A Perfect Day for Salinger

By The Elm - Sep 27,2013@4:04 pm

By Kim Uslin
Senior Writer

Holden Caulfield thinks you’re a phony. Or he would, anyway, if he knew that you were walking around calling J.D. Salinger your favorite author after having read only “The Catcher in the Rye.” What ‘Catcher’ fans may not realize, however, is that life goes on after the bildungsroman. And with the recent media blitz surrounding the famous recluse (a new documentary and biography, and a whole episode of “The Colbert Report”), it’s prime time to explore some of Salinger’s other stories. Here’s the top five to get you started:

5. “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period”
One of Salinger’s longer short stories, “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period” tells the story of an aspiring artist from Paris who finds himself working at a laughable excuse for an art school in America under the patronage of the silent Yoshotos. After telling a series of lies (including tales of his personal relationship with pauvre Picasso) and enduring a number of pitiful students, the young artist finds himself enamored with a talented pupil. It’s funny, touching, and just might ignite your own “blue period.”

4. “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters”
This novella is among Salinger’s many tales of the Glass family (“The Catcher in the Rye,” in fact, is one of only a few well-known works that does not involve the family.
Comprised of seven children, the Glasses are largely brilliant, slightly neurotic individuals. Principal among them is the eldest brother, Seymour. “Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters,” narrated from the perspective of Glass brother Buddy, tells the story of Seymour’s desertion of his bride-to-be on his wedding day. In discovering his brother’s motive for abandoning the wedding, Buddy weaves family history and philosophy into an intoxicating, thought-provoking view of life and love.

3. “Teddy”
Speaking of philosophy, prepare to have your mind blown by “Teddy,” another of Salinger’s short stories. The story explores the life of the titular Teddy McArdle, a precocious young boy on a cruise ship. Teddy is a charming little genius, whose clever dialogue will both endear you to him and make you feel like you’re in some sort of amazing philosophy class. As for the ending of the story? It’s so incredible, you won’t know what to do with yourself when you’re finished.

2. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”
There are no words for the profound, heartbreaking loveliness that is “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” a story which features an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD, his shallow wife, and a very perceptive little girl. Except for, well, perfect.

1. “Franny and Zooey”
“The Catcher in the Rye” for the college set. “Franny and Zooey” tells the story of 20-year-old Franny (the youngest member of the Glass family) as she suffers her own breakdown while at university. Be forewarned – if you were susceptible to Holden’s account of “phonies,” Franny’s frustration with academia is likely to hit close to home. Luckily, the second novella, featuring Franny’s older brother Zooey, offers gorgeous Salinger-style deliverance to lift your spirits and break your heart.

The Elm

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