Friday, May 1, 2015

"For Esmé–With Love and Squalor" by J. D. Salinger


Deal Me In Short Story #8

This week I drew the 4 of Spades, which corresponded to "For Esmé–With Love and Squalor" from the book Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger. As I explained in my post on another short story in this collection, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," I read most of Salinger's stories long ago. It is lovely to read them again and experience them anew.

The story opens with a man describing his encounter with two children, Esmé and Charles, in a town in Devon, England. The narrator is a soldier, and had just completed an invasion training course. Esmé offers to write to the soldier, and requests that he write a story for her. She suggests he make it "extremely squalid and moving."

The second part of the story is told in third person and describes Staff Sergeant X and his fellow soldiers, "in Gaufurt, Bavaria, several weeks after V-E Day." It is definitely very moving. Even before I started reading this section, with little memory of what it described, I became very emotional.

This story was immediately popular when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1950 and continues to be one of Salinger's best known stories. Before I started rereading the stories in Nine Stories, I did not know about Salinger's wartime experiences, which are thought to have influenced his writing. Reading this story and learning more about Salinger was a great experience. I will continue reading the stories in this book and find copies of the two other books containing novellas by Salinger (Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction).

Every other week I draw a random card to determine what short story I will read for the Deal Me In Short Story challenge. My list of short stories is here. The challenge is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

T


14 comments:

  1. Tracy, I'll be reading more short stories this month and I'm thinking of adding some of Salinger's stories too. I haven't read the author for a long time.

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    1. Salinger is a great choice, Prashant. I was glad I added his stories to my list.

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  2. Tracy - I think many people forget (or didn't know) how skilled Salinger was at short stories. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. I look forward to catching up on even more of his stories, Margot.

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  3. I am liking the sound of these, even though Catcher thoroughly depressed me and I thought I was done with him. Maybe one day then.

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    1. Col, I have read Catcher (and liked it at the time) but don't remember that much about it. But I do think these stories are very different.

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  4. Not actually read much of his fiction outside of CATCHER IN THE RYE (I know there's not a lot) - thanks for the prompt TracyK.

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    1. Sergio, you are right, there is not a lot of stories from Salinger. A manageble number of stories, so I plan to work through them gradually.

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  5. This little volume of stories is a precious part of my library, and I've been rationing them out (1 or 2 a year) since I bought it a few years ago. Somehow I neglected Salinger in my 2015 roster, but won't repeat that mistake next year. "The Laughing Man" probably remains my favorite, but this one and "Uncle Wiggly in. Connecticut" really connected with me as well.

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    1. Jay, I do hope to get through the rest of the stories in this book this year, but I already have plans for next year's roster. My husband has a huge anthology of time travel stories to choose from, for some variety.

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  6. I love this story Tracy - it's certainly my favourite from this collection, and possibly my all-time favourite piece of writing by him. Just thinking about it affects me...

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    1. I haven't reread enough of his stories to say yet, Moira, but I would not be surprised if this ended up being my favorite also. I cannot even point to what specifically like about it, but overall I do love it.

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  7. I rarely read short stories, and they always remind me of school reading/writing assignments. I'm pretty sure I have this book somewhere, and your post is making me want to reread it for the first time in well over 10 years. Thanks, Tracy.

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    1. Rebecca, I have avoided short stories for years, but this year I decided to try this challenge to see if I could get back into them. I have enjoyed all the short stories I have tried, but obviously some I like better than others. Rediscovering the J. D. Salinger stories was the most enjoyable part so far.

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