Tag Archives: Nine Stories

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.

Reader’s Guide – “Uncle Wiggily In Connecticut”

Publication Details:

J.D. Salinger, “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” The New Yorker.  March 20, 1948.  p 30-36.  Print.

Salinger, J.D. “”Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut”” Nine Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 1953. Print.

Character List:

Eloise Wengler – the woman of the house where the story is set, mother of Ramona and wife of Lew, former girlfriend of Walt Glass.

Mary Jane – Eloise’s former college roommate, come to have a visit with Eloise.

Ramona Wengler – Eloise and Lew’s daughter, has an imaginary friend named Jimmy Jimereeno who dies during the course of the story.

Lew Wengler – Eloise’s husband – is mentioned but does not appear in the story.

Walt Glass – only referred to a “Walt,” Eloise’s old boyfriend who called drafted during their relationship and died in WWII.  Is a member of the Glass family.

Grace – The Wengler’s housekeeper.

Summary:

The story opens with Mary Jane arriving at Eloise’s house for a quick visit.  The women had been roommates in college, though neither of them graduated.  Eloise had been caught with a solider in her dorm (maybe that soldier was Walt?) and Mary Jane left college to get married to another soldier who spent two of the three months they were married in jail.

Eloise and Mary Jane start drinking and talking about their college days, and about mutual friends.  Mary Jane keeps insisting that she needs to leave, but Eloise keeps the drinks coming and they both sit and drink and smoke for a while.  Eloise’s daughter, Ramona, comes in and Mary Jane speaks to her.  Ramona has an imaginary friend named Jimmy Jimereeno.  Ramona later informs Mary Jane and Eloise that Jimmy is dead, having been hit by a car.

Eloise talks about Walt, her ex-boyfriend, and gets very sentimental.  She tells Mary Jane that one time she injured her ankle, and Walk said, “Poor Uncle Wiggily,” talking about her ankle.  The conversation moves to Lew, Eloise’s husband, and Mary Jane asks why Eloise never told Lew about Walt, and Eloise waxes philosophical about men and marriage, stating that men never want to know about the men you dated before them.  Mary Jane and Eloise discuss how Walt died in the war, and Eloise continues to get even more emotional.

Lew calls and we hear Eloise’s side of the conversation.  The weather is bad and Lew is not sure when he’ll be home.  Later, Grace asks Eloise if her husband can stay the night, because the weather is so bad.  Eloise tells her that he cannot stay, and Grace acquiesces.

Mary Jane passes out on the couch, and Eloise goes upstairs to check on Ramona, who she had sent upstairs after determining she was feverish after Ramona informed the women about Jimmy’s unfortunate accident.  Ramona is only sleeping on one side of her bed, and Eloise asks her why, since Jimmy is dead.  Ramona tells her that she is making room for her new friend, Mickey Mickeranno.  Eloise is cross with Ramona, telling her to get in the center of the bed immediately.  Ramona is afraid and shuts her eyes.

Eloise is maudlin, picks up Ramona’s glasses which are sitting on the side table, lenses up and stems down.  She holds them to her teary cheek, and repeats “Poor Uncle Wiggily” over and over again.  She puts the glasses back down on the nightstand, lenses down, still wet with her tears.  She leans over her daughter, who has been crying, and kisses her and staggers out of the room.

Eloise goes downstairs, wakes up Mary Jane, and reminds her of a time that someone at school made a mean comment about a dress Eloise wore.  She says that she cried all night about it.  She asks Mary Jane, “I was a nice girl…wasn’t I?”

Continue reading Reader’s Guide – “Uncle Wiggily In Connecticut”

Salinger’s Allusions to “My Foolish Heart” by George Cheatham

MLA Citation:

Cheatham, George, and Edwin Arnaudin. “Salinger’s Allusions to “My Foolish Heart” – The Salinger Movie.” ANQ 20.2 (2007): 39-43. Print.

First Paragraph:

“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).”

Continue reading Salinger’s Allusions to “My Foolish Heart” by George Cheatham

Zen and Nine Stories by Bernice and Sanford Goldstein

MLA Citation:

Goldstein, Bernice and Goldstein, Sanford. “Zen and Nine Stories.”. Renascence: Essays on Value in Literature: 22. (1970), pp. 171-82.

Publisher’s Abstract:

“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.”

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.

Continue reading Reader’s Guide – “The Laughing Man”

Reader’s Guide – “Teddy”

Thanks to Brian McTague for contributing the bulk of this content for the “Teddy” Reader’s Guide.

Publication Details:

Published in The New Yorker January 31, 1953, pages 26-34, 36, 38, 40-41, 44-45.

Later published in Nine Stories, Little, Brown, 1953.

Character List:

Teddy McArdle – child genius, philosopher, and spiritual guru.  At ten years old he keeps a meticulous diary, has speaking engagements all over the country, and keeps up very sophisticated correspondence with academic and spiritual figures.

Mr. McArdle – Teddy’s father.  A radio actor.

Mrs. McArdle – Teddy’s mother.

Booper McArdle – Teddy’s surly younger sister

Bob Nicholson – a fellow passenger on the ship the McArdles are traveling on, he’s heard one of Teddy’s tapes and is fascinated with the boy.

Myron – a young boy on the ship to whom Booper is cruel.

Plot Synopsis:

Teddy, his parents, and his little sister are traveling by ship, returning from an engagement at Oxford and another at Edinburgh, where Teddy met with people to discuss spiritual and academic topics.  The story opens with Teddy in his family’s cabin, his father speaking crossly to him, and his mother languishing in bed.  Teddy updates his diary, noting many things he needs to do, including correspondence with several individuals, and things he can do to make his family happier.  In true Salinger style, Teddy is an exceptional child, and very intellectually advanced.  Unlike the other children in Salinger’s work, Teddy is also very spiritually advanced, having studied Vedantic thought.  He believes he is the reincarnation of an Indian man who had reached an advanced state of enlightenment, but had ceased to reach true enlightenment because of a woman.

Teddy encounters another passenger on the boat, a young academic named Bob, who had heard one of Teddy’s tapes.  Nicholson and Teddy have a very in-depth conversation about spirituality.  In this conversation, Teddy shares his own spiritual beliefs, and expresses the belief that a fear of death is silly.  When one dies it is meant to happen.  He (seemingly offhandedly) mentions that if his sister happened to push him into an empty pool and his head were to crack and he died right away that nobody should be sad because if it happened, it was supposed to happen.

Teddy leaves to go to his swimming listen, and Bob follows behind and from the stairway hears a high-pitched scream, described to be like the scream of a small girl child.

Continue reading Reader’s Guide – “Teddy”

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.”

Continue reading J.D. Salinger by James Lundquist

Salinger Now: An Appraisal

MLA Citation:

Blotner, Joseph L. “Salinger Now: An Appraisal.” Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 4.1 (Winter 1963): 100-08. Print.

First Paragraph:

“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)

Summary:

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.

Continue reading Salinger Now: An Appraisal