You Don’t Love Me Yet was a minor failure; Chronic City is a major one. The boy who wanted to grow up so fast that he ended up feeling as if he’d never grown up at all has become a richly gifted artist who worries that his best years are behind him. His recent output gives us all too much reason to fear the same.
William Deresiewicz from his extensive review of Chronic City in The New Republic.
Side note: I reached the half way point of this novel last night and while I’m trying with all my might to like this book. I don’t. Well there are moments in this book that are impressive, they’re few and far between and I’m completely disappointed.
3 years ago
My distinction (if there is one) lies in the helpless and immersive extent of my empathy. I’m truly a vacuum filled by the folks I’m with, and vapidly neutral in their absence.
Chase Insteadman from Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem. Page 121
3 years ago
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
Jon’s review was a flashback of sorts to the days of youth and first loves. A lot of us pick up J.D. Salingers most known work during our youthful years of high school. For anyone who has read Catcher in the Rye it’s instantly remembered. Love it or hate it you remember the story, you can’t forget Holden Caulfield. Unfortunately Catcher in the Rye was always accompanied by a test or study. Once we’ve written our essay on Catcher in the Rye we tended to forget all about J.D. Salinger.
Catcher in the Rye was a big deal to me in my youth. I adored that book. It spoke to me like no other book before. I’m kind of amazed in myself for not devouring everything Salinger wrote. I gave Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction a go in my early twenties but it just kind of fizzled on me. With Christmas around the corner Jon and my book budget was on a freeze. So we searched our shelves to see what we both owned. We went back and forth for a bit but settled on Nine Stories. We both agreed it had been a long departure from Salinger.
I was in a short story groove after reading Carvers Cathedral. Nine Stories starts off with A Perfect Day for Bananafish a gut wrenching story of a GI returning home not quite the same as the days before he left. This story gets you right between the ribs. It sticks there too. Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut is not any brighter. An alcoholic mother invites a friend of hers over for some afternoon drinks and gossip. There’s a forgotten child in this story, which made this piece of work the hardest for me to read. Sure these are dark stories. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. For Esme-with Love and Squalor is the whole reason you should read this collection of stories. Again about a GI in Paris. He spends an afternoon in a tea parlor with an amazing 13 year old girl. This story is so heartfelt, it kind of surprised me that it came form Salingers pen. Not normally this kind of writer, there’s a real sense of love in this piece. My favorite story of the book and I believe Salingers most popular short story.
It was nice to reconnect with an author I had forgotten about for years. Although I didn’t get that feeling I got from Catcher in the Rye. That’s impossible and will never happen to me again. Nine Stories is marvelous. Everything you want in a book. Salinger is a master like no other. Everyone has read him and everyone should continue to do so. Perfect way to end a year.
4 years ago
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
Publisher: Little Brown - Boston
Date: May 1, 1953.
There are a lot of you out there with your own Salinger moments. A time when you were handed one of his books by a friend, or picked up a beaten copy at a book sale. For me, I was 16 and in love for the first time. She was much smarter and far better read I was. One night, as I snuck out of her ground floor bedroom window, she passed me a battered copy of Catcher in the Rye and implored me to read it on the way home. The maroon cover was folded and worn. It was about a mile walk from her house to mine. It was the middle of the night, around 1 or 2 am, and by the time I reached the end of her street I was in love.
Snow was falling - that big fluffy snow - and no one was out there but me. I was alone in the muffled dark winter night, walking and reading. My path home lead through a small forest of large trees and across a well-lit park where a baseball diamond sat in the far corner. I stopped and sat in the dugout and read for a couple hours with the snow falling all around. It was one of those moments. I could not put the book down.
That night was half my life ago now, but after reading A Perfect Day for Bananafish, the first story in Nine Stories, it became vivid all over again. I had read Franny & Zooey a few years later and didn’t have nearly the same connection to that book. I re-read Catcher in the Rye a few times and found myself in that group of people who grew up and found Holden whiny and almost unbearable. That Salinger magic had faded for me until I picked up this book.
I’m not qualified to dissect what Salinger does here on a technical level, but there is a certain ease to his writing that I find mesmerizing. I’m sure a number of you feel the same way. I’m just disappointed in myself for not picking this book up sooner.
Eudora Welty’s original NYT review here.
4 years ago
What this reader loves about Mr. Salinger’s stories is that they honor what is unique and precious in each person on earth. Their author has the courage—it is more like the earned right and privilege—to experiment at the risk of not being understood. Best of all, he has a loving heart.
After much consideration, Casey and I have decided on Nine Stories by JD Salinger for selection #4 of our book club. We have a long list of wants but this one seemed the right length to get through before the holiday chaos just around the corner. Also, neither of us have read Salinger in some time and we are ashamed of ourselves. Like a lot of you, Salinger holds a pretty lofty place in both of our hearts so we are looking forward to this one.
4 years ago
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf - New York
Date: November 12, 1960
You know, Casey and I are really echoing each other again here, but I had the same experience to start with this book. I thought Rabbit was a low-life. I wondered why he was doing the things he did. Updike kept me with him through his beautiful language alone for the first 50 pages. I may not have known where it was going, but it didn’t necessarily matter. Soon enough the story started to worm into my head and I was hooked.
Updike gives us Rabbit Angstrom, a man already past his prime at 26. He is juvenile and foolish, yet I still found him sympathetic in a way. He kept talking about being cornered, having limited options in his life, he felt stuck . David Foster Wallace made a commencement address a few years ago discussing how to avoid just that kind of life and how to think your way out of the mire. He says:
"The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom…The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing."
Angstrom is on the “default setting” and he’s had enough. As good as he is at basketball, he is equally poor in dealing with, and explaining his own emotions to others. I can understand the frustrations that come along with being a new father and feeling stuck in a job that is rarely satisfying. Updike has made Rabbit an extreme case of that everyday mild discontentment we all have. He makes him act out on it and we meet him as he’s had enough, when he runs.
This is a great book. I’m glad Casey picked it, even though he is right when he said Updike put him through the ringer. I’m feeling that way too right now. We were worried about choosing this book and having the Rabbit Omnibus take over our lives for the next year. I don’t think that will happen. I’ll be taking a break from Rabbit Angstrom for a bit, but since his whole life is out there ready and waiting to be read, I’m sure we’ll get back to him soon enough.
4 years ago