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Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

By Sabrina | Books | June 30, 2009 |

By Sabrina | Books | June 30, 2009 |

J.D., you goddamn son of a bitch. I give you one last chance. One chance to really impress me, and what happens? You actually do. The short story format forced you to cut down on all the endless philosophical blather that got tiring in Franny and Zooey and focus on the aspect of your writing that I enjoyed the most in Catcher, i.e., the character sketches.

The story everyone raves about, “A Perfect Day for a Bananafish,” starts off the collection, and it’s charming, disturbing, playful, and shocking. The last couple of paragraphs in particular are tense and full of anticipation — at least, I imagine they would be, if my stupid eyes hadn’t automatically jumped to the end of the last page, ruining any chance of being surprised. What’s worse is that I had forgotten I’d picked up Nine Stories in high school and immediately put it down after the first story because I’d done the exact same thing and wanted to forget the ending so I could be surprised the next time I read it.

After that, my favorite stories were “The Laughing Man” and “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period,” the latter of which is written by a man reflecting on his teenaged pretension and is pretty fucking hilarious. “The Laughing Man” has a cool, intertwined double storyline, one a Scheherazade-style action-adventure tale that a character is narrating within the story, and the other centering around both that character’s love life and the main narrator’s childlike understanding of and reaction to that love life.

Most of the other stories were intriguing and kept me interested and thinking. Then I got to “Teddy.” You were so close, Salinger, and you had to go and throw in a wunderkind who’s just soooo spiritual and monologues about life and meaning and reincarnation all over the place. Overall, though, good show, old chap.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Sabrina’s reviews, check her blog, Beauty School Drop-Out.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.