Monday, January 20, 2020

the last book I ever read (J. D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, excerpt one)

from Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by J. D. Salinger:

In late May of 1942, the progeny—seven in number—of Les and Bessie (Gallagher) Glass, retired Pantages Circuit vaudevillians, were flung, extravagantly speaking, all over the United States. I, for one, the second-eldest, was in the post hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia, with pleurisy—a little keepsake of thirteen weeks’ infantry basic training. The twins, Walt and Waker, had been split up a whole year earlier. Waker was in a conscientious objectors’ camp in Maryland, and Walt was somewhere in the Pacific—or on his way there—with a field-artillery unit. (We’ve never been altogether sure where Walt was at that specific time. He was never a great letter writer, and very little personal information—almost none—reached us after his death. He was killed in an unspeakably absurd G.I. accident in late autumn of 1945, in Japan.) My eldest sister, Boo Boo, who comes, chronologically, between the twins and me, was an ensign in the Waves, stationed, off and on, at a naval base in Brooklyn. All that spring and summer, she occupied the small apartment in New York that my brother Seymour and I had all but technically given up after our induction. The two youngest children in the family, Zooey (male) and Franny (female), were with our parents in Los Angeles, where my father was hustling talent for a motion-picture studio. Zooey was thirteen, and Franny was eight. They were both appearing every week on a children’s radio quiz program called, with perhaps typically pungent Coast-to-Coast irony, “It’s a Wise Child.” At one time or another, I might well bring in here—or, rather, in one year or another—all the children in our family have been weekly hired “guests” on “It’s a Wise Child.” Seymour and I were the first to appear on the show, back in 1927, at the respective ages of ten and eight, in the days when the program “emanated” from one of the convention rooms of the old Murray Hill Hotel. All seven of us, from Seymour through Franny, appeared on the show under the pseudonyms. Which many sound highly anomalous, considering that we’re the children of vaudevillians, a sect not usually antipathetic to publicity, but my mother had once read a magazine article on the little crosses professional children are obliged to bear—their estrangement from normal, presumably desirable society—and she took an iron stand on the issue, and never, never wavered. (This is not the time at all to go into the question of whether most, or all, “professional” children ought to be outlawed, pitied, or unsentimentally executed as disturbers of the peace. For the moment, I’ll only pass along that our combined income on “It’s a Wise Child” has sent six of us through college, and is now sending the seventh.)

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