old sister Franny. When Buddy challenges him on this, he quips, "They have ears. They can hear."

Sidebar: Is this the innocent reader Salinger is searching for, one who has ears, who will listen attentively without saying or thinking anything in particular? Perhaps that's not me at all if I am responding to the text as I read it... hmmmmmm.

The story that Seymour reads Franny is a Taoist fable of sorts, about a man chooosing horses. I am not sure if this is a real story that exists in Eastern Literature which Salinger is reprinting, or if he himself has invented it. It seems to be a real Tao fable, but the characters in the original fable do not appear to be real individuals...

Sidebar: A Google search for "jd salinger taoism" reveals a Google Book Search result entitled "Letters to J. D. Salinger," from University of Wisconsin Press. It's an interesting book with a neat cover (an abandoned mailbox with Salinger's name on it). The letter that comes up on the results page is from pages 121-131 and written by Gerald Rosen who has a book of his own "Zen and the Art of J. D. Salinger" (Rosen says he was influenced by both Salinger and Jack Kerouac (sp?... gods, I can never remember how to spell his name!) Anyway, looks like it may be helpful as Rosen appears to have a better understanding of Eastern Philiosophy than I do, of course that's probably true of nearly anyone as I know nothing about it whatsoever. Ok, this sidebar is getting too long, anyway, looks like the book is out of print, but I will see if I can find a used copy somewhere. Oh, also in the letter, he compares Salinger to Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, not sure that I agree but I haven't read enough of these authors, or of Salinger to make that judgement, MUST STOP GETTING AHEAD OF MYSELF!!!

The story Seymour read to Franny that night, by flashlight, was a favorite of his, a Taoist tale. To this day, Franny swears that she remembers Seymour reading it to her:

Duke Mu of Chin said to Po Lo: 'You are now advanced in years. Is there any member of your family whom I could employ to look for horses in your stead?' Po Lo replied: 'A good horse can be picked out by its general build and appearance. But the superlative horse - one that raises no dust and leaves no tracks - is something evanescent and fleeting, elusive as thin air. The talents of my sons lie on a lower plane altogether; they call tell a good horse when they see one, but they cannot tell a superlative horse. I have a friend, however, one Chin-fang Kao, a hawker of fuel and vegetables, who in things appertaining to horses is nowise my inferior. Pray see him.'

Duke Mu did so, and subsequently dispatched him on the quest for a steed. Three months later, he returned with the news that he had found one. 'It is now in Shach'iu,' he added.' What kind of a horse is it?' asked the Duke. 'Oh, it is a dun-colored mare,' was the reply. However, someone being sent to fetch it, the animal turned out to be a coal-black stallion! Much displeased, the Duke sent for Po Lo. 'That friend of yours,' he said, 'whom I commissioned to look for a horse, has made a fine mess of it. Why, he cannot even distinguish a beast's color or sex! What on earth can he know about horses?' Po Lo heaved a sigh of satisfaction. 'Has he really got as far as that?' he cried. 'Ah, then he is worth ten thousand of me put together. There is no comparison between us. What Kao keeps in view is the spiritual mechanism. In making sure of the essential, he forgets the homely details; intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external. He sees what he wants to see, and not what he does not want to see. He looks at the things he ought to look at, and neglects those that need not be looked at. So clever a judge of horses is Kao, that he has it in him to judge something better than horses.'

When the horse arrived, it turned out indeed to be a superlative animal.

I've reproduced the tale here not just because I invariably go out of my way to recommend a good prose pacifier to parents or older brothers of ten-month-old babies but for quite another reason.

From: "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters"

Sidebar: I cannot find a "Duke Mu of Chin" but I did find a Wikipedia entry for "Duke Mu of Qin"... I think they may be one and the same...? Wow, showing my ignorance fast here! Need to find someone who knows something about Tao!

Since the narrator tells us that the bridegroom (who is Seymour) has died as of 1955 and relates, "Undoubtedly, though, what I'm really getting at is this: Since the bridegroom's permanent retirement from the scene, I haven't been able to think of anybody whom I'd care to send out to look for horses in his stead." I assume we are meant to associate Seymour with Chin-fang Kao's qualities which I have highlighted above? So far, having read only this story I cannot say that I identify Seymour so much with these qualities though he definitely appears to have an ability to read people ... more on that when we get into his bride and her mother.

What does this say for Buddy? Is he lonely at this point in his life and reflecting back on Seymour? Maybe I will know more after "Seymour An Intorduction"... I guess I kind of see Buddy serving as Salinger’s persona in some ways. be continued...

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters

My initial reaction is that I like this novella nearly as much as I detested The Catcher in the Rye (henceforth, "Catcher"). Perhaps I am already seeing some Tenenbaumian connections too.

Salinger dedicates the book, which also includes, "Seymour An Introduction," as follows:

"If there is an amateur reader still left in the world - or anybody who just reads and runs - I ask him or her, with untellable affection and grattitude, to split the dedication of this book four ways with my wife nad children."

I wonder if I am such an amateur reader. Certainly, I have read Salinger before, and if there is such a thing to be had, as an English major, I have had training in "how to read" critically. Can I put all of this aside and read Salinger fresh, with some form of naissance? I hope so, as I am trying to read Salinger with a new lens and to remove any preconceptions about him and his works.

And so the story begins...

We learn that the Glass family is rather large, seven children in fact, populate the Glass Universe: Seymour, Buddy (the narrator), Beatrice (nicknamed Boo Boo), the twins (Waker and Walter), Franny, and Zooey. Their parents (Les and Bessie) are retired Vaudevillians.

Sidebar: Why do I always think "Les" looks better with a lowercase "l" ("les") than with a capital one? Maybe I have read too much French??

Sidebar: The description of the entire family is a little reminiscient of the description of James Cagney's family in "Yankee Doodle Dandy" which was (co)incidentally released in 1942, the year that Buddy enters the army. Though overall the story reminds me more of William Wyler's accalimed, "The Best Years of Our Lives," released in 1947. I don't know if this is because Salinger lived the experience of these films, or had seen them, or both. Perhaps I should read his letters...?

... to be continued...

On Blogging Salinger for the Summer

I am a ferocious non-writing-in-books kind of girl, so I figured this might be the ideal way for me to notate and narrate thoughts as I read Salinger for the summer in preparation for my ENGL 624 class, Text and Context: J. D. Salinger.

I am not a Salinger fan, but in truth my only exposure has been "The Catcher in the Rye," which I really didn't like.

I am starting out fresh, I'll even succomb to the evils of "Catcher" again, since I really want to make a go of it this fall. I haven't been as motivated about literature over the past year as I need to be and its reflected in my classroom performance. But the truth is, I haven't been excited about much lately. If this semester I don't manage some excitement, even over an author I don't like, this is the end of my graduate study in English. We'll see...