JD Salinger is one of my favorite author's. My favorite book by him is Catcher in the Rye, which is in my list of favorite books I have read. I love Salinger's wry humor and his realistic description of the way people express themselves physically and verbally. His characters are genuine, intelligent and I find them very likable with all of their faults and problems.
Nine stories contains a collection of stories of loss and suppressed and unsuppressed rage, and the characters seem to all need psychological help on a variety of levels.
These stories include:
- "A Perfect Day for Bananafish"
- "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut"
- "Just Before the War with the Eskimos"
- "The Laughing Man"
- "Down at the Dinghy"
- "For Esmé - with Love and Squalor"
- "Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes"
- "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period"
In the first story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," Seymour Glass floats his beach mate Sybil on a raft and tells her about these creatures' tragic flaw. Though they seem normal, if one swims into a hole filled with bananas, it will overeat until it's too fat to escape. Meanwhile, Seymour's wife, Muriel, is back at their Florida hotel, assuring her mother not to worry--Seymour hasn't lost control. Mention of a book he sent her from Germany and several references to his psychiatrist lead the reader to believe that World War II has undone him.
The greatest piece in this collection of stories may be "The Laughing Man," which starts out as a man's recollection of the pleasures of storytelling and ends with the intersection between adult need and childish innocence. The narrator remembers how, at nine, he and his fellow Comanches would be picked up each afternoon by the Chief--a Staten Island law student paid to keep them busy. At the end of each day, the Chief winds them down with the saga of a hideously deformed, gentle, world-class criminal. With his stalwart companions, which include "a glib timber wolf" and "a lovable dwarf," the Laughing Man regularly crosses the Paris-China border in order to avoid capture by "the internationally famous detective" Marcel Dufarge and his daughter, "an exquisite girl, though something of a transvestite." The masked hero's luck comes to an end on the same day that things go awry between the Chief and his girlfriend, hardly a coincidence. "A few minutes later, when I stepped out of the Chief's bus, the first thing I chanced to see was a piece of red tissue paper flapping in the wind against the base of a lamppost. It looked like someone's poppy-petal mask. I arrived home with my teeth chattering uncontrollably and was told to go straight to bed."
"Pretty Mouth and Green Eyes" relates a phone conversation between two lawyers. One of the lawyer's evening is being interrupted by a phone call from another lawyer friend who calls and drones on about the troubles he is having with his wife. I didn't understand why lawyer #1 just didn't just make up some excuse and hang up on lawyer #2. I am still trying to analyze the meaning of that story, unless it simply means some people just can't say goodbye...or lawyer #1 is actually not all that anxious to hang up the phone to get back to his own problems with his own wife?
"Dame Daumier-Smith's Blue Period" was quite difficult to concentrate on. I kept getting distracted because it's so tedious and boring, in my opinion. This story took me longer to read than the whole rest of the book combined.
This is a book to be re-read again and again because it keeps you trying to figure out the psychology of the characters. I could not bring myself to read, "Dame Daumier", however.