Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters | J.D. Salinger

Salinger exited the writing scene in 1955 with the two short stories "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" and "Seymour - An Introduction," his last published works.

"Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" takes place on Seymour's wedding day, from the perspective of his younger brother, Buddy. However, the story is not really about the wedding at all. It's about coping with life when you're a recluse. Those of you who know the story of Salinger's reclusive life are probably lying to yourself. Nobody knows the story, because that is precisely how he wants it. As a background, Salinger pulled the 1st edition of his famous novel "The Catcher in the Rye" in 1951 because there was a picture of him on the back panel. Salinger had never agreed to the photo, and it was subsequently removed in later editions. One of the only other pictures of Salinger in public circulation is courtesy of his daughter, who had apparently included the photo on her book to slight her father… and I anticipate, garner interest for herself. But, I digress.

Salinger is a master with characters. You cannot help but being intrigued with the lives of people in his novel. His mastery of the first person narrative allows you to relate to the character telling the story, and as such, the people you see through his eyes. That being said, the premise of the novel was very weak. He has made a few comments on the state of society in addition to a few points on what it means to be a reclusive personality. However, he never really explains why this condition arises. The emotion is not there, whereas it dripped from "The Catcher in the Rye" like melting snow on a warm day. Maybe the next short story, "And Seymour" will give me a glimpse into these emotions and answer the question "Why?"


Anonymous said...

Raise High is merely one piece in the greater puzzle of Seymour that Salinger lays out in the Glass family stories. If you're looking for an explication of Seymour then you need to read all the stories in order to see, as fully as possible, Seymour's character. Salinger's genius lies in that we have only about 10 or 15 pages where Seymour is actually a protagonist in a story, in Bananafish, and the rest is hearsay or information provided second-hand through letters or poems. The clues to his alleged affliction are in what other people say about him and in certain ideas Buddy discusses and in certain epiphanies buddy has. Think back to the little girl in the supermarket making a comment about her two boyfriends, one of which is a girl. How does Buddy describe Muriel's mother and how is Muriel's mother's character shown in the story? Could a woman who's faith is in psychoanalysis really understand a mystic, poet, sage like Seymour? Muriel's mother is "A person deprived, for life, of any understanding or taste for the main current of poetry that flows through things, all things." With this in mind, read her remark that "this Seymour has agreed to see a psychoanalyst and get himself straightened out" or something along this lines, just before he's eloped with his wife. We can assume Seymour has done just that and straightened himself out in the time that elapses between that comment and Bananafish. Also, the conversation Seymour has with the little girl in Bananafish is highly metaphorical and provides a clue to what ails him.

Eclectic Indulgence said...

Perhaps I'll look into "Nine Stories" that I know the two reads are intertwined.

Thanks, Dave.