Dan Sandman

41: Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

In Books, Fiction, Short Stories on 09/10/2015 at 12:00 pm

Nine Stories by J.D SalingerFrom 1948 to 1953, J.D Salinger (1919-2010) published nine short stories. In the middle of this creative burst, he also wrote The Catcher in the Rye (1951). His bibliography is interesting because he barely publishes anything else. By 1965, the creative well seems to have dried up. Perhaps he was tired of the attention that surrounded fame and success. Maybe he just wanted to live his private life in private. I guess the royalties from one stupendously successful book can allow a writer to do just that.

So what does Nine Stories (1953) add to the ongoing conversation surrounding that famous American novel? Well, the answer is quite a lot. In particular, there is no Holden Caulfield to control the narrative. Instead, the narrator puts you in the room, sitting back and allowing characters to speak for themselves. The overall effect is a less opinionated narrative than in Salinger’s novel. In addition, readers are left to speculate, much like in the stories of Raymond Carver. We are given clues to what’s going, but we are encouraged to read the stories again.

In a short story, a writer only has so many words. This limitation encourages a precise and fastidious method. To be wholly satisfying, a short story needs to deliver on character and plot, without wastage. One method that Salinger applies is to have us eavesdrop on private phone conversations. This technique allows us to intone the relationship between two characters. Furthermore, it gives the characters themselves a chance to move the plot forward. These days, it would be interesting to apply this technique to instant messaging. And instead of being given access to personal letters, we could be granted permission to read characters’ email inbox’s.

Times change, techniques adapt.

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  1. I am so happy to have read your post, it was such an amazing read, one which I enjoyed very much! I have had time to check out your blog and I have to say I loved it! So keep writing so I can keep looking forward to reading your work! (:

  2. I own a copy of this collection and love what you have written. I am intrigued by your tagline of a novel a week for a year and am following you now to see how you’re doing with your goal. I hope you’ll follow me too. http://runwright.net

    • Thank you very much. I am now reaching the end of my third year! Glad you are interested in my site and have taken an interest. Will be following your progress too. 🙂

      • My reading goal this year was 50 books. I’ve reached that goal but I’m also doing a few reading challenges which mean I’m reading some specific books too.
        Are you on Goodreads? Do you list all the books you’ve read somewhere on your site?

      • Great! I’ve found that keeping a Friday afternoon deadline has helped. If I was to not finish a book, everyone would soon know about it! I’m not on Goodreads at the moment. There is no list yet — watch this space…

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