Writers similar to Salinger?
June 14, 2011 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend writers similar to J.D. Salinger.

I've almost made my way through everything J.D. Salinger has written, including the out-of-print stories that were never anthologized. The only writings of his that will be left are a story under tight security at Princeton University, plus whatever stockpile he kept to himself that may one day be released -- who knows.

Point is, I'd like to try to find some writers or writings that are similar. Similarities along the following points, or something else you can think of, can be followed:

1) General style of writing. Salinger's writing style is fairly consistent and very distinctive, characterized by sophisticated, precise language and colloquial, realistic dialogue. I think anyone familiar with any of his works will know what I mean.

2) Thematic content. Common themes in Salinger stories: the value of sincerity, the phoniness of upper-class society, mystical "truth", precocious, perceptive children, isolation of the artist, social corruption, and the all-consuming nature of infatuated love. In many cases, the condition of adolescence.

3) Ending with a mysterious cliffhanger. Salinger's stories often end with an enigmatic final line that is also often the height of action. Writers who also do this would be appreciated.

4) Subject matter. Salinger's stories are mostly about upper- and upper-middle-class adolescents in or around Manhattan or as expatriates in Europe. Works similarly focused on these groups would be of interest.

5) Emotional/thematic resonance: Any other writers who have written stories or works that spoke to you on a deep level, if Salinger stories did the same for you. This caveat is important, please.

Thanks for any and all advice. A couple of writers who come to mind are F. Scott Fitzgerald and Truman Capote, for example.
posted by grokfest to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Wes Anderson
posted by Phssthpok at 7:05 PM on June 14, 2011

John Updike.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:07 PM on June 14, 2011

Best answer: Shirley Jackson's "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" may meet some of your desired qualities.
posted by indognito at 7:36 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

A prayre for owen meany-updike
posted by femmme at 7:36 PM on June 14, 2011

For me, Salinger always crossfades directly into A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:46 PM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: Wes Anderson is definitely a good one, but I want books, not movies.

Also, another key element: repeated use of a cast of characters (the Glass Family) across works.
posted by grokfest at 7:58 PM on June 14, 2011

John Irving (who, by the way, wrote A Prayer for Owen Meany, not John Updike).
posted by carmicha at 8:05 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

John Cheever
Jon Franzen
posted by ovvl at 8:18 PM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: I know and like John Irving, but I'm surprised at the mention; I wouldn't stylistically compare the two. John Irving is dense, Salinger is sparse. John Irving gets to the climax of a story, then keeps going and tells you how everything ends up; Salinger just tells you where we leave the characters. The story in Garp, "The Pension Grillparzer" actually made me realize this latter difference because where it leaves off in the first edition is exactly where Salinger would have ended, but Irving says, "But *now* what?" and the ending eventually written basically is just the fulfillment of elements set into motion earlier in the story.

Updike - I've always thought he seemed kind of stiff, but I'll give him another go. A read over the first pages of Shirley Jackson seem about right.

Cheever - Like him. He's a contemporary, I think, and definitely has some similarities (subject matter mainly, I think). Good choice.
posted by grokfest at 8:21 PM on June 14, 2011

I consumed everything available by Salinger in high school. The only other author that effected me similarly was Flannery O'Connor. Totally different milieu. Deep South as opposed to Deep Brooklyn but somehow they both resonated for me...
posted by jim in austin at 8:45 PM on June 14, 2011

I would recommend Saki and Dahl, as they hit a lot of your requirements, but then I recommend Saki and Dahl for just about anybody, at any time, for any reason. De Maupassant is another I would suggest.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:47 PM on June 14, 2011

Haruki Marukami
posted by bearette at 9:03 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Elaine Dundy--The Dud Avocado. It's like Catcher with a girl.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:23 PM on June 14, 2011

Raymond Carver! "Why Don't You Dance?" is one of my favorite short stories ever.
posted by ritual system at 9:25 PM on June 14, 2011

Best answer: A slightly different recommendation, but I think Sylvia Plath's the Bell Jar certainly has elements of Holden's "phonies."
posted by sweetkid at 9:38 PM on June 14, 2011

Probably obvious, but surprised Hemingway hasn't come up yet.

Contemporarily, Jonathan Ames might be up your alley as well.
posted by General Malaise at 9:41 PM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: Flannery O'Connor is totally awesome. I appreciate the nod.

Roald Dahl is a favorite, and now that you mention it, there are similarities - the slightly twisted, subversive humor and inventive turns of phrase.

Carver is one of my favorites, and that story is my favorite of his! Amazing!

Bell Jar - Probably ought to read it. It's another adolescence classic, so it's probably up the right alley.

Hemingway - he's a bit cold to me, whereas Salinger seemed very warm in a weird way.

Now Elaine Dundy - that's someone I'd never heard of, and reading the first page of The Dud Avocado makes me think it's *exactly* what I've been searching for.
posted by grokfest at 10:01 PM on June 14, 2011

There are many similarities between The Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace.
posted by kbar1 at 11:19 PM on June 14, 2011

Re: John Irving, I agree with your points about writing style and story resolution. I recommended him for the overlap with your themes and your interest in adolescents discovering Europe.
posted by carmicha at 9:04 AM on June 15, 2011

Best answer: Second Haruki Murakami (Marukami, not so much), at least for the short stories (IIRC, he said it himself that Salinger was an influence on him).
posted by Senza Volto at 9:35 AM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: A Separate Peace is definitely similar to Catcher. I read that in high school around the same time and enjoyed it.

Re: carmicha - I see your point now. True. Good points.

I'll give Haruki Murakami a try. He has always seemed an excessively "hip" author, but that's no reason to avoid him if he's very good.
posted by grokfest at 12:56 PM on June 15, 2011

You're a great replyer, grokfest! Glad we could help.
posted by sweetkid at 7:57 PM on June 15, 2011

John Cheever, think the Glass family all grown up and living Weschester and commuting to the city. His writing reminds more of Salinger than anyone else I have ever read even though they are very different. I think it's maybe the tone of so much of his writing. 'The Swimmer' is what most comes to mind.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 9:36 PM on June 15, 2011

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