Three Early Stories by J.D. Salinger is a book that might, at first, seem like a scam.  Salinger is dead and didn’t publish for many years and was famous for his lack of interest in publishing new work and suing people who tried to publish any of his older, uncollected stories.

As readers of this blog know, I am a Salinger fan. I was a bigger fan when I was young and he was still writing, and before I learned about what an odd human he was in real life.

Salinger published 21 stories in the early part of his career that he refused to republish. Fans would seek them out in sources of old magazines in bookstores, online and in libraries. Back in the late 1970s, I sought them out in the Rutgers Library and found many of them torn or razored out of the bound volumes.

This legit collection, Three Early Stories, published by Devault-Graves Digital Editions, found some way to get the rights to three of those early stories. Two stories were Salinger’s first two published works, “Young Folks” and “Go See Eddie.” The third story is “Once A Week Won’t Kill You,”published in 1944.

I can understand any author not wanting early work brought forward, especially if you think you were not at the top of your game when you wrote them. For me, Salinger’s best writing is from the first half of his writing life. Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories are great. Franny and Zooey is very good. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction is a collection that didn’t work for me. By then, Salinger was deep into chronicling the Glass family that live in many of his stories and their appeal to me decreased with every story.

Salinger had Holden say in Catcher 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. That doesn’t happen much, though.” I wanted to call Salinger after I read Catcher at age 13. I tried to catch Salinger at his home in New Hampshire when I was in college.

During my freshman year of college, Joyce Maynard published a piece in The New York Times about her freshman year at Yale which I read with great interest and clipped and saved. It dazzled me in 1972 that she had gotten a New York Times Magazine cover story published and gave me hope as a writer. The next year, she published Looking Back, a book-length follow-up that was full of things I also recalled being nostalgic about at the ripe old age of 19 – air-raid drills during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show etc.  I still have my paperback copy of that book in a box of college stuff.

Salinger read that Times story too and liked it. He wrote that eighteen year old girl and he, then age fifty-three, sent her a letter that began a relationship. She left Yale to live with Salinger, and he dismissed her about a year later. She wrote about that in her memoir,  At Home in the World, a book that pissed off some Salinger fans and caused others, like myself, to not want to call him any more.

Salinger’s daughter, Margaret, also published a memoir, Dream Catcher, about life with her famously reclusive father that I’m sure he hated even if it said some nice things about him.

But I still reread the three “new” stories. It’s the first collection of the author’s work in fifty years. I wish there were a few of the early Holden Caulfield family stories. I read almost all of the uncollected stories by finding them (and photocopying them) and these three are decent examples of the early work.

“The Young Ones” is the first story he published. It is about a college party and a young woman trying to interest a disinterested man. Not very original premise, but good dialogue and details.

“Go See Eddie” is odder with a brother trying to get his sister to go see Eddie for a job and being pretty damned threatening about it. Hints of a troubled family here.

The third story is “Once a Week Won’t Kill You” which gets into a WWII triangle with a draftee, his wife and aging aunt.

The book has some nice illustrations that don’t come from the original magazines but that look like they come from the period.

I would love a complete stories collection or all the uncollected stories collection instead of my photocopies. There are a few stories I couldn’t find. But I think in Nine Stories, Salinger selected the best of the stories he published in magazines. (The New Yorker got most of the best ones.)

His last published work, a novella entitled “Hapworth 16, 1924”, appeared in The New Yorker on June 19, 1965. I found a copy of that issue and eagerly dove into the story. It is my least favorite Salinger piece.

Osiris Press was supposed to publish “Hapworth” as a book with the author’s permission, but someone foolishly leaked word of its upcoming publication and paranoid Salinger withdrew rights. That is probably why this new and thin edition had no advance promotion and just appeared. Salinger died in 2010 and although I heard he stipulated that nothing new be published for 50 years after his death, I hope the estate is more liberal. I would love to know if he was actually writing all those years he was hiding out. I suspect he was not. If he was writing, my guess is that it was more similar to the second half of his oeuvre which I would actually rather not read. The Salinger in my head from a long time ago is the one I wanted to call up on the phone.

shoot moon pexels

Today’s Full Moon (May 21, 2016) is the third of four full moons to occur between the March equinox and the June solstice and so it can be called a Blue Moon. To be precise, it occurs at 21:14 Universal Time, but it looked full last night and will look full to many people tomorrow night too.

No blue color to the moon, though we often see moon or night photos that have a blue cast to them because of the way cameras often interpret the color of sunlight and moonlight as respectively red/orange and blue.

Movies often use filters to change those colors. Francois Truffaut made a film I like titled Day for Night (La Nuit américaine) for the film-making process referred to in French as la nuit américaine (“American night”) of shooting outdoors in daylight with film stock balanced for tungsten (indoor) light and underexposed (or adjusted during post production) to make the final result appear as if it was filmed at night. In English the technique is called “day for night. ” As more sensitive low-light film became available and with the takeover of digital, shooting day for night is not as common. In the Truffaut film, it also implies that other things are not as they seem.

This is a Blue Full Moon by one older definition of the term as described above.A more recent definition is that a Blue Moon is a second full moon in the same month. Today’s full moon doesn’t fit that definition. That definition of the Blue Moon won’t come around until  won’t happen until January 31, 2018 and will only occur 7 or 8 times in 19 calendar years.

Look up tonight and if you see the Full Moon clearly you will also see a brilliant “star” following it. That is Mars, shining much brighter than any star. Mars will also be move on May 22 into opposition and be the brightest Mars we have seen in 10 years.

This Full Moon has many names including Hare Moon, Merry or Dyad Moon, Fright Moon, Flower Moon, Frogs Return Moon, Thrimilcmonath (Thrice-Milk Month) or Milk Moon, Sproutkale, Winnemonoth (Joy Month), Planting Moon, and Moon When the Ponies Shed.

Many cultures celebrated this month. The Greek goddess Maia, the most important of the Seven Sisters (the Pleiades) and said to be the mother of Hermes, gave the name to this month. The Romans called her Maius, goddess of Summer, and honored her during Ambarvalia, a family festival for the purification and protection of farm land. In the Celtic cultures, May was called Mai or Maj, a month of sexual freedom. Green was worn during this month to honor the Earth Mother. May 1 was the Celtic festival of Beltane, a festival celebrating fertility of all things. Cattle were driven through the Beltane bonfires for purification and fertility. In Wales, Creiddylad was a character connected with this festival and often called the May Queen. The maypole and its dance is a remnant of these old festivities.

This can be the Buddha Full Moon when it occurs near the Buddha-Wesak Festival. The date of Buddha’s birthday varies but it is said that Buddha was born, died and received enlightenment on the Full Moon in Scorpio and many followers consider this the highest spiritual day of the year.

 

crash

The third plane crash’s wreckage on Salem Avenue in Elizabeth, 1952. via The Daily News

As I packed for a trip to Europe recently, my thoughts, and more so the thoughts of my wife, turned to airports, airplanes, bombs and terrorism. It is an unfortunate way to approach a trip, but almost inevitable today, especially if you are someone who only travels occasionally.

On my last domestic trip, it was the first time I saw at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey fully equipped soldiers with helmets, body armor and automatic rifles on patrol. Did it make me feel more secure? No, I felt more threatened because it was reminder of earlier tragic events.

My wife even wanted to do some non-travel things before we left concerning our grown-up children, accounts, our will and such “in the unlikely event” that something happens to us on our travels.

It is a contemporary reality that young and old alike need to consider and come to some terms with the natural and technological and social disasters that are a regular part of the news.  For my own children, the attack on the not-so-far-away Twin Towers on 9/11/01 will be an unfortunate but key event of their youth.

As teachers, my wife and I were profoundly affected by the shootings at Columbine and other schools which felt like such a real possibility in our own lives and those of our children. That came much too close to home in 2007 when my son’s class at Virginia Tech was part of the shootings that occurred there.

My son was luckily, or miraculously, not hurt that day. Different people take a different take on that. I have gone back and forth myself in my thinking about that day. He is a faithful Hokie alum and rarely talks about that day. His professor who was killed is a hero to me.

One of his classmates who was shot, Colin Goddard, has become very active in gun violence prevention issues. He joined the Brady Campaign and works as a Senior Policy Advocate for Everytown for Gun Safety. He  was the subject of a documentary named “Living for 32” that shows how easily anyone can obtain a firearm in the United States without a background check.

A year ago, I read a book that came to mind again when my wife used that phrase which is the book’s title.  In The Unlikely Event is a novel based on real incidents and is a kind of memoir by Judy Blume.

Blume sets the novel in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey and mostly in the winter of 1951-52, when three catastrophic plane crashes occurred in less than two months.

Her protagonist, Miri Ammerman, returns to her hometown in 1987  to attend a commemoration.

The first plane that crashed barely missed exploding into a junior high school. The second crash was at an all-girls’ high school. The third crash was at an orphanage. It seemed like Fate or some power had targeted children.

The events forced the closure of Newark Airport for some months.

Miri was fifteen and before these crashes life was more about being in love for the first time and Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” and getting Elizabeth Taylor haircuts and family and friends.

Before that winter, it was a time was when airline travel was new and exciting. Everyone dreamed of going somewhere by plane. Being a stewardess was a glamorous job that showed up in novels, movies, TV and Playboy cartoons.

Of course, it was also a time of atomic-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threats and Civil Defense drills in schools, so the world could be seen through rose-colored or dark gray glasses depending on the day.

A succession of airplanes falling mysteriously from the sky would cause all kinds of rumors today, just as it did then.

Blume mixes in all of this uncertainty about life in a variety of ways. One day a woman shows up on the Ammermans’ doorstep, insisting Miri is her niece. She had seen a resemblance to her brother in a photo of the girl shown to her by a friend. Miri’s mother raised her daughter on her own and had refused to share any details about her father.

She falls in love with a boy from an orphanage in town. He’s a great guy and becomes a hero after he rescues survivors from the third plane crash. Is he her future? Can we contemplate a future in such an uncertain world when unlikely events seem to happen?

Judy Blume spent her childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, making up stories inside her head and eventually writing them down as an adult and becoming a very successful author.

I grew up in the same part of New Jersey fifteen years later than Judy Blume, but a lot of her stories feel like my own childhood, adolescence and adulthood.  She is better known for her young adult novels but has written three novels for adults and sold 80+ million copies of her books.

Three planes crash in a small town in New Jersey over the course of just two short months are unlikely events, but it happened. The attacks on the Twin Towers just across the river from that NJ town on 9/11 was also an unlikely event, but it happened.

In its time, those plane crashes were inexplicable. Communists? Martians? God? So many tragedies today – earthquakes, bombings – have an “explanation” but still seem inexplicable. The “why” of these events never seems to be fully answered.

Is Blume warning us? No, I think she wants us not be afraid to get on a plane, or take risks in life. Of course we should make plans and be cautious, but she reminds us that life is made up of unlikely events and that, fortunately, they “aren’t all bad. There are good ones, too.”

 

The older you get, the more you need to read books from childhood. So many things you didn’t understand as a child…

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real.”

velveteen“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 

From The Velveteen Rabbit written by Margery Williams & illustrated by William Nicholson

wonderland

 

I don’t know how popular the Uncle Wiggily books are these days. Uncle Wiggily Longears is the main character of a series of children’s stories by the very prolific American author Howard R. Garis. He is an interesting elderly rabbit who has rheumatism and uses his red, white, and blue crutch walking cane that looks like an old-fashioned barber-pole or a peppermint candy stick.

Garis began writing the stories for the Newark News in 1910 and he wrote an Uncle Wiggily story every day (except Sundays) for more than 30 years. That’s a lot of stories.

I know I read many times the Little Golden Book version of Uncle Wiggily and probably a few others. Although growing up, we did read the Newark News as our daily paper, I don’t recall the stories. maybe by the time I was reading the paper I was done reading Uncle Wiggily. (Though I read the comics for a long time past childhood.)

I never knew until I did some research this week that, according to his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, a walk in the woods in Verona, New Jersey was his inspiration for Uncle Wiggily. Being that those woods are just next door to Paradelle, I think that I have probably walked those same woods and I have certainly seen some relatives of Uncle Wiggily.

Garis wrote many books for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a publisher that specialized in series and used many authors under various pseudonyms. They were best known for the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. Garis wrote as Victor Appleton, he wrote about the inventing Tom Swift. He wrote as Laura Lee Hope some of the Bobbsey Twins books, as Clarence Young for the Motor Boys series and as Marion Davidson for some books about the Camp Fire Girls.

Garis parted ways with the Syndicate in 1933 after several disagreements, but he published many books about Uncle Wiggily. Some of those are out of print and in the public domain and I found a good number in the Project Gutenberg Library online where you can read and download them.  That is where I found   Uncle Wiggily in Wonderland. I also found books by Garis that I never read, such as  The Curlytops at Silver Lake, whose titles suggest local settings. I know nearby Silver Lake pretty well.

game
The Uncle Wiggily game is a track board game based characters from the series. The game is of the “racing” variety and said to be in the style of the European “Goose Game.” Players advance along the track from Uncle Wiggily’s Bungalow to Dr. Possum’s House. This is not a strategy game and moving is based on a random drawing of the cards. The game was first published by Milton Bradley in 1916 and has seen several editions with minor modifications over the years. Uncle Wiggily remains a pretty popular childhood game along with Candy Land.

Many of the Uncle Wiggily books and the game and plush animals and other related merchandise are still available, so perhaps kids are still reading Uncle Wiggily.

I didn’t think about Uncle Wiggily again after elementary school until I read in high school “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” a short story by J. D. Salinger, which appears in his collection Nine Stories.

The main character of that story, Eloise, recalls a time when she and her boyfriend Walt were running to catch a bus, and she sprained her ankle. Walt comforted her by saying “Poor Uncle Wiggily.” Now, unhappily married to someone else, she goes to her daughter Ramona’s bedroom. (Ramona and Eloise are names that recall characters in other childhood books I read.) She sees that her sleeping child in on the corner of the bed having left room for room for her imaginary friend, “Mickey Mickeranno.” This childhood fantasy really annoys the mother and she drags her to the middle of the bed and tells her she must sleep there. She quickly regrets that and tucks Ramona into her covers and leaves crying and repeating to herself “Poor Uncle Wiggily.”

Trivia: This story was made into the film My Foolish Heart (1949), though the film has very little to do with the story. It is the only authorized adaptation of a Salinger story and he hated it and vowed to never let his work be used for film or television again.

game

A current version of the board game

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