All posts by Angelica

Angelica Bega-Hart is a graduate student completing her M.A. in English at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she also works full-time. She and her husband live and work in Richmond, where they share a house with three rescued dogs. Angelica's academic interests include American Literature and Drama and Literary Geography.

A Source for Seymour’s Suicide: Rilke’s Voices and Salinger’s Nine Stories by James Finn Cotter

MLA Citation:

Cotter, James Finn.  “A Source for Seymour’s Suicide: Rilke’s Voices and Salinger’s Nine Stories“. Papers on Language and Literature: A Journal for Scholars and Critics of Language and Literature: 25.1 ( 1989 Winter), pp. 83-98.

First Paragraph:

J. D. Salinger’s short story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” employs the traditional device of a surprise ending. Seymour Glass returns to his Miami hotel room, glances at his wife asleep on her bed, takes from his luggage a heavy-caliber German automatic, sits down on his bed, looks again at Muriel, and fires a bullet through his head.

Summary:

Cotter, after giving a laundry list of possible explanations for Seymour’s suicide, including theories as wide-ranging as sexual frustration to the fulfillment of nirvana, examines the influence of Rilke’s poetry. He starts with “Bananafish specifically, noting that several previous scholars have also pointed to the likelihood that the German poet Seymour refers to in “Bananafish” is Rilke. He compares “Bananafish” to “The Song of Suicide” noting parallels and suggesting connections that include a concentration on materialism, especially connected to the stomach and with “hunger”.  Cotter then expands his analysis to include the other Voices, which as he notes also contain nine items, (ten, with the addition of a title page) and their connections to Nine Stories.

Taking a Walk Through J. D. Salinger’s New York by James Barron

Seton Entrance - Edward Keating/The New York Times

Seton Entrance - Edward Keating/The New York Times

MLA Citation:

Barron, James. “Taking a Walk Through J. D. Salinger’s New York.” The New York Times. The New York Times Co., 28 Jan. 2010. Web. 14 Dec. 2010. <http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/taking-a-walk-through-jd-salingers-new-york/>.

First Paragraph:

Hey, listen. You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over?

There it is: the Holden Caulfield question. Sara Cedar Miller gets it all the time.

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Contributors

Many thanks to the classmates, friends, colleagues and scholars who have helped make this site possible. Those who have contributed articles directly are listed below with a brief biography and a link to their website wherever possible. Please contact Angelica or lizaio if you need to be added or to append any information below.

Angelica Bega-Hart completed her M.A. in Literature at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she also completed her B.A. in English with a minor in Women’s Studies. In addition to her interest in Gender Studies, Angelica is interested in Chicano/a literature,  the sonnet, horror and the supernatural in literature, American drama, and literary geography (specifically of New York City). Besides Salinger, she counts Edwin Arlington Robinson, Sherwood Anderson, Edward Albee, Sandra Cisneros and Anton Chekhov among her favorite writers. She has presented papers at the University of Virginia and the University of Exeter (UK). Angelica intends to pursue a Ph.D. in the not-too-distant future. She is an adjunct professor of English and is at work on a number of projects including her personal website.

Nicholas Brownforthcoming

Kathy Gabriel forthcoming

Leslie Gleue is originally from Cocoa Beach Florida. She earned her  B.A. in English from the University of Richmond in 2007 and her M.A. in English Literature from VCU in 2010.

Elizabeth Downing  would have totally quit Yale at 19 years old to go live with J.D. Salinger.  Despite that shocking fact, she is an advertising professional, adjunct professor, fiction and non-fiction author and a lifetime student of literature. She obtained her BA and MA in English Literature from Virginia Commonwealth University, where her main focus was 20th Century American Literature, so in addition to J.D. Salinger her other studies were related to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Though she does like read books by women, and she will take the occasional trip into 16th century England to spend some time with another one of her favorite guys, her heart belongs to the “Boys Club” of the 1920’s – 1960’s. She is a Virginian by choice, having moved to Richmond in 1995 to start what would be a dramatically interrupted academic career that would end in 1999, resume in 2007, and be an all-consuming passion since.

Brian McTague was born in Baltimore, MD. He grew up in New Jersey, where he first read “The Catcher in the Rye” at the age of 14. Forgot about Mr. Salinger (not because he did not enjoy his writing–much to the contrary!) until arriving at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Fall of 2009, where he began his Master’s Degree in Literature with a course dedicated to the reclusive author. The course sparked quite a good deal of interest, enough that he is currently writing his master’s thesis on Salinger’s Seymour Glass stories, with an emphasis on the enigmatic “Hapworth 16, 1924.” Brian will not again forget about J.D. Salinger any time soon!

John Piersol teaches 11th and 12th grade English at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s school in Petersburg, VA.  He grew up in Richmond, received a B.A. in English from the University of Virginia, then went on to receive an M.A. in English and a Secondary English Teaching Certification from Virginia Commonwealth University.  He fell in love with Salinger’s work after reading The Catcher in the Rye for the first time in middle school, and Nine Stories is still his go-to volume when he wants a quick pick-me-up pleasure read.  “The Laughing Man” and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” are his favorite selections, and on certain days he feels that the latter is the most perfect short story he’s ever read.

Lee Spratley – forthcoming

Courtney Sviatko – forthcoming

Timothy Towsleeforthcoming

Brad McDuffie is an Instructor of English at Nyack College.  He recently published his first book of poems, And The West Was Not So Far Away.  He also published a chapbook of poems, Seven Hymns from the West, in the spring of 2010.  His work has been published in various journals including The South Carolina Review, Aethlon and North Dakota Quarterly.  His article, “For Ernest, With Love and Squalor: The Influence of Ernest Hemingway on the Life and Work of J. D. Salinger,” was excerpted by the Kansas City Star in July and will appear in the spring 2011 edition of The Hemingway Review.

The admins, Elizabeth (lizaio) and Angelica would also like to thank the following for their input:

  • Dr. A. Bryant Mangum for his patience, guidance and careful proofreading
  • Mr. John Glover at VCU’s James Branch Cabell Library for technical assitance and general guidance that helped us avoid a number of pitfalls
newyork

Brow Beat: From Gotham with Love and Squalor: J. D. Salinger’s New York by Judy Rosen

MLA Citation:

First Paragraph:

“I almost always write about very young people,” J.D. Salinger said in 1946, and today this giant of midcentury fiction is being remembered as a chronicler of his time and, especially, of a time of life. But he was also a poet of place. Nearly all of Salinger’s troubled, brilliant young people—Holden and Phoebe, Seymour and Buddy, Franny and Zooey—are Manhattanites, and their stories are distinctly New York stories, set against a backdrop of bustling avenues and classic sixes on either side of Central Park, and narrated in an ironic, neurotic, contrarian voice whose provenance is unmistakable.

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Lillian Ross on Salinger

The New Yorker recently published a slide show featuring pictures of J. D. Salinger with Erik Ross (son of Lillian Ross), and with his own children. The photos are beautiful and show Salinger in a way the public rarely, if ever, saw him.

Perhaps even better is Ross’s piece on the Salinger she knew in which she reveals his love of children, Hitchcok’s The 39 Steps, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ed. note: we do not own the rights to these photos, copyright and all other rights are the property of Lillian Ross, from whose personal collection the photographs were taken. Please visit the link above to view the photos. Enjoy!

Salinger in Central Park

Salinger in Central Park with Erik and Lillian Ross and with his children, Peggy and Matthew. Photo (c) The New Yorker, from the collection of Lillian Ross.

J.D. Salinger: The Fat Lady and the Chicken Sandwich by James E. Bryan

MLA Citation:

Bryan, James E. “J. D. Salinger: The Fat Lady and the Chicken Sandwich.” College English 23.3 (1961): 226-29. Print.

First Paragraph:

Critics have rightly complained that J.D. Salinger’s “Glass family chronicles” [citation omitted] lack the superb poetry and economy of his Nine Stories period. However the garrulity of Salinger’s recent narrators provides a not unwelcome annotation of symbolism and underlining of theme which can often serve as a reference to the interpretations of earlier stories.

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Reader’s Guide – “A Slight Rebellion Off Madison”

Contributed by Tim Towslee. Thank you Tim!

Publication History:

  • c. 1941, sold to the New Yorker in November 1941 as “Am I Banging My Head Against the Wall?” (Greiner), publication delayed due to U.S. entry into WWII
  • p. 21 December 1946 in The New Yorker as “Slight Rebellion Off Madison”
  • collected in David Remmick’s Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker (2000)

Character List:

Holden Caulfield: The central character. His middle name is Morrisey.

George Harrison: An acquaintance of Sally Hayes. He is a student at Andover.

Sally Hayes: A girl Holden likes and is meeting in the city for ice skating.

Carl Luce:: Carl is described as overweight and unattractive. He is a classmate of Holden’s at Pencey Prep.

Summary:

This story is the assumed basis for The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 17. In it, Holden Caulfield goes ice skating with Sally Hayes. After some small talk with her, Holden reveals his thoughts about his perceived pointlessness of prep school. He tells her he’d like for them to move away, far away, from the city; but Sally dismisses this as a ridiculous notion. Later, Holden and Carl Luce appear at the Wadsworth bar, where they drink scotch and sodas. Holden calls Carl an “intellectual guy” and asks him what he would do if he hated school and wanted to “get the hell out of New York.” Later, when he is alone Holden drunkenly calls Sally twice on a payphone. Then, after chatting with the piano player, Holden waits for a bus on the corner of Madison Avenue with tears in his eyes.

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Just Before the War with the Eskimos

Reader’s Guide – “Just Before the War with the Eskimos”

Publication History:

“Just Before the War with the Eskimos” appeared in the June 5, 1948 issue of The New Yorker and was reprinted in Salinger’s 1953 collection Nine Stories.

Character List:

Ginnie Maddox: A young woman of 15. She has been playing tennis with Selena for at least five weeks.

Selena Graff: Another young woman, whose mother has pneumonia. She is also 15 and has a brother named Franklin.

Franklin Graff: Selena’s Brother, Franklin is 24 years old and has not gone to the war due to his being classified 4-F for a bad heart. He has been working in an airplane factory.

Eric: Franklin’s friend. Eric has an effeminate personality and has been living with a writer.

Summary:

Ginnie Maddox and her classmate Selena have been playing tennis for several weeks. Though Selena always brings fresh cans of tennis balls, she never contributes to the cab fare. Ginnie becomes annoyed and insists that Selena reimburse her the cost of the cab fares she has paid. Selena tries to explain to Ginnie that her mother is ill and she could give her the money in class later, but Ginnie becomes insistent and waits for Selena to go upstairs and retrieve the money from her mother.

While she waits, Ginnie talks with Selena’s brother Franklin whose overall physical demeanor she finds repulsive, and who is 4-F status and has been working in an airplane factory for the past few years. Franklin has cut his finger and is working to heal it while he talks with Ginnie. He offers her a half of a chicken sandwich, then dashes upstairs to finish getting ready. As he goes upstairs, Franklin’s friend Eric arrives. Eric and Franklin hare plans to go see Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, which Eric thinks is magnificent; he also admires Ginnie’s camel’s hair coat, and talks at length about his roommate, who is a writer.

(Ed. Note: These observations, are Eric’s effeminate language and gesture signal the potential that Eric [and perhaps by association, Franklin] can be interpreted as gay characters.)

When Selena finally returns with the money, Ginnie tells her to keep it and suggests she might come over later, even though she had previously indicated that she had plans for the evening. On her walk home, she takes the chicken sandwich half out of her pocket, but decides against throwing it aaway, noting how it had once taken her three days to discard a dead Easter chick.

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The Laughing Man Glove and Ball

Reader’s Guide – “The Laughing Man”

Contributed by John Piersol. Thanks John!

Publication Details:

First published in The New Yorker on March 19, 1949. Later collected and published in Nine Stories.

Character List:

Unnamed narrator – A nine year old boy from New York City and member of the Comanche Club, who seems to idolize “The Chief.”

John Gedsudski – “The Chief” of the Comanches, and a law student at NYU.

Mary Hudson – John’s girlfriend, she is very beautiful, athletic and attended Wellesley College.

Summary:

“The Laughing Man” is told by a nine-year-old living in New York City in 1928. He is a member of a Comanche Club troop. The narrator tells the story of his Scout leader, “The Chief,” a young law student at New York University. The Chief is physically unattractive, but the troop seems to hold him in high regard. He is widely respected by his troop for his athletic strength and storytelling ability.

Every day, after the troop has completed its activities, the Chief gathers the boys for the next episode in an ongoing story he tells them about the Laughing Man. The Chief’s story-within-a-story describes The Laughing Man was the child of wealthy missionaries, and was kidnapped by bandits in China. The bandits torture left him with a grotesquely deformed face and he was shunned and obliged to wear a sheer red mask made of poppy petals. Despite this deformity, the laughing man was possessed of the ability to outsmart the bandits and eventually kept them captive in a mausoleum. Through acts of artifice and bravery, the laughing man amassed a fortune and lived with four companions, a wolf, a dwarf, a giant and a lovely Eurasian girl. The narrator summarizes the Chief’s installments of The Laughing Man’s escapades, presenting him as a sort of hero crossing “the Chinese-Paris” border to commit acts of heroic larceny and tweaking his nose at his archenemy “Marcel Dufarge, the internationally famous detective and witty consumptive.” (90)

When The Chief begins seeing a beautiful young woman, Mary Hudson, a student who attended Wellesley College, Mary begins to join the all boys group. Unwilling to break the aura of machismo he has built up with his troop, the Chief introduces her into the boys’ baseball games as an “associate coach.”

One day the Chief presents an installment where the laughing man is taken prisoner by his arch-rival, and through deception and betrayal, bound to a tree and in mortal danger. Immediately after, the Chief brings the troop to a baseball field. Mary Hudson arrives. The Chief and Mary have a conversation out of earshot of the boys, and both are obviously upset. Why John and Mary are distraught is ambiguous, as their conversation occurs away from the story’s narrator. However, Salinger gives some subtle hints in the form of baby carriages, including one the narrator nearly trips over.

In the final installment of his Laughing Man story, the Chief brutally kills off the character and the narrator returns home, evidently disturbed by the story and the anxieties he feels about the chief’s relationship.

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Updike and Salinger: A Literary Incident by Donald J. Greiner

MLA Citation:

Greiner, Donald J. “Updike and Salinger: A Literary Incident.” Critique 47.2 (2006): 415-30.Literature Online. Web. 17 October 2009.

First Paragraph:

“In 2003, when John Updike published The Early Stories, 1953–1975, an 839-page collection honored with the 2004 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, he included a foreword in which he recalled the development of the first two decades of his enduring and esteemed career. The germ of the career took its initial significant shape at Harvard, where Updike was an undergraduate from 1950 to 1954, and where, in 1953, he submitted to Albert Guerard’s creative writing class a story titled “Ace in the Hole.” On the advice of Professor Guerard, he sent the story to the New Yorker, which rejected it. As Updike explains in the foreword, “The next year, though, after ‘Friends from Philadelphia’ and some poems had been accepted by the magazine in my first post-collegiate summer, I resubmitted the story and it was accepted” (ix). Thus, although “Friends from Philadelphia” is Updike’s first professional story, as it was published in the New Yorker for 30 October 1954, “Ace in the Hole” was written earlier and is his initial important contact with the magazine that would feature his work for the next half century.” (115)

Summary:

Greiner’s article analyzes the early effect that Salinger’s fiction had on John Updike. Updike sincerely seemed to admire Salinger’s earlier pieces, including, notably, “Just Before the War with the Eskimos.” Updike’s view on Salinger’s later fiction, was of course, much less positive. Greiner also suggests that since Hemingway and Faulkner’s careers were near close, the literary reputation of America was of concern to a Cold War Era literate populace. Greiner indicates that Salinger had the ubiquitous distinction of being the preeminent literary figure poised to fill the void left by these Modernist literary giants. Greiner suggests that 1948 was a banner year for Salinger, but that, by the 1960’s his decreased publications and his own devaluation of his early work (by not choosing these works to be collected) led Updike to take his place as the favored writer of The New Yorker.