By J.D. Salinger
Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1959
105 pages and 137 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
September 2011

Two long novellas make up this volume. They originally were published in The New Yorker. The first is Raise High The Roof Beams, Carpenters. The unnamed narrator (whom we learn in the second volume is actually Buddy Glass) regales us with the hilarious story of his brother Seymour’s wedding, a wedding to which Seymour, the groom, does not show up. The narration is told by his brother in 1955 but the wedding itself took place in 1942.

Seymour is the oldest of the 7 Glass children, and the mother, father, and oldest two boys were vaudeville performers. All the children later played on a well-received radio show for precocious children, Seymour being the most advanced of them all.

J.D. Salinger goes wild with the madcap comic tales of the aborted wedding and a limo full of zany characters, all of whom are friends of the would-be-and-devastated bride, except for author himself who is, of course, brother of the much hated no-show groom.

The story is quite funny, has lots of unexpected twists and turns and is brilliantly written. It’s a joy to read

The second novella in this volume is SEYMOUR, AN INTRODUCTION

Buddy Glass is writing an introduction to his brother Seymour’s poetry. It is 1959 and Buddy is simply devastated at the death of his brother at the young age of 31. He is in love with Seymour’s poetry and writes this 105 page “introduction” to a very slim volume, yet since Seymour’s wife owns the rights to the book, and won’t cooperate with him he is not allowed to cite even a single line of Seymour’s poetry.

While the volume begins with many pages about Seymour’s poetry and Seymour’s “superior” life, as Buddy sees it. However, this is really a book more about Buddy than Seymour. He rattles on, less and less about the poetry and more and more about both himself and Seymour, with the transition slowly coming for this to be a book about Buddy who seems to sort of wish he were Seymour.

The writing is fantastic, and while there is much in the novella that suggests J.D. Salinger’s own life, Buddy is much more than just an alter-Salinger. He is a mixed figure, partly modeled after Salinger’s life and partly fictional, though it is often hard to separate the two.

The transition from this being an introduction to Seymour’s poetry, to it being first a book about Seymour’s life, and finally, ending up being a novel about Buddy is just brilliantly done and gripping despite going on and on for over a hundred pages of “little things.” It is a tour-de-force of brilliant writing, obsessive though it might be.

Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu


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Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu