RAISE HIGH THE ROOF BEAM, CARPENTERS AND SEYMOUR

AN INTRODUCTION

These two long short stories have previously appeared in the New Yorker and both deal with the eldest child and most outstanding member of the remarkable Glass family — Seymour Glass. Raise High...is an account of Seymour's wedding day in 1942, narrated by Buddy Glass. Seymour didn't show up atthe arranged ceremony (and never makes a direct appearance in the story, the action taking place between an embarrassed but loyal Buddy and some wedding guests on the bride's side) -but he later eloped with the anxious bride. Seymour An Introduction is a far more complicated matter (and reveals more of Salinger than many of his readers may like to know.) The central fact about Seymour Glass is that he committed suicide at the age of 31 while on vacation with his wife in Florida. To his six brothers and sisters, all of whom were prodigies themselves, Seymour is practically a Buddha. We learn here, again via Buddy, that he was, besides being an academician, a poet, influenced primarily by Oriental philosophy. Seymour's experiences, beginning at least when he was eight years old, are all essentially religious — whether they take place in the barbershop, in Loew's 72nd St., or shooting marbles. Even his flaws seem perfect and religious. In fact, Seymour Glass is America's most consciously religious fictional character. How to justify his suicide? Some Salinger readers have now taken to raising other objections: the incestuousness and narcissism of the Glass family in general; the fact that Salinger doesn't love everybody, including his phoneys, (though one would think it the writer's privilege, if not obligation, to approve of his characters over some others); etc. etc. J.D. Salinger may be in a trap but, still, he has created real people, (there would be no discussion otherwise). For our part, devotedly, we read on.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 1962

ISBN: 0316766941

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1962

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY

THE FINCA VIGIA EDITION

What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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