J.D. Salinger

June 26, 2006


Jerome David Salinger
Writing concentrates on the theme of disturbed adolescents and the redemptive qualities of children
Known for reclusive nature; has not given an interview since 1974; Salinger sued to stop British writer Ian Hamilton from publishing In Search of J. D. Salinger: A Writing Life (1935-65)
Life-long student of Advaita Vedanta Hinduism
Was called “the worst English student in the history of the College” by one of his professors
Drafted in 1942 into the Army during World War II, met Ernest Hemingway, was hospitalized for a few weeks for combat stress reaction after, told his daughter:

“You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose entirely, no matter how long you live”

The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

Several of the events in the novel are semi-autobiographical
Pencey Prep is based on the Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania Salinger entered to escape the over-protectiveness of his mother
Became famous for its subtle complexity, detail, description, ironic humor, and the depressing and desperate atmosphere of New York City
The 13th most frequently challenged book of the 1990s
Still sells about 250,000 copies per year as of 2000
First person narrative relates Holden Caulfield’s experiences in the days following expulsion from his University-preparatory school


Nine Stories (1953)

Salinger would not allow publishers to illustrate the dust jacket, so that his readers have no preconceived notion of how the characters were supposed to look
includes two of his most famous short stories: “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and “For Esmé with Love and Squalor”


“‘Miss Carpenter. Please. I know my business,’ the young man said. ‘You just keep your eyes open for any bananafish. This is a perfect day for bananafish.’
‘I don’t see any,’ Sybil Said.
‘That’s understandable. Their habits are very peculiar.’ He kept pushing the float. The water was not quite up to his chest. ‘They lead a very tragic life,’ he said. ‘You know what they do, Sybil?’
She shook her head.
‘Well, they swim into a hole where there’s a lot of bananas. They’re very ordinary-looking fish when they swim in. But once they get in, they behave like pigs. Why, I’ve known some bananafish to swim into a banana hole and eat as many as seventy-eight bananas.’ He edged the float and its passenger a foot closer to the horizon. ‘Naturally, after that theyr’e so fat they can’t get out of the hole again. Can’t fit through the door.’
‘Not too far out,’ Sybil said. ‘What happens to them?’
‘What happens to who?’
‘The bananafish.’
‘Oh, you mean after they eat so many bananas they can’t get out of the banana hole?’
‘Yes,’ said Sybil.
‘Well, I hate to tell you, Sybil. They die.’
‘Why?’ asked Sybil.
‘Well, they get banana fever. It’s a terrible disease.'”

“With her hand, when the float was level again, she wiped away a flat, wet band of hair from her eyes, and reported, ‘I just saw one.’
‘Saw what, my love?’
‘A bananafish.’
‘My God, no!’ said the young man. ‘Did he have any bananas in his mouth?’
‘Yes,’ said Sybil. ‘Six.’
The young man suddenly picked up one of Sybil’s wet feet, which were drooping over the end of the float, and kissed the arch.”

-A Perfect Day for Bananafish

“‘Well, he sort of had his hand on my stomach. You know. Anyway, all of a sudden he said my stomach was so beautiful he wished some officer would come up and order him to stick his other hand through the window. He said he wanted to do what was fair. Then he took his hand away and told the conductor to throw his shoulders back. He told him if there was one thing he couldn’t stand it was a man who didn’t look proud of his uniform. The conductor just told him to go back to sleep.’ Eloise reflected a moment, then said, ‘It wasn’t always what he said, but how he said it. You know.'”

-Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut

“‘Well. Take it easy.’ He wandered out of the room.
In a few seconds, he was back, bringing the sandwich half.
‘Eat this,’ he said. ‘It’s good.’
‘Really, I’m not at all-‘
‘Take it, for Chrissake. I didn’t poison it or anything.’
Ginnie accepted the sandwich half. ‘Well, thank you very much.’ she said.
‘It’s chicken,’ he said, standing over her, watching her. ‘Bought it last night in a goddam delicatessen.'” 

“Outside the building, she started to walk west to Lexington to catch the bus. Between Third and Lexington, she reached into her coat pocket for her purse and found the sandwich half. She took it out and started to bring her arm down, to drop the sandwich into the street, but instead she put it back into her pocket. A few years before, it had taken her three days to dispose of the Easter chick she had found dead on the sawdust in the bottom of her wastebasket.”

-Just Before the War with the Eskimos

“One afternoon in February, just after Comanche baseball season had opened, I observed a new fixture in the Chief’s bus. Above the rear-view mirror over the windshield, there was a small, framed photograph of a girl dressed in academic cap and gown. It seemed to me that a girl’s picture clashed with the general men-only decor of the bus, and I bluntly asked the Chief who she was…During the next couple of weeks, the picture- however forcibly or accidentally it had been planted on the Chief- was not removed from the bus. It didn’t go out with the Baby Ruth wrappers and the fallen licorice whips. However, we Comanches got used to it. It gradually took on the unarresting personality of a speedometer.”

“Offhand, I can remember seeing just three girls in my life who struck me as having unclassifiably great beauty at first sight. One was a thin girl in a black bathing suit who was having a lot of trouble putting up an orange umbrella at Jones Beach, circa 1936. The second was a girl aboard a Caribbean cruise ship in 1939, who threw her cigarette lighter at a porpoise. And the third was the Chief’s girl, Mary Hudson.”

-The Laughing Man

“‘Sandra- told Mrs. Smell- that Daddy’s a big- sloppy- kike.’
Just perceptibly, Boo Boo flinched, but she lifted the boy off her lap and stood him in front of her and pushed back his hair from his forehead. ‘She did, huh?’ she said.
Lionel worked his head up and down, emphatically. He came in closer, still crying, to stand between his mother’s legs.
‘Well, that isn’t
too terrible,’ Boo Boo said, holding him between the two vises of her arms and legs. “That isn’t the worst that could happen.’ She gently bit the rim of the boy’s ear. ‘Do you know what a kike is, baby?’
Lionel was either unwilling or unable to speak up at once. At any rate, he waited till the hiccupping aftermath of his tears had subsided a little. Then his answer was delivered, muffled but intelligible, into the warmth of Boo Boo’s neck. ‘It’s one of those tings that go up in the
air,’ he said. ‘With string you hold.'”

-Down at the Dinghy

“Esme was standing with crossed ankles again. ‘You’re quite sure you won’t forget to write that story for me?’ she asked. ‘It doesn’t have to be exclusively for me. It can-‘
I said there was absolutely no chance that I’d forget. I told her that I’d never written a story
for anybody, but that it seemed like exactly the right time to get down to it.
She nodded. ‘Make it extremely squalid and movie,’ she suggested. ‘Are you at all acquainted with squalor?’
I said not exactly but that I was getting better acquainted with it, in one form or another, all the time, and that I’d do my best to come up to her specifications. We shook hands.
‘Isn’t it a pity that we didn’t meet under less extenuating circumstances?’
I said it was, I said it certainly was.”

-For Esme- with Love and Squalor

“‘She doesn’t respect me. She doesn’t even love me, for God’s sake. Basically- in the last analysis- I don’t love her any more, either. I don’t know. I do and I don’t. It varies. It fluctuates. Christ! Every time I get all set to put my foot down, we have dinner out, for some reason, and I meet her somewhere and she comes in with these goddam white gloves on or something. I don’t know. Or I Start thinking about the first time we drove up to New Haven for the Princeton game. We had a flat right after we got off the Parkway, and it was cold as hell, and she held the flashlight while I fixed the goddam thing- You know what I mean. I don’t know. Or I start thinking about- Christ, It’s embarassing- I start thinking about this goddam poem I sent her when we first started goin’ around together. ‘Rose my color is and white, Pretty mouth and green my eyes.’ Christ, it’s embarassing- it used to remind me of her. She doesn’t even have green eyes- she has eyes like goddam sea shells, for Chrissake- but it reminded me anyway… I don’t know. What’s the usea talking? I’m loosing my mind. Hang up on me, why don’t you? I mean it.'”

-Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes

“Some minutes, or hours later, I made, in French, the following brief entry in my diary: ‘I am giving Sister Irma her freedom to follow her own destiny. Everybody is a nun.’ (Tout le monde est une nonne.)”

-De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period

“‘I don’t know. Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They’re always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.'”

“‘You love your parents, don’t you?’
‘Yes, I do- very much,’ Teddy said, ‘but you want to make me use that word to mean what you want it to mean- I can tell.’
‘All right. In what sense do
you want to use it?’
Teddy thought it over. ‘You know what the word ‘affinity’ means?’ he asked, turning to Nicholson.
‘I have a rough idea,’ Nicholson said dryly.
‘I have a very strong affinity for them. They’re my parents, I mean, and we’re all part of each other’s harmony and everything,’ Teddy said. ‘I want them to have a nice time while they’re alive, because they like having a nice time… But they don’t love me and Booper- that’s my sister- that way. I mean they don’t seem able to love us just eh way we are. They don’t seem able to love us unless they can keep changing us a little bit. They love their reasons for loving us almost as much as they love us, and most of the time more. It’s not so good, that way.'”

“‘What would you do if you could change the educational system?’ he asked ambiguously…
‘Well… I’m not too sure what I’d do,’ Teddy said. ‘I know I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t start with the things schools usually start with.’ He folded his arms, and reflected briefly. ‘I think I’d first just assemble all the children together and show them how to meditate. I’d try to show them how to find out who they
are, not just what their names are and things like that… I guess, even before that, I’d get them to empty out everything their parents and everybody ever told them. I mean even if their parents just told them an elephant’s big, I’d make them empty that out. An elephant’s only big when it’s next to something else- a dog or a lady, for example.’ Teddy thought another moment. ‘I wouldn’t even tell them an elephant has a trunk. I might show them an elephant, if I had one handy, but I’d let them just walk up to the elephant not knowing anything more about it than the elephant knew about them. The same thing with grass, and other things. I wouldn’t even tell them grass is green. Colors are only names. I mean if you tell them the grass is green, it makes them start expecting the grass to look a certain way- your way- instead of some other way that may be just as good, and maybe much better… I don’t know. I’d just makes them vomit up every bit of the apple their parents and everybody else made them take a bite out of.’



One Response to “J.D. Salinger”

  1. Tyler Peel Says:

    J.D. Salinger is, by far, the most witty man that ever lived

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