Salinger, J.D. (Literary Masters)
|1919:||Jerome David Salinger is born on 1 January in New York City to Sol Salinger and Miriam (née Grace) Jillich Salinger. His only sibling is a sister, Doris, eight years his senior.|
|1930:||During the summer Salinger attends Camp Wigwam in Harrison, Maine, where his acting skills are acknowledged.|
|1932:||The Salinger family moves to 1113 Park Avenue. Having attended public schools on the Upper West Side, Salinger is now enrolled in the McBurney School, a private high school on West Sixty-fourth Street. He writes for the school newspaper, manages the fencing team, and continues to act, playing female roles for which his performances are praised. Salinger’s academic record is mediocre.|
|1934:||After attending summer classes at the Manhasset School on Long Island in order to be eligible to return to McBurney, Salinger enrolls in Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania, where he has greater academic success. He is a member of the school’s dramatic club, Mask and Spurs, and shows a growing interest in writing fiction, reportedly writing stories at night in bed with the aid of a flashlight.|
|1936:||Salinger graduates from Valley Forge. In his senior year he is the literary editor of the yearbook, Crossed Sabres, in which appear a song for the graduating class to which he wrote the lyrics and his tribute to the founder of the school, Col. Milton S. Baker.|
|1937:||Salinger matriculates at Washington Square College of New York University, but his academic experience there is unsatis-factory, and he attends no more than a year. At his father’s suggestion, Salinger travels in the fall to Europe in order to improve his French and German and to learn more about his father’s trade, the ham- and cheese-importing business. Salinger continues to write stories during his European trip and submits them to magazines in the United States, but none of them are accepted for publication.|
|1938:||In the spring Salinger returns to America. He attends Ursinus College, a liberal-arts school in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, where he writes movie and theater reviews in a column titled “The Skipped Diploma” for The Ursinus Weekly, the college newspaper. Salinger stays no longer than one semester at Ursinus and returns to New York to live with his parents.|
|1939:||Determined to focus his attention on writing, Salinger enrolls during the spring semester in a creative-writing class at Columbia University taught by Whit Burnett, the editor and cofounder of Story magazine.|
|1940:||Salinger’s first published story, “The Young Folks,” appears in the March-April issue of Story. “Go See Eddie” is published in the University of Kansas City Review in December, after having been rejected by Esquire.|
|1941:||Salinger is now being represented by a literary agent, Dorothy Olding, of the Harold Ober Agency. His stories appear for the first time in the “slicks,” well-paying commercial magazines with wide circulation. “The Hang of It” is published in Collier’s in July, and “The Heart of a Broken Story” appears in Esquire in September. The New Yorker accepts “Slight Rebellion Off Madison.” It is Salinger’s first story to be accepted by the magazine and the first to feature the character Holden Caulfield—later the protagonist of his novel, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)—but publication is delayed until 1946. Salinger volunteers for military service but receives a medical deferment because of a minor heart condition. He meets Oona O’Neill, the daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill, and carries on a romantic relationship with her until 1942. (Oona subsequently becomes involved with the actor Charlie Chaplin and marries him in June 1943.)|
|1942:||Salinger is reclassified by the military and drafted into the army. He sells “Paula” to Stag, but the story is never published. “The Hang of It” is reprinted in The Kit Book for Soldiers, Sailors and Marines: Favorite Stories, Verses, and Cartoons for the Entertainment of Servicemen Everywhere, the first book publication of a Salinger story. On 27 April he reports to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and is assigned to duty with the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. He applies for admission to Army Officer Candidate School but is rejected and sent to the Army Air Force Basic Flying School in Bainbridge, Georgia, where he serves as an instructor of aviation cadets. “The Long Debut of Lois Taggett” is published in the September-October issue of Story, and “Personal Notes on an Infantryman” appears in the 12 December Collier’s.|
|1943:||In June, Salinger is transferred to Nashville, Tennessee, and promoted to the rank of staff sergeant. “The Varioni Brothers” is published in The Saturday Evening Post in July. Salinger is transferred to Patterson Field in Fairfield, Ohio, and performs public-relations work. He applies once more to Officer Candidate School but is again rejected. At the close of the year he is transferred to Fort Holabird, in Baltimore, Maryland, where he is trained as an agent in the Counter-intelligence Corps (CIC). Salinger’s orders come through by October.|
|1944:||The Saturday Evening Post publishes Salinger’s “Both Parties Concerned” in February, “Soft-Boiled Sergeant” in April, and “The Last Day of the Last Furlough” in July. “Once a Week Won’t Kill You” appears in the November-December issue of Story. In March, Salinger is in Tiverton, Devon, England, to receive counterintelligence training. In the invasion of Normandy on 6 June he lands with the Twelfth Infantry Regiment of the Fourth Infantry Division on Utah Beach and goes on to participate in five of the bloodiest campaigns of World War II. After the liberation of Paris in August, Salinger meets Ernest Hemingway.|
|1945:||Salinger’s “Elaine” is published in the March-April issue of Story. “A Boy in France” appears in The Saturday Evening Post in March and “This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise” in the October Esquire. In December Collier’s publishes “The Stranger” and “I’m Crazy,” which is Salinger’s first published story to feature Holden Caulfield. Salinger is discharged from the army in November. He marries a Frenchwoman named Sylvia and remains in Europe after signing a six-month contract with the U.S. Department of Defense. His duties are unknown but are probably related to denazification.|
|1946:||Salinger returns to the United States with his wife, but she remains only briefly. After returning to France, Sylvia files for a divorce. Salinger completes a ninety-page novelette about Holden Caulfield that is accepted for publication, but he with-draws it from consideration. He agrees to Burnett’s request to publish a collection of his short stories, to be called The Young Folks. The book is supposed to be published by a Lippincott imprint, Story Press, but Lippincott rejects it. In December The New Yorker finally publishes “Slight Rebellion Off Madison.”|
|1947:||In January, Salinger moves from Manhattan to Tarry town in Westchester County, New York. “A Young Girl in 1941 with No Waist at All” is published in the May issue of Mademoiselle and “The Inverted Forest” in the December Cosmopolitan. Salinger moves to Stamford, Connecticut.|
|1948:||Salinger’s first story featuring the character Seymour Glass, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” is published in The New Yorker in January. It earns him a first-reading contract, the terms of which require him to submit his new work there first, and marks the beginning of a long association with the magazine. The New Yorker also publishes “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” in March and “Just Before the War with the Eskimos” in June. “A Girl I Knew” appears in the February issue of Good Housekeeping, and “Blue Melody” is published in the September Cosmopolitan.|
|1949:||Salinger is living in Westport, Connecticut. The New Yorker publishes “The Laughing Man” in March, and “Down at the Dinghy” appears in the April issue of Harper’s. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” “The Long Debut of Lois Taggett,” “A Girl I Knew,” and “Just Before the War with the Eskimos” are reprinted in various fiction anthologies. Salinger has his first meeting with an editor concerning the publication of The Catcher in the Rye. He gives a guest lecture at Sarah Lawrence College.|
|1950:||On 21 January, Samuel Goldwyn Studios releases My Foolish Heart, a motion-picture adaptation of “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut.” Salinger is appalled by the screenplay and the sentimentality of the movie. “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” is published in The New Yorker in April and is reprinted in Prize Stories of 1950: The O. Henry Awards. Salinger studies Advaita Vedanta (a school of Hindu philosophy) in New York.|
|1951:||In May, Salinger sails for England to meet with Hamish Hamilton, who is to publish the British edition of The Catcher in the Rye in August. Salinger tours literary sites, including the Lake District, where William Wordsworth lived. In July The New Yorker publishes “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes.” The Catcher in the Rye is published in America by Little, Brown and Company on 16 July. It is a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and Salinger gives an interview to author and New Yorker fiction editor William Maxwell for the Book-of-the-Month Club News. The novel reaches fourth place on the best-seller list of The New York Times. In December, Salinger attends the funeral of Harold Ross, the founding editor of The New Yorker.|
|1952:||Salinger travels to Florida and Mexico. “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period” is published in the May issue of the World Review in London, after having been rejected by The New Yorker. Salinger is named one of three distinguished alumni by Valley Forge Military Academy but does not attend the award ceremony.|
|1953:||On New Year’s Day, Salinger moves to Cornish, New Hamp-shire, where he has bought a ninety-acre plot of land and a small house on the property. “Teddy” is published in The New Yorker in January. Salinger meets Claire Douglas, a student at Radcliffe College and daughter of the British art critic Robert Langton Douglas. A collection of some of Salinger’s short fiction, Nine Stories, is published by Little, Brown. It is published in England by Hamilton as For Esmé—with Love and Squalor, and Other Stories.|
|1955:||In January the novella “Franny” is published in The New Yorker. Salinger and Claire are married on 17 February. Another novella, “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters,” is published in The New Yorker in November. The Salingers’ daughter, Margaret Ann (Peggy), is born on 10 December.|
|1957:||The novella “Zooey” is published in The New Yorker in May.|
|1959:||Salinger objects to the paperback edition of his story collection published in England by Harborough as For Esmé—with Love and Squalor because of the provocative cover illustration on the book. He severs his relationship with Hamilton. In the spring, while writing the novella “Seymour: An Introduction,” Salinger leaves Cornish and family distractions for New York. “Seymour: An Introduction” is published in The New Yorker in June. In December, Salinger writes to the New York Post protesting a law barring prisoners with life sentences from seeking parole. He denies Burnett’s request for permission to publish “The Young Man in the Stuffed Shirt” and “The Daughters of the Late Great Man” in Story, although he had earlier submitted them to Burnett for publication.|
|1960:||The Salingers’ son, Matthew Robert, is born on 13 February. In Cornish, Salinger resists reporters’ repeated attempts to invade his private life.|
|1961:||“Franny” and “Zooey” are published as Franny and Zooey by Little, Brown on 14 September. The book climbs onto the New York Times best-seller list, where it remains for six months and reaches number one.|
|1962:||Salinger rejects Hamilton’s advance and offer to publish Franny and Zooey in England and accepts a smaller advance from another British publisher, William Heinemann, who brings out the book in June.|
|1963:||“Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” and “Seymour: An Introduction” are published by Little, Brown as Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. Heine-mann publishes the book in England.|
|1965:||Salinger rejects Burnett’s request to include one of his stories in Story Jubilee, an anthology of early works by well-known writers that had originally been published in Story. Salinger writes an introduction for the anthology, but Burnett does not use it because it focuses on Burnett rather than the Story authors. “Hapworth 16, 1924” is published in The New Yorker in June.|
|1967:||Salinger and Claire divorce.|
|1968:||Salinger takes his children on a vacation to England and Scotland during the spring.|
|1969:||Salinger rejects a request from Burnett to include one of his stories in another anthology, This Is My Best in the Third Quarter of the Century (1970).|
|1972:||After reading a cover story in The New York Times Magazine and seeing a photograph of the author, an eighteen-year-old Yale University student named Joyce Maynard, Salinger writes her several letters. Maynard moves into his house, but the relationship lasts for less than one year.|
|1974:||Salinger breaks his long-held public silence after learning that an unauthorized, two-volume edition of his uncollected stories is being sold in San Francisco. He calls Lacey Fosburgh, a San Francisco-based writer for The New York Times, and an FBI investigation into the matter of the pirated edition ensues, but the persons responsible for the books are never found.|
|1975:||Salinger contributes an epilogue, “A Salute to Whit Burnett, 1899-1972,” to Fiction Writer’s Handbook, in which he praises his former teacher’s ability to present writers’ works to students without diminishing the value of the works.|
|1976:||Salinger attends a school play at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, in which his son, Matthew, performs.|
|1977:||In July, Salinger travels by train to New York and makes a surprise appearance at a retirement dinner for an army colleague, John L. Keenan, who went on to serve as a chief of detectives in the New York Police Department.|
|1980:||In June, Salinger meets with Betty Eppes, a reporter for the Baton Rouge Advocate, and responds briefly to her questions. Eppes’s interview is published in The Advocate, The Boston Globe, and, during the following summer, The Paris Review.|
|1982:||Salinger attends his daughter’s graduation at Brandeis University.|
|1986:||A suit filed on Salinger’s behalf against booksellers who sold the unauthorized edition of his uncollected stories is settled in his favor. As biographer Ian Hamilton’s “J. D. Salinger: A Writing Life” is about to go to press, Salinger seeks a preliminary injunction to block publication, arguing that he has not authorized Hamilton’s use of quotations from his unpublished letters. In November, Judge Pierre N. Leval of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rules against the injunction. In December, Salinger petitions the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.|
|1987:||Salinger’s appeal of Leval’s ruling is successful, and a preliminary injunction is granted. In September, Random House, Hamilton’s publisher, petitions the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a review of the lower-court decision. In October the Supreme Court denies the petition.|
|1988:||Hamilton’s revised version of his biography, In Search of J. D. Salinger, is published.|
|1992:||In October a fire destroys a major portion of Salinger’s house in Cornish. By this time he is married to a nurse named Colleen O’Neill.|
|1999:||At a Sotheby’s auction in June, Maynard sells fourteen letters written to her by Salinger between 25 April 1972 and 17 August 1973. Computer software entrepreneur and art collector Peter Norton buys the letters for $156,500. Respecting Salinger’s privacy, Norton says that he will do with the letters whatever Salinger wishes—return them or destroy them. Salinger makes no public comment.|
|2000:||Salinger’s daughter, Margaret, publishes Dream Catcher: A Memoir, providing an account of her family life and her relationship with her father.|
- YOUTH AND EDUCATION
- EARLY WRITING CAREER AND WORLD WAR II
- POSTWAR WRITING
- THE CATCHER IN THE RYE AND UNSOUGHT CELEBRITY
- LAST PUBLISHED WORKS
- ART IMITATING LIFE
- AWARDS AND RECOGNITION
Jerome David Salinger was born in New York City on 1 January 1919, the second child of Sol and Miriam Salinger....
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In an author’s note for the publication of his story “Down at the Dinghy” in Harper’s in 1949, Salinger said, “I just started to write when I was eighteen or so and never stopped.”1 He took the most important step in his literary career when he was twenty and enrolled in Whit Burnett’s story-writing course at Columbia University in the spring of 1939. Salinger...
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During the first ten years of Salinger’s life as a child and schoolboy in New York, the American economy was enjoying a bull market that seemed to many as if it would have no end. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) Jay Gatsby’s houseguest...
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- CRITICAL SUMMARY
- ART IMITATING LIFE
- THE PLACE OF SALINGER’S WORKS IN LITERARY HISTORY
- ADAPTATIONS OF SALINGER’S WORK
The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951.
The narrator, seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield, now recuperating in a psychiatric institution, tells the story of the “madman stuff”
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Salinger has refused to admit visitors to his grounds and home in Cornish, New Hampshire, and he has denied nearly all requests for interviews. Rarely has he answered letters or responded to inquiries of any kind. Furthermore, he has steadfastly prevented publication of his letters, always one of the best sources of information about any public figure. So extreme has Salinger been in observing a vow of silence with respect to his personal life that shortly after the publication of The Catcher in the Rye, he began rejecting even his publisher’s requests for biographical material to be used in the promotion of his work. Those who have sought facts about Salinger or his opinions concerning his life and writing...
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MARK TWAIN (1835-1910): Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), like The Catcher in the Rye, features a first-person narrator who speaks with a distinct voice in the American idiom. Both novels follow in the tradition of the quest narrative and provide strong criticism of American society. Alienated from their societies, Huck and Holden retain moral purity while affirming goodness and opposing whatever demeans other human beings. Both books present social indictments and attack hypocrisy and pretentiousness. Perhaps one of the most interesting comparisons between Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The...
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- Critics in the 1950s and 1960s frequently compared Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye with Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, arguing that both novels were in the tradition of the quest narrative. In what way is Holden Caulfield’s journey a quest? What has he been seeking, and what have been the results of that search?
- In “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” the narrator points out that the first part of the story is about love and the second part about squalor. Why does the narrator shift from a first-person to a third-person point of view and refer to himself as Sergeant X in the squalor part of the story?
- Critics have noted that the last two...
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The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951. London: Hamilton, 1951.
Franny and Zooey. Boston: Little, Brown, 1961. London: Heinemann, 1962.
Nine Stories. Boston: Little, Brown, 1953. Published in England as For Esmé— with Love and Squalor, and Other Stories. London: Hamilton, 1953. Comprises “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” “Just...
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Salinger, J.D. (Short Story Criticism)
J. D. Salinger 1919–-
(Full name Jerome David Salinger) American novelist and short story writer.
The following entry presents criticism on Salinger's short fiction from 1989 through 2002. For criticism prior to 1989, see SSC, Volume 2. For discussion of Salinger's novella Franny and Zooey (1961), see SSC, Volume 28.
Among the most celebrated and enigmatic twentieth-century American writers, Salinger is best known for his first and only published novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951), a defining portrait of adolescent angst and disillusionment in postwar American society. Salinger is also acclaimed as a master of the short story form. His Glass family saga, an interrelated series of stories contained in Nine Stories (1953), Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters; and Seymour: An Introduction (1963), further established his popularity and spawned a proliferation of critical interest in his work—an “industry” of exegesis that Salinger sought to quell through his self-imposed exile.
Born in New York City, Salinger attended New York public schools before enrolling at the exclusive McBurney School on the upper West Side in 1932. He was subsequently sent to Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1936. While at Valley Forge, he contributed to the school's literary magazine, served as literary editor of his senior yearbook, and began to compose his first stories. In 1937 Salinger briefly attended New York University, then traveled to Europe where he studied the importing business in Vienna while continuing to write. Returning to the United States after the German invasion of Austria in 1938, Salinger briefly attended Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, leaving after only a single, unhappy semester. In 1939 he enrolled in an evening writing class taught by Whit Burnett, editor of Story magazine and an influential literary mentor, at Columbia University. Burnett recognized Salinger's talent and arranged for the publication of his first short story, “The Young Folks,” in the March-April 1940 issue of Story. With his professional writing career newly established, Salinger began to place his pieces in magazines such as Esquire, Collier's, Saturday Evening Post, Mademoiselle, Good Housekeeping, and Cosmopolitan. He later disavowed and refused to republish any of these stories. In 1941 The New Yorker accepted “Slight Rebellion Off Madison,” a short story introducing Holden Caulfield. Salinger revised and delayed publication of this story until 1946. The short story, along with “I'm Crazy,” published by Collier's in 1945, would be incorporated into The Catcher in the Rye.
Salinger was drafted into the army in 1942 and served until the end of World War II, during which he served as an interrogator in the Counter-Intelligence Corps and a participant in the D-Day offensive and the campaign to liberate France. He also continued to produce commercially viable short fiction for popular magazines. Between 1946 and 1951 Salinger lived with his parents and devoted himself to writing, publishing a string of stories in The New Yorker that established him as a foremost “New York writer.” After the 1951 publication of The Catcher in the Rye, a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection and best-seller, Salinger began to study Eastern religious philosophy, an abiding interest that significantly colored the tone and outlook of his subsequent short fiction. Repulsed by his literary celebrity and clamoring admirers, Salinger began to withdraw into guarded seclusion during the mid-1950s. “Hapworth 16, 1924,” his final published work, appeared in The New Yorker in June 1965. He has published nothing since, though it is reported that he continues to write for his own enjoyment. Salinger has vigorously litigated against attempts to republish his work and against investigations into his personal life.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Salinger's three collections of short fiction consist of reprints of short stories originally published in The New Yorker. Nine Stories includes two of his most acclaimed, “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” along with “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” “Just Before the War with the Eskimos,” “The Laughing Man,” “Down at the Dinghy,” “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes,” and “Teddy.” “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” involves a brief friendship between an American soldier and a charming English girl named Esmé whom he encounters during World War II. While later recovering from combat stress in a military hospital, the soldier, identified as Sergeant X, receives a package from Esmé containing a letter and her dead father's watch. Comforted by Esmé's affection, the soldier, also an aspiring writer, begins to recover and eventually repays her kindness by writing a story on her preferred subject—squalor. The influence of Zen Buddhism and Eastern spirituality permeates Nine Stories: “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” includes a Zen koan as its epigram; “De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period” features a painter whose sudden epiphany resembles a Zen Buddhist moment of enlightenment; and “Teddy” involves discussion of Vedantic reincarnation. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” the first installment of the Glass family cycle, introduces Seymour Glass, the visionary elder sibling of the introspective clan that became the focus of Salinger's subsequent writings. This pivotal story relates Seymour's unhappy marriage to Muriel Fedder, his disavowal of material prosperity, and spiritual longing—ending abruptly with his tragic suicide. Franny and Zooey, Salinger's next publication, contains two companion novellas that describe the psychic and spiritual dilemmas of Seymour's siblings after his mysterious death. In Franny, Seymour's youngest sister suffers a nervous breakdown while struggling to reconcile her carnal yearnings with her desire for spiritual purity, dramatized by her obsessive repetition of the “Jesus prayer.” In Zooey, a continuation of the previous story, Franny's older brother attempts to ameliorate Franny's crisis by identifying the egotism of her incantations and conveying Seymour's wisdom, a mixture of Zen principles and Christian mysticism. Salinger's final published story, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” is presented as a lengthy and astonishingly precocious letter by seven-year-old Seymour to his parents, in which he relates his experiences at summer camp and prescient observations concerning the nature of existence. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters; and Seymour: An Introduction contains two previously published short stories. “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” and “Seymour: An Introduction” are narrated by Salinger's fictional alter ego and brother of Seymour, Buddy Glass. “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” provides a meticulous record of events on June 4, 1942—the day of Seymour and Muriel's ill-fated wedding. When the bride and groom fail to arrive, opting to elope instead, the guests grow irritable and Buddy retreats to the bathroom where he reads Seymour's journal. Buddy's recollections establish the Glass family hierarchy—parents Les and Betty and children Seymour, Buddy, Boo Boo, twins Walt and Waker, Zooey, and Franny—and explain their veneration of Seymour. In “Seymour: An Introduction,” Buddy attempts to articulate the rarified character of his brooding, “artist-seer” brother Seymour and his motives for suicide. Experimental in form, the digressive story reveals the existence of an extraordinary collection of poems left by Seymour and Buddy's meditations on the literary enterprise itself, prompted by Seymour's advice that he write only what he wants to read—typically viewed as a telling insight into Salinger's own literary motivations. In 1974, an unauthorized, two-volume edition of Salinger's magazine stories, The Complete Uncollected Short Stories of J. D. Salinger, was published, but Salinger halted distribution of the book.
Salinger's short stories, particularly those of the Glass family cycle, remain at the center of critical debate and recent reconsideration of Salinger's literary prestige. While most commentators attest to Salinger's superior ability to fashion clever, well-crafted narratives, especially as contained in Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey, his subsequent stories are viewed by some as evidence of his declining powers. “Hapworth 16, 1924,” though praised by some as a daring, experimental work, has been dismissed by many critics as an implausible, self-indulgent story that reflects Salinger's contempt for his critics and a lack of desire, or inability, to communicate to his readers. Despite negative reaction to his later work, Salinger's often anthologized “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” are still acclaimed as consummate examples of postwar American short fiction.
Nine Stories 1953; published in England as For Esmé—With Love and Squalor, and Other Stories, 1953
*Franny and Zooey 1961
†Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters; and Seymour: An Introduction 1963
The Complete Uncollected Short Stories of J. D. Salinger. 2 vols. 1974
The Catcher in the Rye (novel) 1951
*“Franny” first published in The New Yorker, January 29, 1955; “Zooey,” The New Yorker, May 4, 1957.
†“Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” first published in The New Yorker, November 19, 1955; “Seymour: An Introduction,” The New Yorker, June 6, 1959.
SOURCE: Cotter, James Finn. “A Source for Seymour's Suicide: Rilke's Voices and Salinger's Nine Stories.” Papers on Language and Literature 25, no. 1 (winter 1989): 83-98.
[In the following essay, Cotter argues that Rainer Maria Rilke's The Voices is a source for Salinger's Nine Stories.]
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...
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SOURCE: Sharma, Som P. Ranchan. “Echoes of the Gita in Salinger's Franny and Zooey.” In The Gita in World Literature, edited by C. D. Verma, pp. 214-19. New Delhi, India: Sterling Publishers, 1990.
[In the following essay, Sharma finds references to the Hindu sacred text Bhagavad Gita in Salinger's Franny and Zooey.]
In the mid-fifties, throughout the sixties, and even the early part of the seventies, J. D. Salinger was enormously popular. Although his popularity stemmed from his Nine Stories and The Catcher in the Rye, it was also due to his saga of the Glass family which he had created, beginning with “Franny” (1955) and...
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SOURCE: Dev, Jai. “Franny and Flaubert.” Journal of American Studies 25, no. 1 (April 1991): 81-5.
[In the following essay, Dev discusses the function of allusions to Gustave Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary in Salinger's novella Franny.]
This note is based on the assumption that in a text all foregrounded intertextuality has a definite formal function. The text in such a case can be seen as insisting that the reader bring a prior understanding of the invoked texts in order to grasp its meaning. Salinger's story “Franny” (1955) in Franny and Zooey (1961) depicts a lunch which is supposed to mark the start of a happy weekend for Lane Coutell, a...
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SOURCE: Prigozy, Ruth. “Nine Stories: J. D. Salinger's Linked Mysteries.” In Modern American Short Story Sequences: Composite Fictions and Fictive Communities, edited by J. Gerald Kennedy, pp. 114-32. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
[In the following essay, Prigozy discusses the unifying elements of the narratives in Salinger's Nine Stories.]
From its publication in April 1953, through the heyday of “the Salinger industry” in the 1960s, and intermittently through the 1970s and 1980s, J. D. Salinger's Nine Stories has proven an unusually seductive text for critical theorizing.1 Indeed, even those most devoted to Salinger...
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SOURCE: Purcell, William F. “Narrative Voice in J. D. Salinger's ‘Both Parties Concerned’ and ‘I'm Crazy.’” Studies in Short Fiction 33, no. 2 (spring 1996): 278-80.
[In the following essay, Purcell analyzes the use of first-person narrative voice in Salinger's short stories “Both Parties Concerned” and “I'm Crazy.”]
Billy Vullmer in “Both Parties Concerned” is the narrative forerunner to Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. John Wenke (24) has suggested that following his success with Billy's narrative voice, J. D. Salinger returned to his Holden Caulfield character with this type of narration in mind for “I'm Crazy,” one of...
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SOURCE: Boe, Alfred F. “Salinger and Sport.”1Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature 14, no. 1 (fall 1996): 41-5.
[In the following essay, Boe asserts that Salinger employs sport as a significant thematic device in many of his stories.]
O Chestnut tree, great-rooted blossomer, Are you the leaf, the blossom, or the bole? O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?
—W. B. Yeats
In J. D. Salinger's universe, sport, like human beings and many other phenomena, tends to be divided into two categories, phony and authentic—not, as Warren French ineptly puts it in his Twayne study...
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SOURCE: Kaufman, Anthony. “‘Along This Road Goes No One’: Salinger's ‘Teddy’ and the Failure of Love.” Studies in Short Fiction 35, no. 2 (spring 1998): 129-40.
[In the following essay, Kaufman offers a psychological interpretation of Salinger's short story “Teddy”, asserting that Salinger advocates a “doctrine of redemptive love” through the voice of the story's narrator.]
The reputation of J. D. Salinger rests largely on two relatively short works: The Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories. The Nine Stories collection is brilliant, but it is seemingly marred by the final story, “Teddy.” Salinger himself seems to dismiss the...
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SOURCE: Samuels, David. “Marginal Notes on Franny and Zooey.” American Scholar 68, no. 3 (summer 1999): 128-33.
[In the following essay, Samuels explores the significance of Franny and Zooey, concluding that the novella is, ultimately, an answer to “the question of how to live.”]
No one becomes a reader except in answer to some baffling inner necessity, of the kind that leads people to turn cartwheels outside the 7-Eleven, jump headlong through a plate-glass window, join the circus, or buy a low-end foreign car when the nearest appropriate auto-repair shop is fifty miles away. With these dramatic examples fresh in your mind, you'll probably...
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SOURCE: Bidney, Martin. “The Aestheticist Epiphanies of J. D. Salinger: Bright-Hued Circles, Spheres, and Patches; ‘Elemental’ Joy and Pain.” Style 34, no. 1 (spring 2000): 117-31.
[In the following essay, Bidney examines the role of epiphanies in Salinger's short fiction.]
Strangely, no attempt has yet been made to find a pattern that can unite the epiphanies of characters in the works of J. D. Salinger. The books and articles about him that have appeared in the last thirty-five years include only a single item with “epiphany” in the title, and even there the word is used in a loose and general way.1 Sources and parallels for Salinger's literary...
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SOURCE: Alsen, Eberhard. “New Light on the Nervous Breakdowns of Salinger's Sergeant X and Seymour Glass.” CLA Journal 45, no. 3 (March 2002): 379-87.
[In the following essay, Alsen links new biographical information regarding Salinger's experiences as a soldier in World War II with two of Salinger's short stories: “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.”]
In her memoir Dream Catcher (2000), J. D. Salinger's daughter Margaret reveals some hitherto unknown information that sheds new light on J. D. Salinger's nervous breakdown at the end of World War II and on the nervous breakdowns of two of Salinger's fictional characters, Sergeant X in “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” and ex-sergeant Seymour Glass in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” Remembering conversations with her father about World War II, Margaret Salinger says: “As a counter intelligence officer my father was one of the first soldiers to walk into a certain, just liberated, concentration camp. He told me the name, but I no longer remember.” She also quotes her father as saying, “You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nostrils, no matter how long you live.”1
We know about Salinger's nervous breakdown from a letter that he wrote to Ernest Hemingway from Germany in 1945 (The two had met twice during the war). In this undated letter, Salinger writes that he has checked himself into “a General Hospital in Nurnberg” because he has been in “an almost constant state of despondency.” Two references in the letter suggest that it must have been written in May or June of 1945. Salinger mentions that a few arrests are still left to be made in his CIC section, and he also mentions that the commanding officer of his CIC detachment, Captain Appleton, has returned to the United States before the rest of the regiment. Salinger's regiment was shipped home on July 3, 1945.2
Salinger tries to downplay his nervous breakdown, and he makes fun of the psychiatrists asking him about his sex life and his childhood. However, he also expresses his fear that he may receive a psychiatric discharge from the Army. This suggests that his case must have been fairly severe (the Hemingway letter can be examined in the Princeton University Library).
Several biographers have assumed that Salinger's nervous breakdown was due to “combat fatigue” (traumatic stress disorder). For instance, Salinger's daughter Margaret notes that her father's regiment was involved in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, from the D-Day invasion through the battles of Cherbourg, Mortain, and the Hürtgen Forest, all the way to the Battle of the Bulge. And indeed, Colonel Gerden F. Johnson, one of the battalion commanders in Salinger's regiment, reports that during the Battle of Mortain in northern France, the carnage was so frightful that “there were many cases of combat fatigue even among our older men” (Johnson 163). But that was in July of 1944, and Salinger had his nervous breakdown in May of 1945, shortly after the end of the war.
It is unlikely that Salinger's nervous breakdown was due to “combat fatigue” because he was not a combat infantryman but a member of the Counter Intelligence Corps. Counter intelligence operatives were attached to division and battalion headquarters companies whose command posts were usually located quite a distance behind the lines. As a counter intelligence sergeant, Salinger had the task of interviewing prisoners of war and civilians in order to find out information about enemy troop strength, number of tanks, location of heavy artillery, supply depots, and so forth. He had a jeep at his disposal in order to quickly get to places where prisoners had been taken or where a village had been liberated. It is therefore safe to assume that Sergeant Salinger's nervous breakdown was not due to the stress of combat. It is more likely that it was due to what he witnessed at the concentration camp that he mentioned to his daughter.
That camp was probably the one near the village of Hurlach, Bavaria. It was discovered on April 27, 1945, by elements of the 493rd Field Artillery Battalion of the 12th Armored Division.3 Salinger could easily have gotten to the camp, if not on the day it was first discovered, then on one of the next two days, because on April 27, the command post of Salinger's regiment was in the village of Agawang, seventeen miles northwest of Hurlach, and two days later it was in the village of Winkl, only nine miles east of the camp (Johnson 391).
The Hurlach concentration camp was officially called “Kaufering Lager IV.” It was one of the eleven small camps of the Kaufering complex that was named after the small town seven miles north of Landsberg, where the first of the eleven camps was built. The over 22,000 prisoners in the Kaufering camps were mostly Jewish slave laborers from Poland, France, Hungary, and many other countries that had been overrun by the Nazis. These slave laborers were employed in building an underground aircraft factory that the Nazis had code-named “Ringeltaube” (wood pigeon). This factory was to consist of three gigantic, domed bunkers in which the jet fighter Messerschmitt 262 was to be produced at a rate of 900 planes a month. By the end of the war, the construction of two of the bunkers had been abandoned, and the construction of the third was about 70 percent completed.4
Kaufering Lager IV near Hurlach was an extermination camp. It was designated as the “Krankenlager” for the other Kaufering camps, but that name was a cynical euphemism because the sick prisoners received no medical attention and were simply allowed to die from their illnesses or from starvation. Between 4,000 to 5,000 prisoners died in the camp from the time the camp was opened in June 1944 and the time it was occupied by American troops in April 1945. American soldiers later found these bodies in two nearby mass graves. On the day before the Americans arrived, the SS guards evacuated some 3,000 prisoners by train and killed all those who were too weak or too sick to travel. The SS guards fled only four hours before the first GIs discovered the camp.5
In addition to being the only extermination camp in the Kaufering complex (the other ten were work camps), the Hurlach camp also has the distinction of being the only camp that the SS set on fire before they left it. Lt. Colonel Edward F. Seiller of the 12th Armored Division explains: “When one of our infantry battalions approached Kaufering Lager No. 4, someone at the camp (presumably the SS guards), herded the inmates into the barracks, nailed the doors shut, and set the barracks on fire.”6 Sergeant Robert T. Hartwig remembers that when he and another GI approached Hurlach in their jeep, they “knew [they] were near a camp because of the sickening odor of burning bodies”;7 and Corporal Pete Bramble reports that “the stench was terrible, especially the burning corpses.”8 This is also what Salinger remembers most about the camp.
The sights at the Hurlach camp were no less gruesome than the smell. In addition to 268 burned corpses, the GIs found close to a hundred bodies scattered over the camp, along a path to the railroad tracks, and in a nearby forest. Photos taken by Sergent Hartwig, Corporal Bramble, and other American soldiers show that the corpses were literally only skin and bones, and some probably weighed no more than 50 to 70 pounds. These horrifying photos can be found in Ken Bradstreet's combat history of the Twelfth Armored Division, entitled Hellcats, on the web site entitled The Twelfth Armored Division and the Liberation of Death Camps, and on the web site of the Simon Wiesenthal Multimedia Learning Center. Some of the photos show blackened bodies still smoldering in the ruins of the burned-down barracks. These pictures support the assumption that it was indeed at Hurlach that Salinger encountered the smell of burning flesh, which he said he would never be able to get out of his nostrils.
Salinger's response to what he witnessed at the concentration camp shows up only indirectly in his fiction. “A Girl I Knew” (1948) is the only story in which Salinger mentions the concentration camps. In that story, a CIC sergeant interviews civilians and prisoners of war in order to ferret out members of the SS, who not only committed atrocities at the concentration camps but were also infamous for massacres such as the shooting of 81 American prisoners of war during the Battle of the Bulge near Malmedy, Belgium. Aside from hunting for disguised SS-men, Salinger's narrator also has a personal agenda: Whenever he comes across Austrians, he asks them whether they know what happened to a Jewish girl from Vienna whom he knew before the war. He eventually learns from a Jewish doctor who had just returned from the Buchenwald concentration camp that the girl and her family “were burned to death in an incinerator.”9
Even though Salinger mentions nothing in his fiction about what he saw and smelled at the Hurlach concentration camp, the effect of this experience shows up in two stories. Like Sergeant Salinger, both Sergeant X in “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” and ex-sergeant Seymour Glass in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” served in the European Theater of Operations and suffered nervous breakdowns. But in both stories we are shown only the symptoms of their nervous breakdowns and must guess what the causes were. The two stories take on a new dimension if we assume that Sergeant X and Sergeant Seymour Glass shared Sergeant Salinger's concentration camp experience.
“For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” (1950) is Salinger's most autobiographical story. It deals with the nervous breakdown of an unnamed Counter Intelligence sergeant at the end of World War II. At the beginning of the story, Sergeant X is being trained for the D-Day invasion at an Army base in a small town in the South of England. That town is modeled after Tiverton in Devonshire, where Sergeant Salinger himself was trained by the CIC. At the end of the war, Sergeant X is part of the army of occupation and is stationed in Gaufurt, Bavaria, the fictitious counterpart of the town of Weißenburg, south of Nürnberg, where Salinger interviewed Nazi civilians.10
Sergeant X's nervous breakdown is the main topic in “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor,” but we do not find out what caused it, because the story skips from a few days before the D-Day invasion to a time “several weeks after V-E Day (Victory in Europe, May 7, 1945).”11 Sergeant X has just returned from a two-weeks' stay at an Army hospital in Frankfurt, Germany, where he has been treated for what the narrator calls a “nervous breakdown” rather than “combat fatigue” (“Esmé” [“For Esmé—with Love and Squalor”] 109). Whatever treatment Sergeant X received at the hospital did not help much because upon his return he says that he still feels as if his mind were about “to dislodge itself and teeter, like insecure luggage on an overhead rack” (“Esmé” 104). Moreover, he feels so nauseous most of the time that he keeps a wastebasket handy into which to vomit; also, his jeep driver, Corporal Clay, tells him, “[T]he goddam side of your face is jumping all over the place” (“Esmé” 109); and finally, the sergeant's hands shake so much that when he tries to write, his writing is “almost entirely illegible” (“Esmé” 105).
It is most likely that in describing the aftereffects of Sergeant X's nervous breakdown, Salinger was drawing on his personal experience. In his letter to Hemingway, he does not mention any of his symptoms except his “almost constant state of despondency.” However, there is definite evidence that he shared at least one of Sergeant X's afflictions, namely the uncontrollable trembling of his hands. Salinger's daughter Margaret examined the letters that her father wrote during the spring and summer of 1945 and reports that his handwriting became “something totally unrecognizable” (Dream Catcher 68).
The nervous breakdowns of Sergeant Salinger and Sergeant X illuminate one another. “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” illustrates the aftereffects of the nervous collapse, the feeling of vertigo, the nausea, the facial tic, and the trembling hands, and Salinger's visit to a concentration camp suggests that the cause of his and Sergeant X's nervous breakdowns was not the stress of battle but the atrocities they witnessed during the last days of the war.
Salinger's concentration camp experience also sheds new light on the suicide of Seymour Glass, the central character in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “Seymour—An Introduction.” In “Seymour—An Introduction,” we learn that like Salinger, Seymour was also a sergeant in the Army,12 also served in the European Theater of Operations, and also wound up in Germany at the end of the war (“Seymour” [“Seymour—An Introduction”] 113). Moreover, in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” a psychiatrist says about Seymour that “it was a perfect crime that the Army released him from the hospital” because “there's a very great chance that Seymour may completely lose control of himself.”13 This comment suggests that Seymour was a patient in a psychiatric ward of an Army hospital.
No one who has written about the suicide of Seymour Glass nor has commented on the significance of the unusual length of time—almost three years—that he spent in an Army hospital. He killed himself on March 18, 1948,14 and Buddy mentions that Seymour returned from Germany on a commercial flight “a week or so” before his suicide (“Seymour” 134). That means Seymour did not come home to the United States until almost three years after the end of the war. Moreover, Buddy also says that Seymour spent “the last three years of his life both in and out of the Army, but mostly in, well in” (“Seymour” 114). In short, Seymour's mental illness was so severe that the Army psychiatrists did not simply release him with a psychiatric discharge—which is something that almost happened to Salinger—but they decided to keep him “well in,” that is, locked up in a psychiatric ward for close to three years.
Seymour's extended stay in an Army hospital raises the question of what it was that caused his nervous breakdown and mental illness. Unless we assume that Seymour and Sergeant X are the same person (which some critics have done), there is no information in Salinger's fiction so far about Seymour's war experiences. Seymour may have been a combat infantryman, and he may have been severely wounded. Or he may have been one of the few survivors of a massacre such as the one at Malmedy. But since none of this happened to Salinger, it makes more sense to assume that Seymour's nervous breakdown—like Salinger's—was not caused by “combat fatigue” but by the horrifying sights and smells of one of the many concentration camps.
There is a chance that we may still find out whether it was indeed their concentration camp experiences that explain why Sergeant X had a nervous breakdown and why ex-sergeant Seymour Glass became so despondent that he eventually killed himself. Although Salinger has said on more than one occasion that he does not plan to publish anymore during his lifetime (for instance in his phone call to New York Times reporter Lacey Fosburgh), his daughter Margaret said in a National Public Radio interview that her father “is writing every day,” that “he is planning to publish after his death,” and that he has “a large number of stories ready to go.”15
Margaret Salinger, Dream Catcher (New York: Washington Square, 2000) 55. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.
Colonel Gerden F. Johnson, History of the Twelfth Infantry Regiment in World War II (Boston: Twelfth Infantry Regiment, 1947) 391. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.
Ken Bradstreet, ed., Hellcats [WW II Combat History of the Twelfth Armored Division] (Paducah, KY: Turner, 1987) 117-19.
Anton Posset, “Deckname Ringeltaube,” Themenhefte Landsberger Zeitgeschichte 4 (1993): 18-24.
Anton Posset, “Die amerikanische Armee entdeckt den Holocaust,” Themenhefte Landsberger Zeitgeschichte 2 (1993): 41.
Colonel Edward Seiller, “Edward F. Seiller, 12th Armored Division,” The Twelfth Armored Division and the Liberation of Death Camps, 1.
Corporal A. G. Bramble, “A. G. ‘Pete’ Bramble, 12th Armored Division,” The Twelfth Armored Division and the Liberation of the Death Camps, 1.
J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew,” Good Housekeeping 128 (Feb. 1948): 196.
J. D. Salinger, Letter to Ernest Hemingway, Carlos Baker Collection of Ernest Hemingway (Princeton, NJ: Princeton U Library, n.d.).
J. D. Salinger, “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor,” in Nine Stories  (New York: Bantam, 1964) 103. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.
J. D. Salinger, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters; and Seymour—An Introduction  (New York: Bantam, 1965) 171. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.
J. D. Salinger, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” in Nine Stories  (New York: Bantam, 1964) 6.
J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey  (New York: 1964) 62.
Margaret Salinger, “Margaret Salinger on J. D. Salinger,” The Connection, National Public Radio, WBUR, Boston 14 Sept. 2000. ‹http://www.theconnection.org/archive/2000/09/0914b.shtml›.
Alsen, Eberhard. Salinger's Glass Stories as a Composite Novel. Troy, N. Y.: Whitston Publishing, 1983, 271 p.
Provides analysis of the characters, plots, narrative structures, and unifying spiritual themes of Salinger's Glass family saga.
———. A Reader's Guide to J. D. Salinger. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002, 270 p.
Full-length critical study of Salinger's fiction.
Wenke, John. J. D. Salinger: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1991, 177 p.
Analysis of Salinger's short fiction.
Additional coverage of...
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