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on 24 August 2017
Glittering, sharp, short stories which live in their dialogue, aided and abetted by brief descriptions of clothing and furniture - barely a word about what people look like, except to say that they are 'attractive' or perhaps 'sturdy'.

Contemporary creative studies tutors would - in theory - abhor this sort of 'telling', though the characterisation in conversation would win high plaudits.

It is remarkable - to me at least - how similar the sparkling, brittle writing style of Salinger (1919-2010) in these stories is to that of his much older, fellow American, Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940). Most of Salinger's stories in this late, excellent collection are concerned with rich and intelligent Americans - apparently the same world as that of Fitzgerald. However, Salinger is not focused on the love travails of 'bright young things', but instead is obsessed with adults encountering shockingly aware, truth-telling children (as in his too-famous Catcher in the Rye).

But - in stark contrast to the Lolita of Nabokov (1899-1977) - Salinger's children are precociously adult without any sense of sexuality. This is a strength and also a weakness.

Nevertheless, some of these beautifully exact stories - such as the opening 'A perfect day for bananafish' - must rank among the most concise and evocative short tales ever told.
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on 18 July 2017
Terrific stories.
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on 19 March 2016
As new.
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on 12 June 2016
This is probably the best of J.D. Salinger's writing. He had a reputation for being prickly - who wouldn't be when one's peace is constantly invaded by snoopers? He said if you wanted to know who he was as a man, read his work These stories are not long, but will benefit from several readings as the heart of each story reveals itself more with each read. Deeply feeling and tender - his delightful portrayal of children, the sorrows of young adults who have taken wrong turns, the desperation of those wounded in the soul - these stories are simply wonderful. If you have read his archived early work from the 1940s, this collections shows a striking change of focus and ability as a writer. I first read "The Catcher in the Rye" and "Franny and Zooey" in the 1970s and recently re-read them. This collection is a first for me and a book I would take to my desert island.
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VINE VOICEon 3 July 2007
These nine short stories will appeal to those who enjoyed the dry observations, the grim resistance to adulthood and the honesty that encapsulated The Catcher in the Rye. Far less well-known, this collection is partly a reflection on an American society coming to grips with the aftermath of war; its characters include those who have been traumatised by conflict and those who have suffered at home through the absence of loved ones. More than that, Salinger's tales try to dig a little deeper under the superficial layer of East Coast society and ask where the distinctions between madness and innocence lie in a fractured community. His adults are often verging on lunacy or have a serious character flaw, while his children are frequently precocious, wildly intelligent and seemingly more worldy-wise than their parents: the clash between the two tends to cause confusion on both sides. Women are promiscuous, men are like children, children are like seers; each of these stories tells of a topsy-turvy world populated by figures wrestling within themselves for something more satisfying than their present existence. A brief collection but a valuable one; sometimes frustratingly enigmatic but with some excellent character sketches.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 January 2011
One of my favourite books, this FANTASTIC collection of short stories is in turn tragic and hilarious, notably in 'the laughing man'.
The narrator recalls belonging to a boys' club in his childhood , and how the youthful 'Chief' would regale the children in his care with a far fetched but thrilling saga of a heroic character called 'the laughing man'. This individual had given most of his fortune away to monks ('humble ascetics who had dedicated their lives to raising police dogs'), and 'subsisted exclusively on rice and eagles' blood in a tiny cottage with an underground gymnasium on the stormy coast of Tibet'. The Chief subsequently has a short lived romantic relationship, but after it comes to an end (made all the more touching by the fact we only witness it through the child's eyes) he briefly winds up the narrative; the laughing man hears his beloved pet wolf is dead and refuses the lifesaving vial of eagles' blood.After all the humour, the end is suddenly particularly sad.BRILLIANT writing
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on 3 August 2001
A must-have book for any true Salinger fan, "For Esme...", provides the reader with ten short stories of the highest calibre. You'll laugh and cry at the tragi-comic nature of the Glass family in tales such as "A perfect day for Bananafish", marvel at Salinger's fascinating autobiographical touch in "Love and Squalor", and turn each page in fervent anticipation in his more imaginative tales, such as "Teddy". One recommendation I would make to anyone who is just stepping into Salinger's world is to dip into "Raise high the roof beam, carpenters, Seymour: an introduction, and "Franny and Zooey", before you start "Esme", as it will explain a lot about the Glass family saga...
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VINE VOICEon 1 August 2011
This collection of short stories showcases the talent of JD Salinger at its very finest.

The stories are vividly and beautifully told, emotion is understated but tangible. The title story 'For Esme with love and squalor' is quite simply one of the most unforgettable stories I have ever read - it is infused with powerful emotion but also gentle humour. It's about a brief meeting between a soldier and a young girl - he's looking for simplicity and purity in a world gone mad, she's hoping to appear mature and worldly (but comes across as even more innocent and naive as a result). This chance encounter sustains the soldier later when his world is falling apart from the after-effects of the war.

The other stories are just as striking - particularly The Laughing Man and Teddy - they read simply, but pack a punch which is difficult to describe. That's the genius of it all.
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on 19 January 2012
I started my encounter with Salinger as most people do, through his Catcher in the rye, and I liked it, but I wasn't crazy about it. It was innovative compared to the censored and proper books which were also in the curriculum, and the story was one I could identify with, but it was only later, when I picked up his short stories, that I really developed a passion for his style.

The collection of stories entitled From Esme with love and squalor contains nine short stories including A perfect day for bananafish, and the story which gives the collection its title (in the States, the 9 stories are suggestively called "Nine stories".

The recurring themes are humanity's loss of innocence and how children manage to bring us back to that purity of mind, relationships and their evolutions, nostalgia and war.

Salinger is a master of the short story, managing to capture the essence of our thoughts and feelings in the tightest frame of action, with even a limited number of characters.

While his stories are often heartbreaking, the beauty with which Salinger writes gives you hope that other people are as aware as he was of the fading innocence of the world.
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on 3 August 2011
The stories in this collection are gems. I'm re-re-reading them, trying to discover what precisely makes them so wonderful. I'm not sure yet, all I know is that some of these stories make me laugh, some make me weep, and all of them leave me wonderstruck at the astonishing writing. If I had to choose one book to take with me to a desert island, it would be this one. For Esme - with Love and Squalor: And Other Stories
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