Jacob's Reviews > Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour by J.D. Salinger
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Jul 23, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: 2007-2009, salinger-sandburg-saunders, fiction-and-literature, i-own, short-fiction
Read from October 04 to 08, 2009

October 2009

So basically, I’m waiting for Salinger to die.

I don’t mean that maliciously. Really. I bear no ill will towards the man, and I’d wish him a long and pleasant life as a hermit, full of good health and completely lacking in the company of stupid humans--except, well, he’s already had his. The old man is ninety, slowly doddering his way to ninety-one. Hasn’t published in decades. No one’s seen him in years; he doesn’t even yell at those durn kids to get off his lawn because then people would know where he lives. Heck, he might have another ten years in him. Or he could die tomorrow, in which case this whole review would be really tasteless. So let me make this clear: I don’t want Salinger to die. I’m just waiting for him to do so.

But I digress. Thing is, I never read Salinger before this year. Although I went through my own Angsty Teenager Phase back in high school, I somehow missed reading The Catcher in the Rye--which I always confused with Field of Dreams, for some reason, but whatever. Got to it over the summer, as a little diversion before picking up Nine Stories; Catcher was boring and disappointing, the stories were pretty good. Didn’t have high expectations for Franny and Zooey or this one, but I figured they’d be quick reads--and anyway, there didn’t seem to be much point in only reading half of Salinger’s published work when he’s only written four books. And that, right there, is proof that I read Salinger for all the wrong reasons. I only picked up Nine Stories out of genuine interest in, and curiosity for, Salinger’s work--the others I read (re: suffered through) out of curiosity about Salinger himself. Here’s this mad old recluse who hasn’t published anything in thirty years--I wonder what makes him so great? Man, Holden Caulfield is a whiny little shit; I bet his other stuff is complete crap, too; hey, I was right, no wonder he’s in hiding; &etc. If I had read these books purely out of interest in the stories, instead of a perverse fascination with Old Man J. D., perhaps I would’ve appreciated them more. Perhaps.

This brings me back to Salinger’s eventual death. Why do I bring this up? Simple: in my curiosity about Salinger and my interest in his reclusive, hermit-like, hasn’t-published-anything-since-the-Sixties existence, the reason I’m thinking about his completely natural and far-future demise is this: all of Salinger’s other stories will get published. Simple as that. Soon as the old man goes up to that big field of rye in the sky, his family will descend like vultures on his cell/cave/underground bunker, tear through every safe, and publish every scrap of work the man has written, but not published, since 1965. And the paranoid in me, the conspiracy theorist, believes that J. D. Salinger really does have a dozen or so safes full of sequels to The Catcher in the Rye, as well as the complete family history of the Glass Family (with a thousand songs of praise to the near-messianic Seymour), and a host of other, unrelated stories.

Of course, this is the part of me that also suspects Harper Lee of having written a dozen other novels, locked away, never to be published with To Kill a Mockingbird, but I’m probably right--about Salinger, at least. ‘Sides, a quick visit to the Wikipedia page shows he has about two dozen uncollected and/or unpublished stories floating around, in forgotten literary journals and anthologies, that will probably never see the light of bookstores, ever, until Salinger croaks.

And let’s face it: it would be interesting to see them. It would be nice to see The Stories of J. D. Salinger, or Salinger: The Collected Works, 1940 to 1965 and 1966 to 20--, or even The Further Adventures of Holden Caulfield (ghost stories, boarding school mysteries, boarding school erotica, and so on) published, reviewed, read, etc. I probably wouldn’t read any of it, but it would look nice--and that, to me, seems to be the distinguishing characteristic of Salinger’s books: that they look nice in their slim, bare, austere covers. The stories inside may be mostly mediocre and somewhat overrated (to me), but at least the books look nice on a shelf. And a handsomely bound edition of The Complete Works of J. D. Salinger would probably look nice too.

But I digress, again--and I probably sound a bit pretentious there, thinking I can judge Salinger’s existing work. I don’t even like his work; I’m clearly a crude and unsophisticated little turd, so who am I to say anything about the man? What a phoney. But whatever. When Salinger dies, in 2024, at the ripe old age of 105, perhaps I’ll have repented and learned to love his work like I clearly should. When that happens, I’ll be the first to read Catcher in the Rye 2: Catch Harder.

Edit--1/28/2010: Salinger died last night. I wrote this review three months ago. You can't prove anything!
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Tara (new)

Tara Interesting perspective. I admit I'm not a huge Salinger fan, but for an English major, his work is/was a must in understanding the progression of American lit. Also, if you had read Catcher in high school, you may have reacted differently. It was a voice a lot of kids were looking for.

I just wrote a blog saying in effect I hope his family doesn't publish those rumored works, though I also would read them out of curiosity. Better he go down in history with his master works.

But I enjoyed your review. :-) You sure you weren't in NH?

message 2: by Jacob (last edited Feb 03, 2010 12:46PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jacob I've been advised not to answer that last one without a lawyer present.

But I agree--I probably would've connected with Catcher in the Rye back in high school. It would've worked for me when I was seventeen. Five years later, not so much, but that's just me.

I think he will be remembered for his master works, but I don't think the belated publication of his rumored works will really hurt him. If they're good, they'll fit with the rest; if they're less good, they'll probably just be minor curiosities. (Here I'm thinking of Harper Lee--if she ever did write/publish anything else, would the quality really affect how you feel about To Kill a Mockingbird?)

And even if his family never releases his 1965-2010 works, there are still 20-30 stories he wrote before 1965 that just haven't been published together (see Wikipedia), and I imagine we'll see them, at least.

message 3: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Ha, I missed this first time around. Yes.

Alan I like Salinger but I read him in the 70s when I was a young man and, as you say, I think that makes all the difference. I do wonder what I'd think if I started them now...
enjoyed your review though

Zanne Kuhlman I just giggled out loud several times while reading your review. I love Salinger, but I also quite enjoyed your review ;)

Abdel-minem Mustafa The age and period of your life during which you read Salinger makes all the difference. His pieces are mostly about adolescence and inexperience. For a young person who has a future to worry about and who constantly does so, Salinger's writing is golden.

Jacob Abdel-minem wrote: "The age and period of your life during which you read Salinger makes all the difference. His pieces are mostly about adolescence and inexperience. For a young person who has a future to worry about..."

Yes, very true. If I had read Salinger in my teens, I would've loved his books. At 23, not so much. Now, two years later, I think I should give him another try. Not that I feel more receptive to his message or anything--I just feel I didn't judge him fairly last time. But we'll see.

Sophia Just give "A Perfect Day for Banana Fish" or "Teddy" a try. If you're not sold in those pages, don't bother.
I adore Franny and Zooey--I read it about once a year--but I absolutely was not impressed by Catcher...

I loved reading your post. I'm waiting for JDS do die too--patiently waiting to read everything else he's written on the Glass family.

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