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Topic: Discussion Thread 1: Nine Stories, Bananafish - Dinghy

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Subject: Discussion Thread 1: Nine Stories, Bananafish - Dinghy
Date Posted: 2/18/2010 1:00 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
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I hope everyone had an okay time getting a copy, and enjoyed the book.

What did everyoone think?  Was there a story you liked best?  Why?

Was here a story you didn't like?  How do you feel about the style of Salinger's writing?

Do you have any thoughts about his portrayal of children - as children feature pretty prominantly in all the stories.

Do they people in his stories seem recognizable to you?  Sympathetic?

I think that's good to start with.  I'll start the next thread with the remaining stories (and the bonus!) tomorrow and see if I have more questions as the discussion goes along.

Rick B. (bup) - ,
Date Posted: 2/19/2010 10:29 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2007
Posts: 2,625
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What did everyoone think?  Was there a story you liked best?  Why?

I definitely needed a story or two to get into the Salinger 'feel.' Either Bananafish and Uncle Wiggily really were a lot more sparse and obscure than the others, or maybe I got a better feel for him after those two. Of the first 5 stories in the book, I think I liked Laughing Man best. I got it (or most of it), and just thought it was an interesting way to view a story from a bystander's point of view. OK, the kid wasn't a bystander, but he wasn't privy to much information because he was a kid. I liked Dinghy a lot too - I guess I'm just an optimist and that appealed to me.

Was here a story you didn't like?  How do you feel about the style of Salinger's writing?

It's interesting you put those two questions together, because the information Salinger leaves out - which I realize is the appeal for many - can approach frustration for me. I know stories should show and not tell, but would it kill Salinger to let us in on a couple of details once in a while? Uncle Wiggily and Just Before the War didn't appeal to me, both because I felt like I must have been missing something huge. With Uncle Wiggily I googled after I read it to find out what the point was, and I see it now, so maybe that's my fault. Just Before the War with the Eskimoes though - I'm still wondering what I missed.

Do you have any thoughts about his portrayal of children - as children feature pretty prominantly in all the stories.

Salinger's children are blameless. They're innocent and forthright and have no bad qualities. They often seem like they're there to show how people should behave. I'm not including the teens in Just Before the War there - they seem more like Salinger adults to me. But surprise me - I already admit I didn't get that story.

Do they people in his stories seem recognizable to you?  Sympathetic?

I think Salinger's greatest strength is that the characters are very recognizable and believable. Most are sympathetic.

Date Posted: 2/19/2010 1:00 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
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I'm beginning to think that you and i are the only ones participating in his.  Le sigh.

It's interesting you put those two questions together, because the information Salinger leaves out - which I realize is the appeal for many - can approach frustration for me.

It's definitely a huge part of the appeal for me.  I get frustrated when I feel the author is over explaining everything.  In some ways, I feel if I'm being fed all the information, there's no room for my participation in the event of writing ---> reading.  I would hazard the guess that's one of the reasons people feel so passionate about Salinger's work is that they do have to engage a little more with his writing, so they are bringing a little more of themselves into the act of reading than one does with a writer where the reading is more of a passive event.

They're innocent and forthright and have no bad qualities. They often seem like they're there to show how people should behave.

I totally agree.  They're like these little object lessons of purity and forthrightness.  And they tend to be funny, too.

People talk so much about alienation when talking about Salinger, but I really think there's this yearning for goodness, or autheniticity of some sort in nearly all his writing that feels really special.  It doesn't hurt that he's pretty much the last writer in existence who has made exactly zero concessions to to the market of culture (films, interviews, book tours, etc.).  So in reading his stories there's never that annoying disconnect between the work and the writer that happens so often.

Rick B. (bup) - ,
Date Posted: 2/19/2010 1:22 PM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2007
Posts: 2,625
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I'm beginning to think that you and i are the only ones participating

Yeah. I backed off because I had already responded in the original thread, and a bunch of people were enthused about participating. But I'm just not a 'fashionably late' kind of guy, and I couldn't wait any longer for someone else to respond. I'm sure people will. They're just cooler, and waiting for the party to get going before they make their entrance.

I get frustrated when I feel the author is over explaining everything.

Fair enough. Right now I'm reading The Last of the Mohicans, and Cooper commits this sin in the extreme. Really bad melodramatic writing with an omniscient narrator who is entirely reliable, and tells us the emotional reaction of everybody to every event. I tend to be more in the 'tell less, show more' camp, but with Salinger I feel like it's too extreme. I want to at least be able to follow the plot.

In Laughing Man, is it understood that the girlfriend kept coming into the city because she was pregnant? Was I supposed to be able to suss that out of the story? Or is that just a possible explanation, and nobody really knows, but the story of going to the dentist all the time is pretty clearly not the right one?

Date Posted: 2/19/2010 1:53 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
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Or is that just a possible explanation, and nobody really knows, but the story of going to the dentist all the time is pretty clearly not the right one?i

This.  There's nothing explicit, which feels right.  As there is no way that little boy would have all the information necessary to know exactly what was going on.  Which is another way that Salinger is very smart about children.  Children aren't stupid - they're just missing a lot of information that adults are privy to.

I tend to be more in the 'tell less, show more' camp, but with Salinger I feel like it's too extreme. I want to at least be able to follow the plot.

Fair enough.  I would respond, though, that it's probably not about plot.  I think it might be worthwhile to look at Salinger in the context of a lot of other post-war writing.  In a weird way, one of the writers he reminds me most of is Vonnegut.  maybe in terms of feeling, or sensibility rather than any specifics.  Or maybe I'm just being totally solipsistic as I started reading both of them at the same point in my life.  But American writers were also  influenced by people like Kafka and Becket and the existentialists who were going into a very spare, not so literal place.  Maybe influenced by is too strong a statement, but this stuff was definitely in the air, I think, and it manifested in a lot of different ways.

Date Posted: 2/19/2010 4:21 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2009
Posts: 298
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Rick, thanks for beginning the response to this thread.

What did everyone think?  Was there a story you liked best?  Why?

Of the first 5 stories A Perfect Day for Bananafish was my favorite.   There was tension and a sub-conscious threat within the story, and then it ended suddenly and tragically.    As the other stories followed I thought Salinger was revealing the frailty of the human psyche damaged in some way, directly or indirectly, by the war. 

Was there a story you didn't like?  How do you feel about the style of Salinger's writing?

Salinger's stories were a nice surprise. I enjoyed all of the first 5.   I had expected something angst-ridden and misanthropic, probably due to his reputation as a recluse.  Instead I found sensitive and insightful stories that resonated and left you thinking and feeling, and sometimes left you questioning and wondering because he's being so darned enigmatic.

Do you have any thoughts about his portrayal of children - as children feature pretty prominantly in all the stories.

Glad you asked this question because this part troubled me most in Salinger's stories.  In Bananafish my instincts told me that the little girl Sybil's life might be imperilled because Seymour was obviously psychologically damaged.  This caused tension and emphasized Sybil's innocence and vulnerabitliy.    I thought Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut (a second favorite of mine in this group, but not because the subject matter was charming!) an interesting psychological portrait of a mother and daughter and their different way of coping with a lack of love.    I felt Salinger was showing that adults can be the greatest threat to children, and that maybe, ultimately, innocence is always lost, so treasure it when you see it. 

Do the people in his stories seem recognizable to you?  Sympathetic?

They seemed all too human.  Very real.    



Last Edited on: 2/19/10 5:57 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 2/19/2010 4:46 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2009
Posts: 298
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Rick  --  Just Before the War with the Eskimoes though - I'm still wondering what I missed.

I'm still trying to figure out the title! 

Caviglia -- People talk so much about alienation when talking about Salinger, but I really think there's this yearning for goodness, or autheniticity of some sort in nearly all his writing that feels really special.

A beautiful description of his work.  This is where Salinger really surprised me.

Rick B. (bup) - ,
Date Posted: 2/20/2010 5:49 PM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2007
Posts: 2,625
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What was the whole deal with the chicken sandwich in Just Before the War with the Eskimoes?

Date Posted: 2/22/2010 2:54 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2009
Posts: 298
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What was the whole deal with the chicken sandwich in Just Before the War with the Eskimoes?

I think Ginnie decided to hold on to that unappealing, unappetizing half-a-sandwich much the same way she decided to maintain her relationship with Selena when she was ready to dump her, just to acquisitively pursue Selena's equally unappealing, unappetizing brother.   That was my interpretation, anyway.   I thought the chicken sandwich had to be significant, didn't you?  Otherwise why put it in?  A bit heavy-handed, maybe, for Salinger?

On the other hand, I think "The Laughing Man" a story where one might  look for symbolism, but accepting the parallel stories simply as a complement to each other intensified my sense of grief and loss at the end.  Very haunting.

Rick B. (bup) - ,
Date Posted: 2/27/2010 8:48 AM ET
Member Since: 11/2/2007
Posts: 2,625
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Well, I'm bummed. My favorite two stories were For Esme with Love and Squalor and du Maurier-Smith's Blue Period, and it looks like discussion has been cancelled due to lack of participation. Either that or due to something I did. Is it my hygiene? I'm working on it.

Date Posted: 2/27/2010 11:31 AM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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Is it my hygiene?

Of course it is.

It couldn't possibly be anything else such as me never getting a copy because some douche bag let my request time out and it went to wish list status while everyone was delighting in reading their copy.

Nope, tis because Rick stinks to high heaven!

Vienna - ,
Date Posted: 2/27/2010 6:32 PM ET
Member Since: 11/13/2009
Posts: 35
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I am guilty since I couldn't get the books either.  Rick, I'm sure you don't smell too bad!!!! Tome, I love when you wrote DB, it brought back childhood memories.  What's the book for March?  D