RAISE HIGH THE ROOF BEAM, CARPENTERS AND SEYMOUR

AN INTRODUCTION

These two long short stories have previously appeared in the New Yorker and both deal with the eldest child and most outstanding member of the remarkable Glass family — Seymour Glass. Raise High...is an account of Seymour's wedding day in 1942, narrated by Buddy Glass. Seymour didn't show up atthe arranged ceremony (and never makes a direct appearance in the story, the action taking place between an embarrassed but loyal Buddy and some wedding guests on the bride's side) -but he later eloped with the anxious bride. Seymour An Introduction is a far more complicated matter (and reveals more of Salinger than many of his readers may like to know.) The central fact about Seymour Glass is that he committed suicide at the age of 31 while on vacation with his wife in Florida. To his six brothers and sisters, all of whom were prodigies themselves, Seymour is practically a Buddha. We learn here, again via Buddy, that he was, besides being an academician, a poet, influenced primarily by Oriental philosophy. Seymour's experiences, beginning at least when he was eight years old, are all essentially religious — whether they take place in the barbershop, in Loew's 72nd St., or shooting marbles. Even his flaws seem perfect and religious. In fact, Seymour Glass is America's most consciously religious fictional character. How to justify his suicide? Some Salinger readers have now taken to raising other objections: the incestuousness and narcissism of the Glass family in general; the fact that Salinger doesn't love everybody, including his phoneys, (though one would think it the writer's privilege, if not obligation, to approve of his characters over some others); etc. etc. J.D. Salinger may be in a trap but, still, he has created real people, (there would be no discussion otherwise). For our part, devotedly, we read on.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 1962

ISBN: 0316766941

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1962

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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A welcome introduction to a major author and a pleasure for fans of contemporary European literature.

FLIGHTS

Thoughts on travel as an existential adventure from one of Poland’s most lauded and popular authors.

Already a huge commercial and critical success in her native country, Tokarczuk (House of Day, House of Night, 2003) captured the attention of Anglophone readers when this book was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2018. In addition to being a fiction writer, Tokarczuk is also an essayist and a psychologist and an activist known—and sometimes reviled—for her cosmopolitan, anti-nationalist views. Her wide-ranging interests are evident in this volume. It’s not a novel exactly. It’s not even a collection of intertwined short stories, although there are longer sections featuring recurring characters and well-developed narratives. Overall, though, this is a series of fragments tenuously linked by the idea of travel—through space and also through time—and a thoughtful, ironic voice. Movement from one place to another, from one thought to another, defines both the preoccupations of this discursive text and its style. One of the extended stories follows a man named Kunicki whose wife and child disappear on vacation—and suddenly reappear. A first-person narrator offers a sort of memoir through movement, recalling her own peregrinations bit by bit. There are pilgrims and holidaymakers. Tokarczuk also explores the connection between travel and colonialism with side trips into “exotic” practices and cabinets of curiosity. There are philosophical digressions, like a meditation on the flight from Irkutsk to Moscow that lands at the same time it takes off. None of this is to say that this book is dry or didactic. Tokarczuk has a sly sense of humor. It’s impossible not to laugh at the opening line, “I’m reminded of something that Borges was once reminded of….” Of course someone interested in maps and territories, of the emotional landscape of travel and the difference between memory and reality would feel an affinity for the Argentine fabulist.

A welcome introduction to a major author and a pleasure for fans of contemporary European literature.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-53419-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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