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2. BANANAFISH MAILING LIST
4. THAT DAVID COPPERFIELD KIND OF CRAP
This is a work in progress. To submit revisions or new entries please email me.
2. BANANAFISH MAILING LIST
2.1 Why should I read this FAQ?This list has been around (in various incarnations) since January of 1996. Since then, certain topics (most of which follow below) have been beaten to death and beyond. As with most faqs, the idea here is to run through a list of those especially-beaten-to-death topics so that new list members know what not to post. For instance, after reading this faq, you will know not to ask whether Salinger and Pynchon are the same person, or whether somebody can please kindly send you the unpublished stories as you've read everything else (mostly) and are anxious to see the early work.
If you've been around the internet for a while, you know that certain sorts of behavior are annoying. If you haven't been around for a while, you should have a look at a netiquette site or two. And consider "lurking" for a week or so before you post your first message. At the very least, read this entire document before you post anything.
2.2 Posting guidelines on the list?1. When you "quote" the message you are replying to, edit the quoted material. There is no reason to quote 42 lines of a post that everybody has already got and then append a two-line response to it (or a six-line response, or a twelve-line one, etc.). Editing posts is simple etiquette, and it also saves disk space for subscribers whose mail resides on servers.
2. Be sure to specify who the author of the quoted material is (ie, the person who wrote it and posted it first, not the person who quoted it before you).
3. It is a good idea to send "I agree" and "me too" replies to the original poster only. If you are feeling especially chummy, and you want the whole list to know how intensely you agree with somebody else's post, find some sort of qualification to add to your emphatic head-nodding, and avoid quoting the other post entirely.
2.3 Why aren't you guys talking about Salinger?Some think this list is for people who want to talk about Salinger, and some think this list is for people who have an interest in Salinger to talk about Salinger and other things. Similar debates have raged on the usenet for decades, and nowhere does there appear to be a satisfactory solution. Since there are lots of "lifers" on this list and something of a list community, discussion won't stick exclusively to Salinger.
3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis FAQ is possible only through the support of the JDS fans around the world, mostly but not limited to the members of the Bananafish Mailing List. Without their help, this document would be pretty skimpy indeed. While I try in the body of this document to individually credit wherever a particular piece of information stems from a particular source, it may not be possible in all the cases where my memory fails me. So, please accept from me this unpretentious bouquet of very early-blooming parentheses: ( ( ( ( ) ) ) ) .I wish to specially hand-deliver these to:
Matt Kozusko, the guiding spirit behind this project.
Will Hochman, the pundit in the temple of Salinger, for his generous sharing of resources.
Stephen Foskett, for making it all possible by starting Bananafish Mailing List.
Tim O'Connor, who currently administers the List.
In addition, much is owed to the following books for the information available in these pages:
J.D.Salinger, Revisited by Warren French
For a comprehensive bio, please jump to The Chronology: That David Copperfield Kind of Crap Here we just address the more usual questions.
4.1 Who the hell is J.D.Salinger?Good to start with a non-question, isn't it? We firmly advocate wide propagation of the theory first propounded on the Bananafish mailing list:
From: "Jory H. John"
4.2 JDS MarriagesAs for the "first" marriage, well, we just have Hamilton's account according to which she was French (Source: JDS letters) and her name was Sylvia.
Anyway, in 1952 or 1953, Salinger met Claire Douglas, daughter of a
well-known British art critic Robert Langton Douglas, at one of the
Cornish local get-togethers. (Hamilton's book has some interesting
trivia for those so inclined) Apparently, at that ti me the 19 year
old Claire was already involved with a Harvard Business School
graduate and sometime in 1954 she married him. The marriage lasted but
a few months.
From this marriage, Salinger has two kids:
1955: Daughter, Margaret Ann, Dec 10.
Sometime in the 1990s Salinger is reported to be married for the third time to one Colleen O'Neil. Whether or not there is any connection to Oona (O Neil, y'see Oona O'Neil ), our gossipy selves would love to know more about, ne ver mind JDS' silent admonishing, disapproving voice: "Stop that!"
4.3 Can Salinger be contacted?Going by the media-coverage of auction of sundry JDS-letters to fans waxing eloquent on Grateful Dead lyrics, Eastern mysticism et al, it would seem that in select instances JDS does reply to mail. Going by the latest accounts in Esquire, it would seem a good idea not to go a-visiting, though. He might just decide to run you over with his Land Rover, if sufficiently peeved. No, seriously, if you wanna take a chance, write to him care of the Windsor Post Office, Windsor, Claremont, New Hampshire..(I'll check the exact location, or maybe you can do that--my knowledge of the US-geography is at best not even sketchy), and who knows, you just might hear from him. Or you could write to him c/o Harold Ober & Associates, though the chances are that he doesn't get mail forwarded.
One sure way of hearing from him, via his lawyers, would be to have, say, a web-site with annotated texts of his copyrighted letters. Or something.
Apparently, the story goes, JDS wrote to Maynard in the spring of 1972 after reading a magazine article "An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life," which was accompanied by her photograph.
According to her, she visited Salinger, then 53, in Cornish that summer and stayed until the couple split when spring broke. "I viewed him as my mentor and teacher and the person I trusted most in the world," she said in an interview from her home north of San Francisco. "He was the first man I ever loved. My purpose is not to divulge his story. I'm sticking to my own story." Maynard told the New York Times in November 1997 that her relationship with Salinger began when he wrote her "a deeply thoughtful, very moving" one-page letter. "That precipitated a correspondence that remained through my freshman year at Yale." She said she has 20 to 30 letters from him, but will not quote from them in her book. "I will refer to the ideas and thoughts in the letters." The Times said Maynard went to visit Salinger, 78, last week for the first time in 25 years. Asked if he minded that she planned to write about him, she said, "You better ask him that. I don't for a moment think he would want me to write this."
5. THE KNOWN PUBLISHED TEXTS
5.1 The Uncollected StoriesWhat about the stories Salinger published before "Bananafish"? Salinger published a total of thirty-five short stories between 1940 and 1965. Nine of them were collected in Nine Stories, in 1953, and four more have been collected since ("Franny" with "Zooey," and "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" with "Seymour: an Introduction"). The other twenty-two (including 1965's "Hapworth") are available to anyone with the determination to dig through rolls of microfiche or bound copies of older magazines at the library (don't forget about Interlibrary Loan...).
All of the uncollected stories (as they are somewhat affectionately known) except for two were originally published before 1948's "A Perfect Day for bananafish." "A Girl I knew" (2/48) and "Blue Melody" (9/48), published in Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan, respectively, are the only two post-"Bananafish" stories not included in Nine Stories, which features (incidentally or otherwise) only New Yorker pieces. Ian Hamilton has suggested that Salinger quite consciously broke from the other magazines, perhaps wishing to be associated with The New Yorker and not with Cosmo or other less intellectual publications. For a complete list, please jump to Uncollected & Unpublished Stories
5.2 What about Salinger's new book?What's the skinny on Hapworth 16, 1924? "Hapworth 16, 1924," is a (long) short story originally published on June 19, 1965, in The New Yorker magazine. It consists primarily of a lengthy letter home from seven-year-old Seymour Glass, who is attending camp Hapworth. Many Salinger fans--and even more Salinger critics--have disparaged the story, pointing to the inside jacket of Franny and Zooey, where Salinger mentions the "real enough danger" that he may eventually "bog down, perhaps disappear entirely, in [his] own methods, locutions, and mannerisms." "Hapworth's" 30,000 words of precocious Salinger-speak are too much for them. At least as many have enjoyed the story, though, and revere it along with the rest of the Salinger canon. There is no reason not to read it, if you like Salinger.
Since late 1996 when the book was first found listed at amazon.com when it was first revealed that Salinger had arranged to have the story republished in book format by Orchises press, speculation has been rife. Details of the publication are monumentally vague, and the actual publication has been delayed several times. There are various conjectures --some of it less than pleasant--as to why Salinger has chosen to republish the story in book format, but if nothing else it makes sense: "Franny," "Zooey," "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters," and "Seymour: an Introduction" were all published individually in The New Yorker before they were paired up and collected into book form.
6. LITERARY ALLUSION
I enjoyed the day but it isn't something I'd ever want to do again. I got very oracular and literary. I found myself labelling all the writers I respect...A writer, when he's asked to discuss his craft, ought to get up and call out in a loud voice just the names of the writers he loves. I love Kafka, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Proust, O'Casey, Rilke, Lorca, Keats, Rimbaud, Burns, E.Bronte, Jane Austen, Henry James, Blake, Coleridge. I won't name any living writers. I don't think it's right.And in another context, about writing in general, he went on to say:
7.1 Why did Seymour kill himself?
7.2 Was Mr. Antolini making a pass at Holden?
7.3 Why did Seymour marry Muriel?
7.4 Is Franny pregnant at the end of "Franny"?
7.5 Is Holden addressing his narrative to a psychiatrist?
7.6 Who dies in Teddy? Is it open-ended?
7.7 What are the exact contents of Bessie Glass' kimono pockets?
7.8 Is Jane Gallagher related to Betty Gallagher Glass?
7.9 What is the sound of one hand clapping?
The way we'd like to answer all these questions is that it depends upon your subjective reading and interpretation. And mood. And the weather. And general disposition. And the philosophical bent, faith or belief. Not to mention the price of onions. Ever been to the "Shit Happens" page? That might give you an idea. Try it. No, seriously, for answers to all such questions we merely suggest a closer reading of the text and if you have pet theories, insights, deductions, research findings or plain revelations to share, feel free to post to the Bananafish List.
The Answer , Matt has the following to offer on this:
There is, of course, no single correct answer to this question. I offer at least the following suggested answer, distilled from my undergraduate thesis on the story. It is largely incomplete due to length limitations. We are (somewhat passively) seeking alternative interpretations to offer here, so email us if you have one.
The reason for Seymour's suicide has two basic components: the spiritual depravity of the world around him, and his struggle with his own spiritual shortcomings. The spiritual problem of the outside world is mostly a matter of material greed, especially in the west, while his own spiritual problem is more a matter of intellectual greed (or "intellectual treasure"--see "Zooey").
In addressing the suicide, we should distinguish between "See More Glass" and Seymour Glass because they are slightly different characters. Or, if you like, they are the same character in different stages of development. Whatever the case, the "reasons " for the suicide shift slightly in emphasis as the character changes. Buddy himself seems to admit this in_S:AI_ when he confesses that the Seymour of "Bananafish" ("See-More") resembles Buddy more than the real Seymour. That is, Buddy apologizes for h aving imposed his own erroneous interpretation of Seymour's suicide in the early story ("Bfish") as he tries to set the record straight in the later work ("Teddy" and the Glass saga).
Part of setting straight that record is the story "Teddy," which Buddy also mentions (though not by name). "Teddy" is a retelling and an explanation of "Bananafish" from a later perspective. Of course, it's a distinctive story in its own right with or without "Bfish," but the parallels and connections are striking: the two are published in the same magazine precisely 5 years apart, to the issue; the one opens _Nine Stories_ while the other closes it; both are about the death of an intellectually and s piritually advanced American male; both deaths are tragic, but not as far as the protagonist in either case is concerned; both involve water and a prophetic, slightly nasty young girl; etc.
"Teddy" re-tells "Bfish" by stating explicitly what "Bananafish" attempts to symbolize via clever metonymy: the apples in the Eden myth are full of "knowledge and intellectual stuff," which, if pursued with too much zeal, can prevent spiritual developmen t. In the earlier story, apples aredisguised as bananas, apparently so as not to injure the reader withoverly-blunt symbols. As the soul progresses, it unlearns the "differences" that people--particularly westerners and especially Americans--understand via the apple/banana. See-More has realized that he cannot get rid of enough apple-banana to make any further spiritual progress in this life, so, rather than waste time, he commits suicide. He is the bananafish who cannot escape the hole and achieve o neness with God, so he has to start over again.
But the anti-materialism in the story also has to be considered. Salinger, perhaps still a little reluctant in 1948 to abandon anti-materialism, an early preoccupation of his, in favor of simple anti-'intellectual-treasurism,' leaves threads of the former sticking out of the story all over the place. Muriel ("material?"), like her mother, is shallow, fashion-conscious, and unwilling to learn German in order to read delicate, world-weary poets like Rilke. Sybil's reference to the greedy tigers in "Little Black Sambo" and her connection to Eliot's "Wasteland" also suggest a problem with material preoccupation/spiritual neglect. These strains of anti-materialism in the story complicate the suicide because they suggest that Seymour is opting out of a world that is too materially inclined for him, instead of one in which he himself is responsible for his own unhappines and spiritual depravity. Both sets of circumstances--Seymour's own intellectual greed along with the general material greed by which he is sur --surely contribute to his suicide, but Buddy's later qualifications and the story "Teddy" highlight the "intellectual greed" reading.
In summary: The reasons for Seymour's suicide are muddled in "Bananafish," with several different factors coming into play. As Buddy-Salinger thinks more about the character of Seymour between 1948 and 1953, he changes his interpretation a bit to favor a vision of Seymour troubled by his own spiritual shortcomings (the result of too much intellectual treasure) as much as by the shortcomings of the people and the world around him. It would be easy enough to write off the "intellectual treasure" approach to "Bananafish" altogether, making it exclusively a later revision by Salinger-Buddy, and making "Bananafish" a story about a man mortally wary of material pursuits in the west, except that the central symbol of "Bananafish" is a metonymic substitution f or the Edenic apple. Thus, the apple, the intellectual treasure, is a component all along, beginning as simple "genius" in Joe Varioni and Raymond Ford and progressing through the Seymours and on into Teddy, by which time, as Zooey nicely reminds us, Sal inger's geniuses have figured out how to be unsmart.
-Matt Kozusko (email@example.com) Copyright 1998
8.1 Salinger and PynchonWhat is the relationship between Salinger and Thomas Pynchon? Both are reclusive 20th-century American novelists/writers with a certain sheen to their prose which at times suggests a correlation. The two have very little to do with each other outside of this, and they are most certainly not the same person. A reasonable sampling of the work of each writer will reveal this much.
The following article may be of some interest which appeared around the time the news of possible Hapworth publication first appeared:
"The return of J.D. Salinger, sort of: by Dwight Garner". No one seems certain why Salinger chose next month to break his self-imposed publishing exile - perhaps there's just something in the air. Literary recluses Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo both have new novels due out this year (Pynchon's ""Mason & Dixon" will be published this spring; DeLillo's novel "Underworld" is slated for fall); who can blame Salinger for wanting to complete this literary Bermuda Triangle? Literary conspiracy buffs are certain to come crawling out from under their woodpiles. Remember the old canard about Salinger and Pynchon being the same person? Or about Pynchon being the Unabomber? Now we can expect a new bushel of giddy theories: Salinger is really both Pynchon and DeLillo! They've been taking turns being the Unabomber, with Ted Kaczynski as the patsy! Let's hope Pierre Salinger - Hmm ... any relation to J.D.? - stumbles upon the assorted Web sites. If Salinger does have his finger to the wind, he may have noticed that Pynchon (who hides in plain sight in New York with his wife, the literary agent Melanie Jackson, and their young son Jackson), has begun poking his neck from his shell in recent years. Among other things, he's written liner notes for an album by the band Lotion. (I know one of the band member's girlfriends, who's had coffee with Pynchon: "He's very sweet and sort of shy," she told me. "And he looks a bit like a rabbit.") He's also rumored to be the author of a series of wildly cerebral letters to the editor of a small Northern California newspaper, written under a pseudonym. These missives have recently been collected in book form as "The Letters of Wanda Tinasky." What's more, New York magazine's Nancy Jo Sales reported recently that in 1994 Pynchon agreed to look over a script for the John Laroquette Show (yikes!) that involved him. According to the show's head writer, Don Reo, Pynchon's agent called with a few of the novelist's suggested changes. "First, you call him Tom, and no one ever calls him Tom." Second, the script had Pynchon giving a friend a Willy DeVille T-shirt as a gift. The agent said that although Pynchon "likes Willy DeVille, he would prefer if it were a T-shirt with Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators." Roky Erickson? Pynchon sounds like he genuinely rocks. Sales, who surreptitiously followed the reclusive writer around for a day or two and watched him buy health food, ultimately described him this way: "a kind of cross between 'The Nutty Professor' (Jerry Lewis') and Caine in 'Kung Fu.'" You certainly can't say that about John Updike. Should Salinger choose to look to Pynchon for inspiration on living the Good Life, Hermit Division, he has a few options. He could toss off some liner notes for the (unfortunately-named) Dublin-based band Rollerskate Skinny, which maintains a Web site describing its members as a bunch of "J.D. Salinger-inspired guitar abusers," whatever that means. Or, if "Hapworth 16, 1924" wins a major book award this year, Salinger could reprise Pynchon's prankish non-appearance at the 1974 National Book Award ceremonies, where his novel "Gravity's Rainbow" was honored. Instead of appearing himself, Pynchon sent Professor Edwin Corey, a comedian and self-described "expert on everything." Corey's rambling speech was described by the New York Times as "a series of bad jokes and mangled syntax which left some people roaring and others perplexed."
8.2 Any Salinger text made into a movie?Two that we know of. One -- My Foolish Heart -- shall we say loosely? -- based on "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" in 1949, described by Hamilton as a "travesty even by Hollywood criteria." Might put Holden's rage against the movies in some sort of a perspe ctive when we reflect that it opened at Radio City around Christmas time, a month when "Salinger would have been half way through the novel he'd been planning for ten years." (CITR released July 1951). D.B.'s prostituting himself to Hollywood ring a bell, anybody? Yeah, the same D.B. who became famous for, "The Secret Goldfish." There. Here's a clue for you all -- the Walrus was Paul. (See the fundamental interconnectedness of everything? Ha, private joke. Sorry)
And the second is an award winning Iranian film, Pari, supposedly based on Franny & Zooey. Sometime in the mid 90's. For more info, please see J.D.S at Internet Movie Data Base
8.5 The Ramakrisna Connection?There's been some confusion sometimes about Ramakrishna on the list with Lord Krishna or Rama, if not both. Krishna is a mythological reincarnation of Vishnu, one of the Trinity; the hero of The Bhagwad Gita (inexactly alluded to as the Bible of Hindus; exact composition date debated; but generally agreed to have been between 500 to 100 B.C, by a sage named Ved Vyasa), Mahabharata etc. Lord Rama is another Hindu mythological Hero of the epic Ramayana, and believed to be an earlier reincarnation of Vishnu
Ramaksrishna, named after these two Hindu "gods" was an Indian mystic born on Feb 18, 1836.
Mysticism is the mainstay of Hindu religiosity. The Hindu mystics are generally w/o the restraints of their counterparts in monotheistic religious traditions such as Judaism, Islam, and to a lesser extent Christianity, where mystical experiences and insights must generally be interpreted against a given dogmatic theology. Thus "God" does not have the same significance for them. In both Upanishdic and Yogic mysticism there is no trace of love of or yearning for communion with God. It is only in bhakti or devotional mysticism -- Ramakrishna's preferred form -- where the love for the "Deity" creeps in, where the mystic's soul or "self" is finally united with God (or Goddess) in an ecstatic surrender, which, because perhaps of its strong family resemblance to the mysticism of the monotheistic faiths, explains JDS' fascination for Ramakrishna.
It is on record that Freud's "Oceanic Feeling" was a Ramakrishna meme, as one of Ramakrisna's oft-repeated metaphor is of the salt doll which went to measure the depth of the ocean. "As it entered the Ocean it melted. Then who is there to come back and say how deep is the Ocean?"
JDS apparently became fascinated with Ramakrishna's philosophy sometime in the early 50's and studied Advaita Vedanta (literally, non-dualistic ultimate knowledge) under Swami Nikhilananda, founder of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York City (just around the corner from JDS' parents' Park Avenue apartment), who is also the author of The Gospels of Sri Ramakrishna(TGOSR). JDS is said to have become good friends with him and his successor, Swami Adiswarananda, and was reported to be attending lectures, summer seminars etc. till well into the 90's.
As per Ian Hamilton, JDS is supposed to have pressed Hamish Hamilton to publish a British edition of 1062 pages long TGOSR (HH never did) and also endorsed Eudora Welty, Peter de Vries, S.J.Perlman & William Maxwell.
Hamilton also cites one Leila Hadley's claim to speculate that perhaps JDS's interest in Oriental mysticism had its origins in his mysterious first marriage as apparently JDS and the French wife were said to be telepathically connected and had the same dreams, even after separation. Oh, well.
For more spiritual salvation and less gossip, please jump to The Ramakrishna Mission
Last updated: 2:02 PM on 10/1/98
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