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Nine Stories Paperback – January 30, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

In the J.D. Salinger benchmark "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," Seymour Glass floats his beach mate Sybil on a raft and tells her about these creatures' tragic flaw. Though they seem normal, if one swims into a hole filled with bananas, it will overeat until it's too fat to escape. Meanwhile, Seymour's wife, Muriel, is back at their Florida hotel, assuring her mother not to worry--Seymour hasn't lost control. Mention of a book he sent her from Germany and several references to his psychiatrist lead the reader to believe that World War II has undone him.

The war hangs over these wry stories of loss and occasionally unsuppressed rage. Salinger's children are fragile, odd, hypersmart, whereas his grownups (even the materially content) seem beaten down by circumstances--some neurasthenic, others (often female) deeply unsympathetic. The greatest piece in this disturbing book may be "The Laughing Man," which starts out as a man's recollection of the pleasures of storytelling and ends with the intersection between adult need and childish innocence. The narrator remembers how, at nine, he and his fellow Comanches would be picked up each afternoon by the Chief--a Staten Island law student paid to keep them busy. At the end of each day, the Chief winds them down with the saga of a hideously deformed, gentle, world-class criminal. With his stalwart companions, which include "a glib timber wolf" and "a lovable dwarf," the Laughing Man regularly crosses the Paris-China border in order to avoid capture by "the internationally famous detective" Marcel Dufarge and his daughter, "an exquisite girl, though something of a transvestite." The masked hero's luck comes to an end on the same day that things go awry between the Chief and his girlfriend, hardly a coincidence. "A few minutes later, when I stepped out of the Chief's bus, the first thing I chanced to see was a piece of red tissue paper flapping in the wind against the base of a lamppost. It looked like someone's poppy-petal mask. I arrived home with my teeth chattering uncontrollably and was told to go straight to bed." --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (January 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316767727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316767729
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in New York in 1919, Jerome David Salinger dropped out of several schools before enrolling in a writing class at Columbia University, publishing his first piece ("The Young Folks") in Story magazine. Soon after, the New Yorker picked up the heralded "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," and more pieces followed, including "Slight Rebellion off Madison" in 1941, an early Holden Caulfield story. Following a stint in Europe for World War II, Salinger returned to New York and began work on his signature novel, 1951's "The Catcher in the Rye," an immediate bestseller for its iconoclastic hero and forthright use of profanity. Following this success, Salinger retreated to his Cornish, New Hampshire, home where he grew increasingly private, eventually erecting a wall around his property and publishing just three more books: "Nine Stories," "Franny and Zooey," "Raise High the Roof Beam, and Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction." Salinger was married twice and had two children. He died of natural causes on January 27, 2010, in New Hampshire at the age of 91.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 97 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
J.D. Salinger has rightfully been one of the most highly praised authors of the 20th century. Although best known for his coming-of-age novel, The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger also wrote brilliant short stories of great complexity. This is quite an accomplishment when one considers the fact that the short story poses problems the novel easily overcomes.
Salinger's skillful use of language is what distinguishes him most from his contemporaries. There is never a dull moment in a Salinger short story as this expert author intertwines detail and dialogue to convey emotion to the reader.
Although the short story leaves little room for character development, Salinger's superb style and careful use of language allow us to get to know his characters intimately in a very short period of time.
The stories included in Salinger's dazzling collection, Nine Stories, were published between 1948 and 1953 in The New Yorker.
They exhibit a unified tone and theme, something not usually found in short story collections. They are classic Salinger and classic stories; each one contributes to the volume as a whole and each is therefore enriched in its relation to the others.
Although people disagree on which story is best, each contains elements of the relationship between children and adults, one of Salinger's signature themes.
Two of the stories, A Perfect Day for Bananafish and For Esmé--With Love and Squalor, both feature protagonists (Seymour and Sargent X) who, as veterans of WWII, have sacrificed their psychological well-being and are no longer the men they once thought they were. Both feel alienated from life and, more importantly, from those they love.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By P. Nicholas Keppler on January 15, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In Nine Stories, J.D. Salinger seems bent on exposing the poignant complexities of the people around us. The characters of these timeless narratives are typical American men and women, nestled away in suburbs; unwinding on summer retreats and buried in apartment complexes; folks who, on the surface, seem fortunate and content. Mr. Salinger peels past their public appearances, throwing them conundrums bound to expose their hidden insecurities, shortcomings and naivety. A visit from a college roommate causes an upheaval of reflection and regret in a suburban housewife in "Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut;" romantic turmoil unearths a mean streak in the chief of a boy scout-type organization in "the Laughing Man" and Seymour Glass, the burnt-out intellectual whose presence would loom over Salinger's latter work, falls over the edge in the intense, unpredictable, unforgettable classic, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish." Fifty years after they were conceived these characters could still be your neighbors or schoolmates. The vivid portraits of Nine Stories are practical assessments for the modern American dream.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Bill Slocum VINE VOICE on February 3, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Because this collection of short stories features children in most of them, some dismiss it as kiddie lit in the same vein as Salinger's "Catcher In The Rye," a great novel but read more in high school than anywhere else. Many see it as the beginning of Salinger's ascent to his mountain of impenetrability and Glass-centric navel gazing. Both grasp parts of the elephant, but miss a larger fact. "Nine Stories" is, story-for-story, one of the most beguiling marriages of disciplined fiction-writing and metaphysical inquiry.

"The most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid," notes the narrator of the most liquid story in this collection, "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period." It seems to me that line is a key for understanding Salinger's unique approach, as well as why so many people are put off by him.

Salinger's fiction doesn't read like anyone else's, especially when you move beyond "Catcher." "Nine Stories" is the most mainstream, and also most engaging and best-written, example of his Zen approach to fiction, both in substance and form. He was more interested in communicating feelings and inner perceptions than plots or even ideas, and this liquidity feels somehow wrong in the light of stories we usually read.

But these stories actually work quite well, not just in isolation but in tandem. The first and the last story, "A Perfect Day For Bananafish" and "Teddy," play off each other, a senseless death in one story being explained by the patient, precocious narrator in the other.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Call on April 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
I've always had a "love/hate" relationship with NINE STORIES. I want to regard the stories with the esteem that critics and other writers have accorded it throughout the years; but while Salinger's talent for creating characters, conveying dialogue, and capturing subtle emotional moods is undeniable, there's a quality of strangeness and superficiality to the stories that has always given me pause...

NINE STORIES opens with "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" -- a strange story, and the one that made Salinger famous. Seymour Glass (who will figure prominently in much of Salinger's later fiction) is a WWII veteran who suffers from some sort of psycho-emotional problem stemming from his wartime experiences. While honeymooning with his wife in Florida, Seymour spends a day on the beach outside their hotel playing with a young girl while his wife remains in their hotel room, talking on the phone to her mother. Later, Seymour returns to his hotel room where his wife is asleep, and blows his brains out. The story was probably shocking when it was first published in 1948, but today it seems odd and peculiar; and Seymour's untimely death seems too sudden and inexplicable. Suicide is always tragic; but what has always disturbed me more than the suicide is the subtle suggestion in the story of (Dare I say it, and tread unkindly on Salinger holy ground?) pedophilia. Is that why Seymour kills himself? Or is it because of his psychological problems? Or something else entirely? I don't know; but my first impression when I read "Bananafish" years ago was that Seymour is a borderline pedophile, and that's the same impression I had when I recently re-read the story. Unfortunately, right or wrong, first impressions are sometimes lasting impressions.
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