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Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction, J D Salinger, Little Brown and Company, 1963, 248 pp
I hope I am not boring you, my readers, with all these books from 1963. I am making great progress on the list by reading one a week and as of today have only four of the bestsellers left to read. Then I will be on to the award winners.
I have now read all of this infamous, controversial author's books. I suppose there will be unreleased stories being published over the coming years, but this one wraps up the stuff published while he lived. In fact, the two pieces here, long stories or novellas, were originally published in the New Yorker in 1955 and 1959, respectively, during Salinger's heyday.
I happen to like Salinger, Holden Caulfield and all. I especially like his crazy Glass family, who feature in both selections here. Those precocious children who were forced to perform on the radio and grew up to be eccentric adults, seem to be forerunners of characters in novels I have read by Cynthia Ozeck, Lydia Millet, and Karen Joy Fowler.
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters is the story of Seymour Glass's wedding that almost didn't happen. It turned into elopement leaving all the family members flailing about or, in some cases, stuck in a taxi together. I recalled that Mary McCarthy also opened her 1963 novel, The Group, with a wedding in New York and that incident had a scene in a crowded taxi as well! Though Salinger's story is poignant, it is also one of the funniest things he wrote.
Seymour: an Introduction is filled with the angst of Seymour and his brother (who is writing the piece) and takes place after the wedding as well as after Seymour's suicide. It is meant to be a character study but serves as a farce on writing. Some reviewers have called the piece "self-indulgent." Duh! Apparently they didn't get the joke.
Earlier this year I watched the 2013 documentary Salinger. It shows the man in all the reclusive, reporter hating, misogynist glory of his later years. It was a disturbing take-down of one of my literary heroes. I wish I could unwatch it because those scenes in the movie kept coming up while I was reading. Whether the documentary is true or not, I'd rather keep my illusions about the author who has given me so many hours of reading pleasure. If you love Salinger's work and have not seen the documentary, be warned. Personally, I don't require the authors I read to be sane, well-balanced citizens.
(Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction are available in hardcover and paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)