Category Archives: Books of Criticism

Books about Salinger and his works

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“Holden in the Museum” by John Seelye

MLA Citation:

Seelye, John. “Holden in the Museum.” Ed. Jack Salzman. New Essays on The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Cambridge UP, 2001. 23-33. Print.

First Paragraph:

Seelye’s essay starts with a quote from the novel:  “I was the only one left in the tomb then.  I sort of liked it, in a way.  It was so nice and peaceful.  Then, all of a sudden, you’d never guess what I saw on the wall.”

“I don’t think I was alone, as a college undergraduate in the early fifties, in regarding Holden Caulfield as a royal pain, an affront to my generation, which was prone to assume supine positions in the name of material well-being.  Most of my classmates were conformists eager to become Organization Men inventing Hidden Persuaders, and the grey flannel suit (with that touch of conformist flair, the tattersall vest) was our uniform of choice.  ours was the cause that James Dean’s Rebel was without, and James’s shadow figure, John Dean, was one of us.  Our greatest fear was not of losing our individuality to corporate America but of losing our lives in Korea.  Like Dan Quayle, we did our patriotic best by joining reverse units, hoping that the winds of war would pass by, leaving our private lives unruffled.  About the time that Jack Kerouac was making his westward journey that would become thinly fictionalized as On the Road, I spent two summers driving from Connecticut to California to take part in a naval reserve training program that would result in an ensign’s commission just in time for the end of hostilities in Korea.  It was not me that Salinger’s Catcher caught.”

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New Essays on The Catcher in the Rye

New Essays on Catcher in the Rye Edited by Jack Salzman

MLA Citation:

Salzman, Jack. New Essays on The Catcher in the Rye. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. Print.

First Paragraph:

“In 1959, eight years after the publication of The Catcher in the Rye, Arthur Mizener began a Harper’s magazine essay about J. D. Salinger by noting that he was ‘probably the most avidly read author of any serious pretensions of his generation.’  There were good reasons why this should be the case, Mizener commented.  Whatever limitations the work might have had – either of technique or of subject matter – within these limitations it was ‘the most interesting fiction that has come along for some time.’  Although, as we will see, there was little critical agreement about what the limitations of The Catcher in the Rye may have been, there was little disagreement with Mizener’s contention that Salinger was the most avidly read ‘serious’ writer of his generation.  Soon after Nine Stories appeared in April 1953, it made the New York Times best-seller list.  By 1961 sales of Catcher were reported to have reached one and half million copies in the United States alone.” (from The Introduction)

Table of Contents:

Series Editor’s Preface

This book is part of The American Novel Series

Introduction by Jack Salzman

Articles

John Seelye:  Holden in the Museum
Michael Cowan:  Holden’s Museum Pieces:  Narrator and Nominal Audience in The Catcher in the Rye
Christopher Brookeman:  Pencey Preppy:  Cultural Codes in The Catcher in the Rye
Joyce Rowe:  Holden Caulfield and American Protest
Peter Shaw:  Love and Death in The Catcher in the Rye

Notes on Contributors

Selected Bibliography

“Love and Death in ‘The Catcher in the Rye'” by Peter Shaw

MLA Citation:

Shaw, Peter. “Love and Death in The Catcher in the Rye.” Ed. Jack Salzman. New Essays on The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Cambridge UP, 2001. 97-114. Print.

The full article is available here. *Please note we are working to contact the author to make sure that this linkage is acceptable, and it will be removed at the author’s request.

First Paragraph:

“By the time The Catcher in the Rye appeared in 1951, the theme of the sensitive youth beleaguered by society was well established in the American novel.  Reviewing Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms in 1948, Diana Trilling complained about the tendency of contemporary novelists to employ a ‘deterministic principle’ in which the youth was repeatedly presented as a ‘passive victim.’  Also well established by 1951 was the link between neurosis, self-destructive behavior, and social maladaptation on the one hand, and artistic sensibility and special insight on the other.  Not surprisingly, Holden Caulfield was regarded as yet another fictional example of the sensitive, outcast character vouchsafed a superior insight by a touch of mental disturbance.”

Next paragraph for clarification purposes:

“Holden’s disturbance was taken to be both his unique, personal gift and the fault of a hypocritical, uncaring society, one particularly indifferent to its more sensitive souls.  Holden’s insight into the adult world’s hypocrisies, moreover, appeared to derive precisely from his being its casualty.  Given the deplorable world in which he lived, if by the end of his adventures Holden seemed ready to effect some kind of accommodation with society, this struck readers as inevitable, if regrettable.

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if you really want to hear about it

If You Really Want to Hear About It: Writers on J.D. Salinger and His Work edited by Catherine Crawford

MLA Citation:

Crawford, Catherine. If You Really Want to Hear About It: Writers on J.D. Salinger and His Work. New York: Thunder’s Mouth, 2006. Print.

Jacket Copy:

“Famously reclusive and yet an undying source of inspiration for generations of readers, Salinger is one of the greatest mysteries of American literature.  This is the first comprehensive collection of writings about J.D. Salinger and his work, an amalgam of over fifty years’ worth of attempted interviews, documented sightings, unauthorized profiles, and stifled cries of devotion, as well as the best of the book reviews.

Includes a never-before-published retrospective by Joyce Maynard, whose 1997 memoir, which documented her year-long affair with J.D. Salinger when she was sixteen years old, caused a rupture in the literary establishment.”

Contents:

Part I:  In Search of Salinger

Shirlie Blaney:  Interview with J.D. Salinger
Ernest Havemann:  The Search for the Mysterious J.D. Salinger
Betty Eppes:  What I Did Last Summer
Lacey Fosburgh:  J.D. Salinger Speaks About His Silence
Michael Clarkson:  Catching the “Catcher in the Rye” J. D. Salinger
Ron Rosenbaum:  The Catcher in the Driveway

Part II:  Critics and Cranks

Eudora Welty:  Threads of Innocence
Arthur Mizener:  The Love Song of J.D. Salinger
Alfred Kazin:  J.D. Salinger:  “Everybody’s Favorite”
John Updike:  Anxious Days for the Glass Family
Mary McCarthy:  J.D. Salinger’s Closed Circiut
Arnold Lubasch:  Salinger Biography is Blocked
Mordecai Richler:  Summer Reading; Rises at Dawn, Writes, Then Retires
Michiko Kakutani:  From Salinger, a New Dash of Mystery
Jonathan Yardley:  J. D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, Aging Gracelessly

Part III:  Deconstructing Jerry

Sarah Morrill:  A Brief Biography of J.D. Salinger
Paul Alexander:  Theft, Rumor, and Innuendo:  An excerpt from Salinger:  A Biography
John Dugdale:  Eighty Years of Solitude
Dipti R. Pattanaik:  The Holy Refusal
David Skinner:  The Sentimental Misanthrope:  Why J. D. Salinger Can’t Write
Alex Beam:  J. D. Salinger, Failed Recluse
Lois Menand:  Holden at Fifty

Part IV:  Family, Friends, and Fanatics

Margaret Salinger:  Excerpt from Dream Catcher:  A Memoir
Margaret Salinger:  Daughter of J.D. Salinger, Discusses Her New Book, Dream Catcher
Joyce Maynard:  Excerpt from At Home in the World
Daniel M. Stashower:  On First Looking into Chapman’s Holden
Selections from Letters to J.D. Salinger
Joanna Smith Rakoff:  My Salinger Year
J.B. Miller:  Salinger and Me

Salinger: A Critical and Personal Portrait

Salinger: A Critical and Personal Portrait by Henry Anatole Grunwald

MLA Citation:

Grunwald, Henry A. Salinger: A Critical and Personal Portrait. New York: Harper, 1962. Print.

First Paragraph:

“There is a feeling in many quarters that altogether too much fuss is being made about J. D. Salinger.”

from the Introduction, page ix

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J.D. Salinger by James Lundquist

MLA Citation:

Lundquist, James. J.D. Salinger. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1979. Print.

First Paragraph:

“This is 1979, and it has been twenty-eight years since Holden Caulfield dragged his deer-hunting cap and his prep-school heart through Manhattan.  But J.D. Salinger’s ideas on the true and the false in American culture, his religious solutions to the crises of alienation and isolation, and his overriding sentimentality may have had more impact on the American brainscape than anyone yet has taken into account.  Since the publication of a long story, ‘Hapworth 16, 1924,’ in The New Yorker in 1965, Salinger has maintained a silence that has turned him into the Howard Hughes of American Literature.  But Salinger’s lasting significance has no declined.  The startling thing for many of us to realize is that the confidential ravings of Holden Caulfield, the enigma of Seymour Glass’s suicide, and the pathetic pragmatism of the Jesus Prayer embraced by Franny Glass, remain part of our consciousness – and it is not just simply nostalgia for that time in the 1950s and early 1960s when Salinger’s characters provided just about the only voices that did not sound phony.  As a whole new generation of readers indicates the appeal of his work is enduring.   His influence remains, and we cannot get around it, perhaps cannot get over it.”

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Allie and Phoebe: Death and Love in J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye by David Burrows

MLA Citation:

Burrows, David J. “Allie and Phoebe: Death and Love in J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.”Private Dealings: Modern American Writers in Search of Integrity. Rockville, MD: New Perspectives, 1974. 106-14. Print.

First Paragraph:

“Literary passions were not easily formed among America’s youth in the 1950’s. But during those years many students in high schools and colleges discovered, through J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, that “literature” did not mean the, to them, dull poetry and fiction of their text books. After the novel’s appearance in 1951, its fame began to spread by word-of-mouth, until something of an underground “Catcher cult” existed throughout the country. The speech mannerisms of Holden Caulfield, the book’s protagonist and narrator, were carefully imitated, and a generation of young Americans perceived through Holden the extent to which the world was divided between the “phonies” and the “nice” people, the former comprising the vast majority of the population. Then, in the late 1950’s, young college and high school teachers, themselves having been deeply affected by the book six or eight years earlier, introduced it formally into the classroom, and thus within a decade of its publication it reached the stature of an American “classic”.”

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Warren French and Some Crazy Cliff

J.D. Salinger, Revisited by Warren French

MLA Citation:

French, Warren. J.D. Salinger, Revisted. Boston: Twayne, 1988. Print.

First Paragraph:

“The irony of the title of this book is that nobody visits J.D. Salinger at all without a rarely extended invitation, and certainly the least likely recipient of one would be a professional literary critic. Like many authors, Salinger feels that what he has to say can be found in his books and that readers need no outside guidance, although the tragic behavior of Mark David Chapman (John Lennon’s assassin) might suggest otherwise. (Chapman inaccurately cited Catcher in the Rye at his sentencing to justify his actions {see Chapter Three, n. 13}.) Anyway, I bring no news about Salinger himself, as I will be revisiting only the writings he has with increasing reluctance committed to print.”

from the Preface, page ix

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J.D. Salinger by Warren French

MLA Citation:

French, Warren. JDSalinger. New York: Twayne, 1963.

First Paragraph:

When the original edition of this book about J. D. Salinger appeared in 1963, I think no one could have foretold that that year marked the climax of the productivity of what George Steiner has called the “Salinger Industry.”  I raced to complete my study before scholarly competitors published theirs, for i had read announcements that at least a dozen other studies were being prepared. None of these has appeared within the twelve years that has passed, and this book remains the only study of much more than fifty pages that examines from a single viewpoint Salinger’s major work. However, five sizable collections of essays and an issue of Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature devoted to Salinger, did appear during 1962 and 1963.

from the Preface (non-paginated)

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Gwynn and Blotner with Faulkner at the University of Virginia

The Fiction of J.D. Salinger

MLA Citation:

Gwynn, Frederick L. and Joseph L. Blotner. The Fiction of J.D. Salinger. Pittsburgh: The University of Pittsburgh Press, 1958. Print.

Frederick Gwynn and Joseph Blotner’s slender volume of commentary addresses the bulk of Salinger’s oeuvre. The body of the book is divided into three convenient sections and seven sections in total comprise the work.

First Paragraph:

“For the future historian, the most significant fact about American literary culture of the Post-War period may be that whereas young readers of the Inter-War period knew intimately the work of a goodly number of coeval writers (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, Wolfe, Sinclair Lewis, for example), the only Post-War fiction unanimously approved by contemporary literate American youth consists of about five hundred pages by Jerome David Salinger.”

Summary:

The Fiction of J. D. Salinger (library copy)

The Fiction of J. D. Salinger (library copy)

Introduction

The introductory section details the prevailing critical responses to Salinger’s work. They briefly describe the critical stance of critics Heiserman and Miler, David Stevenson, Ihab Hassan, Leslie Fiedler, Donald Barr, William Wiegand, and Maxwell Geismar, though they do not engage with their theoretical stances in the introduction.

Gwynn and Blotner also identify “For Esme-With Love and Squalor” the “high point of Salinger’s art” (for more information, see the “For Esme…” readers guide).

The Long Debut: The Apprentice Period (1940-1948)

This section discusses the twenty or so stories that appeared largely in magazines such as Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post, but also in a handful of others such as Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping). Gwynn and Blotner describe these  as being of five types, “The Short Short Stories,” “The Lonely Girl Characterizations,” “The Destroyed Artist Melodramas,” “The Marriage in Wartime Group,” and “The Caulfield Stories.”

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