Saturday, May 14, 2011

Out-of-Print Salinger


Your bookstore only sells four books by J.D. Salinger, but there is more out there for you if you (or your wife) is up for some bargain-hunting.

Go to a bookstore, and you’re only going to find four books by J. D. Salinger.  There’s Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories, and the impossibly-titled Raise the Roofbeams, Carpenters, and Seymore: an Introduction. But there’s more out there for you to read—it just takes some research.

For our anniversary this year, my wife hunted down four Salinger stories that I had never seen before.  She located where these stories were once collected using deadcaulfields.com, and then hit the internets hunting down the fifty- and sixty-year old books that had the stories.  Can you beat that for an anniversary gift for a bibliophile like me?  Don’t ask me what I got for her.

In all, I read four “new” Salinger stories, which I will discuss below.

1.    1.  “The Long Debut of Lois Tagget” (1942)

The first was this short little tragicomedy that was originally published by Story in 1942 and collected in Story: The Fiction of the Forties, which I now own (thanks to my wife.)

The titular young lady is a self-absorbed, capricious socialite, not unlike Muriel Glass as you see her in “Bananafish.”  The story follows her worry-free life as it wends its way to an inevitable, shocking dénouement. 

2.     2. "A Boy in France"

This was published in the early 1940s in The Saturday Evening Post and was collected in Post Stories, in 1946.

“A Boy in France” concerns an unnamed soldier as he prepares to spend the night in the misery of a World War Two battlefield.  As in some of  Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories, or even in “For Esme, With Love and Squalor,” the traumas of war are lurking just beneath the surface of a soldier who seems to be holding it together.  In this story, the narrator searches for a suitable ditch to sleep in, finally choosing one that is defiled with an awful relic of battle.  He settles in and tries to lose himself in letters that he has received from home before falling “crumbily, bent-leggedly, asleep.”

“A Boy in France” is a subtle, devastating little story.  It was also my wife’s favorite.

3. "This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise" (1945)

"This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise" was published in Esquire in 1945, and was collected in The Armchair Esquire, which has a dandy drawing of Esky on the cover.

Another army story, this one tells of a sergeant who is trying to organize a trip to a brothel for 30 of his soldiers.  Like the other soldiers in Salinger's work, this one is also just holding it together.  What's distracting him is the detail that his little brother is missing in action and probably dead on some battlefield.  It is worth noting that the soldier missing in action is named Holden Caulfield.

The Sergeant is trying to get a head count of soldiers on a dark bus, but his thoughts drift back to his brother:

--Where's my brother?  Where's my brother Holden?  What is this missing-in-action stuff?  I don't believe it, I don't understand it, I don't believe it.  The United States Government is a liar.  The Government is lying to me and my family.

4. Slight Rebellion off Madison (1946)

"Slight Rebellion off Madison" was published in the New Yorker, and is probably the most famous of the "non-canonical" Salinger stories.  It was collected in Wonderful Town, a delightful collection of New Yorker stories that are set in New York.  You can also access it on newyorker.com, but only for subscribers.

The plot of "Slight Rebellion off Madison" is almost identical to the end of chapter 16 of Catcher in the Rye, in which Holden has a disastrous date with Sally Hayes.  It all goes south when he tells her she gives him a "royal pain in the ass," and then ends with him making a drunken apology call to Sally's grandmother.

Unlike the novel, the story is told in the third person, and this Holden seems more adult, more jaded than the one in the novel.  There's less whimsy in this guy--he seems like another cynical New Yorker, getting drunk with Carl Luce and making an ass of himself.

Also, according to this story, do you know what Holden Caulfield's middle name is?  Morrisey.  I kid you not.  Morrisey.  


I loved reading these stories that I didn't even know existed until my wife, bless her, went out and found them for me.  I know I have one more big one ahead of me: "Hapworth 16, 1924," the novella published in The New Yorker that got unfavorable reviews.  It was the last thing Salinger ever published.  I can read this story any time I like, as I own The Complete New Yorker 8 -DVD collection thingy, but I'm holding off for a little while longer.  What will I do when I'm done with that?


(P.S.  I wrote and proofread the majority of this blog post with a squirming two-and-a-half year old in my lap.  Please forgive any typos.)                       




                  


2 comments:

  1. Now that's a great gift. I love the Esky cover, too. I'll have to check out deadcaulfields.com.

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  2. A Boy in France was really great. I loved it.

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