Joshb's Reviews > Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour by J.D. Salinger
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Jun 17, 2008

really liked it

Salinger is very, very high on the sentimental favorites list, which makes this difficult to assess objectively - so let's start with the easy half of this two-novella collection.

Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters is wonderful, and while it occasionally dips a little too deeply into the preciousness well (the same well that Salinger comes oh-so-close to drowning in in Franny and Zooey), it works, and, if you've read A Perfect Day for Bananafish, serves as a pretty chilling prequel to the entire Glass family saga. (And if you haven't read APDFB, what are you waiting for? It's only one of the best short stories ever, and Nine Stories as a whole is indispensable.)

As for Seymour: An Introduction, well... I'm not quite sure what to say. (A well-placed "hoo, boy..." might be appropriate here.) I feel like Salinger had this point gotten himself into a holding pattern where he only knows how to end stories with sudden epiphanies, and he gives us three, all somewhat bargain-basement: 1. Seymour is, for Buddy, something to be given away to the world, to those who never had him. Well, alright. 2. That a Zen approach to writing, where one merely writes without aiming, is the only true way of hitting a target. (In some ways this story, with its tiring constant appeals for our astonished approval at Salinger's erudition, could be seen as a direct example of this theory, but I won't bite.) 3. A re-warmed-over repackaging of the essential lesson of Zooey, that the students that Buddy despises are no less his siblings than Seymour, Boo Boo, Walt, et al. Reading this story, one entirely understands the arguments that Hapworth 16, 1924 was proof of a teetering mind finally gone mad.

But if Salinger's work is as embedded into your DNA as it's become for me, you forgive these flaws for much the same reason it'd be sour and nitpickish to criticize the letter of a friend during hard times - one knows how deeply Buddy must be hurting. It's just a shame that Salinger didn't take over in the third-person, and let poor Buddy take a day off from the task of constantly recounting Seymour.

Read this one after you read the other Glass family stories - these serve as an effective (albeit uneven) coda for the entire affair.
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Holly Thanks for that last tip and not giving too much away. I have read Catcher in the Rye and am quickly working my way through Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenter however I will now go back and read the Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey before Seymour, An Introduction. Next quest is to the public library in downtown Dallas to see if I can get ahold of any of those New Yorker stories that were never published elsewhere. :O)

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