Oh why didn’t Salinger publish more short stories?
Recently, I participated in a writing summer program where we had a “writers’ fight club”. Every one of us had to select a author and “battle” other authors with words. In the end, only one author would be victorious.
I chose Salinger. And even though he lost ultimately to Fitzgerald, he’s still the best in my heart. Here are some of his words I used in my battle:
“I mean they don’t seem able to love us just the way we are. They don’t seem able to love us unless they can keep changing us a little bit. They love their reasons for loving us almost as much as they love us, and most of the time more.”– Teddy, Nine Stories
“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”– Franny and Zooey
“I prayed for the city to be cleared of people, for the gift of being alone—a-l-o-n-e: which is the one New York prayer that rarely gets lost or delayed in channels, and in no time at all everything I touched turned to solid loneliness. “– De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period, Nine Stories
Salinger is a master at using the simplest words to convey emotion. His last lines at surface-level always seem rather plain but delivers a final emotional punch. He interweaves Eastern ideology, especially Buddhism, with a lot of his stories, and creates epiphanies for a lot of his characters, the most pronounced is in De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period. Education also comes up a lot in Teddy and Franny and Zooey, or at least the idea of a different sort of education, an education that begins with religion rather than logic, with spirituality rather than hard facts.
Loneliness and social outcasts play important roles in nearly all of Salinger’s stories: Holden Caulfield in Catcher, the Glass children, Seymour (See-more) Glass and Sybil in A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Teddy in Teddy, and so many more. These social outcasts have usually peeked into a deeper layer of society than their “normal” counterparts, isolated by their own knowledge.
Some of these stories I enjoyed more than others, and while every story has tremendous merit, here’s my personal (subjective) ranking of them:
- A Perfect Day for Bananafish
- Teddy (my writing teacher told me to put the best stories first and last and Salinger did)
- Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut
- Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes
- Down at the Dinghy
- De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period
- The Laughing Man
- For Esme – With Love and Squalor
- Just Before the War with the Eskimos
Salinger isn’t for everyone. But of the people who do like him, they are obsessed with him.