J. D. SALINGER by Warren French


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Salinger, the Sweetheart of All-American Adolescence, both young and old, gets here another probing as to why he is so popular, so persuasive. If neither the critique nor the conclusions can be called earth-shaking, still Professor French has done lots of homework, including a myth-upsetting biographical sketch (no, Salinger's Class family is not his real family; no, he wasn't an honest-to-goodness prep school rebel; no, he's only been married once). Catcher is considered the chef-d'oeuvre, and the creation of Holden Caulfield a stunning symbol of a generation's preoccupation with the ""nice"" world (generally a mystique of childhood innocence) and the ""phony"" world (all those muddled adults: non-living, lying, lusting for success and sex). The early tales (Bananafish, Esme) are deemed truer than the later ones (ooey, Seymour, and the Zen-schmaltzy seer search). According to the professor, for Salinger ""feeling"" is right, ""thinking"" wrong; he is, au fond, a romanticizing conservative at odds with a pluralistic-analytic world. There's much explication texte, a form of exegesis usually reserved for Eliot's poems or Kant's Reason, but most of it's either overstuffed (arbitrary anatomizations of plot and character) or underfed (there's no real illumination re Salinger's style -- the bon mots, the sad/ essay dialogue, the confessional rhythms, the ever-fresh flavor of contemporary immediacy -- which are, when all is said and done, what have made him). Even so, an exhaustive check list, bound to stir up Salingerians, pro and con, all over the place.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1963
Publisher: Twayne