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.
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.
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.
Bryan, James E. “J. D. Salinger: The Fat Lady and the Chicken Sandwich.” College English 23.3 (1961): 226-29. Print.
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.
Cheatham, George, and Edwin Arnaudin. “Salinger’s Allusions to “My Foolish Heart” – The Salinger Movie.” ANQ 20.2 (2007): 39-43. Print.
“As Peter Beidler, among others, has noted, ‘Most of Holden Caulfield’s references to book and movies in The Catcher in the Rye turn out to be real, though perhaps obscure ones.’ (44). One such obscure but real reference-perhaps two, although the reference, or references, might be Salinger’s rather than Holden’s-is to My Foolish Heart, a 1949 feature film based on Salinger’s sotry ‘Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut’ (1948, reprinted in Nine Stories, 1953) and remembered now mostly for its title song, which became a pop standard, and for having ‘killed Salinger movies’ as John Truby phrases it. The creative team at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios-which included Samuel Goldwyn and Casablanca screenwriters Julius and Philip Epstein-managed to turn Salinger’s brief but bitter indictment of upper-middle-class phoniness into what one reviewer called a ‘four-handkerchief tearjerker of repentance and redemption’ (qtd in Alexander 141). Salinger, reportedly both humiliated and appaled by what ‘Hollywood had done to ‘Uncle Wiggily,’ subsequently refused, notoriously, to sell the movie rights to Catcher in the Rye. ‘No, no, no,’ he insisted, ‘I had a bad experience in Hollywood once’ (Alexander 141-142).”
French, Warren G. “The Phony World and the Nice World.” Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 4.1 (1963): 21-30. Print.
“Just as one inspecting real estate must seek some central promontory from which to get the lay of the land, so the critic trying to get an author’s work into perspective seeks some central document that provides a focal point from which the others must be viewed. Since the work on any considerable writer is, furthermore, likely to embody a complexity of subtly insinuated themes rather than to reiterate a single, baldly stated idea, more than one of his works may serve as a center for organizing a study of his achievement. So far comprehensive evaluations of J.D. Salinger’s work have been built around two short stories; I propose to utilize a third.”
Goldstein, Bernice and Goldstein, Sanford. “Zen and Nine Stories.”. Renascence: Essays on Value in Literature: 22. (1970), pp. 171-82.
“Because Salinger has prefixed to Nine stories as a Zen koan, the Zen element in these stories ought to be investigated. The attempt to solve a koan (for example, the sound of one hand clapping) may lead, among several possibilities, to insanity or enlightenment. Thus one approach to Nine Stories is an examination of these two extremes of the koan experience. In such stories as “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” “The Laughing Man,” and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” the destructive element is uppermost. In “For Esme – With Love and Squalor” and “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period,” the positive element of enlightenment. Since children come closest to the Zen experience (Teddy, for example), Salinger’s focus on children in these stories serves to sharpen differences between the enlightened and non-enlightened, the logical and illogical, the spontaneous and self-conscious. The rational adult world confronted by impossible choice (by koan) may react in a logically rational though destructive way, but the world of the child has perhaps not yet reached the stage where dichotomies prevent full immersion in each confronted moment.”
Greiner, Donald J. “Updike and Salinger: A Literary Incident.” Critique 47.2 (2006): 415-30.Literature Online. Web. 17 October 2009.
“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 NewYorker 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)
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.
“In his influential book on Ernest Hemingway, Phillip Young contends that “there is little in Hemingway-and next to nothing of ultimate importance-that has not its precedents” in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Young bases this claim on parallels that emerge from a comparison of Twain’s boy-hero Huck and Hemingway’s fictional heroes, but especially the prototype-hero Nick Adams as he appears in the story collection In Our Time. After a detailed and convincing presentation of similarities, Young concludes that Huck and Nick are nearly identical persons who are “very nearly twins.” Furthermore, says Young, “the adventures of the generic Nick Adams are the adventures of Huckleberry Finn in our time,’the main difference being only that “at the very point where Twain found his boy too complex, and let him go, Hemingway has exploited his condition, and raised him to complicated manhood.'” (136)
“Anyone who comments on the works of J. D. Salinger, nowadays, does so at his peril. There are many – editors, critics, friends, relatives, and plain readers among them – who are eager. to chastize the commentator for his indiscretion. This is just as well: one may thus feel free at last to say what one wishes. Where cannons and controversies reign, there is some freedom in playfulness.” (5)
“As I began to write this essay I had come to it fresh from reading three items that seemed to me suggestive in different ways. The first was a report that William Golding’s Lord of the Flies had overtaken and passed J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye as the most-read novel among young college readers. Also, I had just gone through a book entitled Salinger: A Critical and Personal Portrait, which contained nearly three hundred pages about the author contributed by twenty-five writers. Finally, I had seen a report that Salinger had given permission for the publication in book form of two more previously-published Glass stories, to be called Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.2 These items suggested to me comments which I wanted to make about matters of change and stasis – to use a currently fashionable word – in the public and the criticism, and the work, respectively, of J. D. Salinger. In brief, it appears that he is now past the peak of the popularity he enjoyed in the late 1950’s. Further, Salinger criticism has now resolved itself into a dialogue in which the Anti’s, scarcely heard at first, now have substantial and vocal representation, a colloquy which has its own set of cliches and war-horse citations of evidence. The recent published and republished work itself is part of an extended phase of preoccupation with spiritual crises which has concerned the author for nearly ten years now, a phase in which the only change discernable has been an even more intense interest in the spiritual coupled with increasing experiment characterized most strikingly by prolixity of style. To indicate a further direction, all of this makes a Salinger adherent wish for certain things, almost for a moratorium now on Salinger criticism as well as for evidence that this gifted writer has assimilated the influences which have both informed and swamped his later work, evidence that he is ready to break through from a minor phase to a major one, as he once did earlier in his career.” (100)
Written in 1963, Blotner’s article suggests the high point of Salinger’s popularity has passed, but leaves open the possibility (the hope?) that Salinger may still renew or even surpass his previous success. He writes:
…all of this makes a Salinger adherent wish for certain things, almost for a moratorium now on Salinger criticism as well as for evidence that this gifted writer has assimilated the influences which have both informed and swamped his later work, evidence that he is ready to break through from a minor phase to a major one, as he once did earlier in his career. (101)
He further notes that the “antis” (those who are more critical of Salinger’s work) have gained standing and that early critics who praised Salinger, while still in the majority have been increasingly silent. Therefore, Blotner is less optimistic about the state of Salinger criticism, stating:
one wonders how long, even with Catcher and the non-religious stories in the Salinger corpus considered too, such a relatively slim body of work can support such extensive analysis. (102)
Blotner begins the essay noting that William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies has overtaken The Catcher in the Rye as the most read novel among young college readers. He revisits this issue later in the essay as he discusses Salinger’s move away from dealing with the squalid world to dealing more exclusively with love.