What's A Perfect Day For Bananafish About? Why Do People Like It?
January 17, 2005 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Can someone please explain to me either what A Perfect Day for Bananafish is about, or why people like it? I really don't get it.
posted by Sibrax to Writing & Language (27 answers total)
I think people like it because it's a complex and carefully wrought piece of writing.

I think it's about the alienation a veteran suffers upon returning from a war, and how sometimes they can't go back to life within a "normal" society. In Seymour's case, his post-war trauma has caused his perception of humanity to go so horribly bleak that he decides he can't live in it anymore.
posted by Specklet at 11:17 AM on January 17, 2005

It's a great small story and one of the first I read that was both striking but not easily unraveled.

I like it because its this compact glimpse of the end of a man's life and you can only guess from these last events and from the bananafish tale about what he is thinking. What exactly is the meaning of the bananafish?

The whole thing is intriguing and the various interpretations about what just occured are enough to keep you thinking and implant this piece of writing in your mind - at least that is the case for me.
posted by vacapinta at 11:25 AM on January 17, 2005

Nearly all, or a lot, of Salinger's stories deal with adulthood/loss of innocence. I remember deconstructing this story for weeks in an English class. My memory is hazy to exact references but you can pretty nicely match the symbolism of loss of youth in Bananafish.

If you like this, I suggest getting the short story compilation. Something like "9 Great Stories" which have some really, really great short stories in it. For some reason Salinger just hits a chord with some people, I'm one of them. The hard part is realizing that there are a ton of other people that feel so personally touched by his stories, in that the individual nature of what we're feeling is really not individual at all.

This sounds bad but, I can't wait for him to kick the can. From what I've read he had hundreds of stories piled up. That'll be a field day when it comes.
posted by geoff. at 11:46 AM on January 17, 2005

I like how Muriel demonstrates the sound of one hand clapping, answering the epigraph.
posted by emelenjr at 11:51 AM on January 17, 2005

I thought it was weak, but then, I think Salinger is weak.
posted by rushmc at 12:04 PM on January 17, 2005

Also, it helps if you've read the other Salinger pieces on the Glass family. Franny and Zooey for example, as well as other short fiction. (See also: similarity to Wes Anderson's Royal Tenenbaums's.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:19 PM on January 17, 2005

(Heh: Tenenbaums's. Huh?)

And also:

Updike on the Glass family and Seymour: An Introduction.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:24 PM on January 17, 2005

I love these stories, mostly because I relate to the characters, their alienation and longing for understanding of their place in the world, and their odd family. I haven't reread them in awhile, so someone else, please correct me:

Seymour's problems get elaborated on in Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. I seem to remember one of the Glass children recalling (Buddy to Franny? Boo Boo to Zooey?) a story Seymour had told about being "stained" by memories.

Seymour explained that once, he had touched a girlfriend's yellow dress as she was turning to leave, and the memory of that day had permanently colored him, as if the yellow were still on his fingers.

Seymour is "full" of experience (the opposite of innocence) he thinks he can't escape.

posted by steef at 12:26 PM on January 17, 2005

It's about a dude who shoots himself, no?
posted by willpie at 12:27 PM on January 17, 2005

It helps if you've read more of his work involving Seymour Glass. You get a better understanding of the character.
posted by hootch at 12:30 PM on January 17, 2005

The only thing that Salinger does not do for this audience is to meet with them. Holden Caulfield said in The Catcher in the Rye that "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it." It is well for him that all the people in this country who now regard J. D. Salinger as a "terrific friend" do not call him up and reach him.

-- Alfred Kazin, "J. D. Salinger: Everybody's Favorite," The Atlantic Monthly, August 1961
posted by matteo at 12:31 PM on January 17, 2005

anyway, speaking of JDS, what's your favorite Salinger Story?

I would have said Bananafish as a kid, I'm more on the For Esmé side now.
posted by matteo at 12:32 PM on January 17, 2005

Well, one thing I like about the story is the perfect tone of the dialogue. Muriel and her mother are so obviously shallow and completely unequipped to guide Seymour out of his post-war depths. How could any soldier relate to those women? or to anyone who they left behind? Then the scene with the child is mysterious and incredible to me. On the one hand, surely Seymour is just playing along with her, kidding around. He couldn't be so out of it he doesn't know yellow from blue -- or could he? The whole bananafish exchange is a puzzle that I hesitate to approach in this quickly sketched out reply; at best, I am not convinced it's sexual. And well, the ending speaks for itself. It's so short and perfectly written, yet despite its brevity it reveals new possibilities after every reading. I think the story is quite admirable, though it isn't my favorite Salinger by any means (mine's definitely "The Laughing Man" -- brilliant!).

Anyway, it's the clean writing and the mysteriousness that bring me back to this one. While I agree that it helps to know more about Seymour as one of Salinger's major recurring characters, I also think the story stands on its own (as it should).
posted by katie at 12:45 PM on January 17, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everybody for your input. I haven't read the related stories, but just from this one, there's nothing that makes me want to care about Seymour. Everything he says (to me) is borderline jibberish. He seems like he's having fun with the girl. Sure, he went to war, but his life doesn't seem so horrible. Killing himself just seems so pointless. But I guess I just don't connect with Salinger's writing.

I didn't like Catcher in the Rye, either.
posted by Sibrax at 1:04 PM on January 17, 2005

"a complex and carefully wrought piece of writing."

Do people really think this about Salinger?
After reading Catcher in the Rye I found that just the name Salinger left a bad taste in my mouth and I couldn't bring myself to pick up another one of his books.
posted by kamylyon at 1:30 PM on January 17, 2005

kamylyon et.al: I think that Salinger is one of those authors who's not for everyone (clearly). But you gotta admit, any writer who is esteemed as he is has got to be pretty damn good.
posted by Specklet at 1:35 PM on January 17, 2005

i didn't like catcher in the rye, when i read it many years ago, but i thought this story was stunning. maybe you need to have felt similar, in some way, to have much sympathy for the character (i don't mean this in a self-important way - my immediate reaction was that anyone whose been through adolescence would identify with the character, but that's obviously an inaccurate (in your case, for example) over-generalisation).

on preview - as i said, i didn't like catcher in the rye either, but yes, i'd say this story is complex and carefully wrought. it's one of the best things i've read for some time.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:36 PM on January 17, 2005

bleagh - that was originally written to sibrax, with the preview comment for kamylyon.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:37 PM on January 17, 2005

I also like Salinger's use of mid-word italics to denote expressive dialogue.

Can we do Teddy next? Who dies at the end, Teddy or his sister? Is she screaming as she falls into the pool or does she scream because she sees Teddy at the bottom? Does Teddy push her?
posted by emelenjr at 1:37 PM on January 17, 2005

anyway, speaking of JDS, what's your favorite Salinger Story?

Franny and Zooey. I love the religious references and how much Franny sometimes reminds me of myself. And the descriptions of Mrs. Glass are fantastic.
posted by amandaudoff at 2:07 PM on January 17, 2005

But you gotta admit, any writer who is esteemed as he is has got to be pretty damn good.

I'm not sure that follows, actually. Certainly a writer who connects with or moves a great number of readers must be doing something right, but I'm still trying to figure out what people see in Salinger. Many of those I know who LOVE him have read very little else (I'm sure this is not true of everyone here, though), and I've often thought that it was simply that he was relatively accessible and innovative for people without a lot of reading experience. But I'm still trying to figure it out. It's always difficult to discover what others see in something that offers you nothing, just as it can be to express what something gives you when others don't see it themselves.
posted by rushmc at 2:20 PM on January 17, 2005

any writer who is esteemed as he is has got to be pretty damn good.

This is nonsense. I happen to like Salinger, but over the centuries, many many many now-forgotten writers have been heaped with esteem. The notion that I should consider an artist worthy just because lots of other people do is positively noxious.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:29 PM on January 17, 2005

any writer who is esteemed as he is has got to be pretty damn good

I take it back. I was writing/thinking quickly, and of course that logic is flawed.

If people don't like his style, they don't like his style.
posted by Specklet at 3:41 PM on January 17, 2005

anyway, speaking of JDS, what's your favorite Salinger Story?

seconding Franny and Zooey, though "Teddy" is also wonderful. also seconding what was said above specifically about Franny. i almost cried.

people who dismiss Salinger based solely on their one encounter with his famous and overrated Catcher in the Rye might be pleasantly surprised if they try his other stuff. i can't stand Catcher and its position in pop culture as his masterpiece is, to me, more evidence most people have bad taste. ;) not saying you'll definitely change your mind, but you may well. Catcher isn't very representative.
posted by ifjuly at 6:44 PM on January 17, 2005

But you gotta admit, any writer who is esteemed as he is has got to be pretty damn good.

No, I really don't gotta.

After all, millions of people the world over hold Barbara Cartland and Danielle Steele in very high esteem and you couldn't pay me enough to read one of their books again.
[Yes, I admit it, I read a couple of romance novels once and am still trying to get the memory out of my mind/taste out of my mouth]
posted by kamylyon at 9:58 PM on January 17, 2005

What I don't get, having an appreciation for Salinger and having read 9 Stories multiple times, why this is the story people are always interested in. To my mind, The Laughing Man is the superior story of the collection.
posted by Heminator at 12:38 AM on January 18, 2005

Andrew said:
maybe you need to have felt similar, in some way, to have much sympathy for the character

I don't think so. This is one of the things that Salinger attempted (somewhat successfully) to play with: the notion that the reader doesn't have to feel sympathy for the main character. Holden, for example, was quite the little shit.

This can work. Check out Faulkner's "As I lay Dying". The book is told from the point of view of about 8 or 9 people -each of which is mostly unlikable. This book is amazing despite/because of this.
posted by MotorNeuron at 5:19 AM on January 18, 2005

« Older Modern Cover Question   |   Websites on copyright law Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.