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Glittering, sharp stories by a master spell-binder
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.