Once I had an argument with two guys in a bar (I know, right?). One of them contended that “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J. D. Salinger was the best short story ever written in English. Another suggested the true answer was, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Earnest Hemingway. I, of course, knew that the answer was “The Dead” by James Joyce, though after I read the Hemingway I was willing to admit it to second place.
Today I sat down and read “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” because I felt like reading some Salinger and I don’t currently own a copy of A Catcher in the Rye. It’s a really good short story, definitely solid enough for third place. It made me think about how all three of these great works of fiction are centered around death. There are plenty of short stories and novels about love, but it seems like only through looking at death do we really create literature that examines The Human Condition.
It’s a theory, anyway. (Most of my favorite books have both love and death in them – Ulysses, The Great Gatsby…)
Salinger was 91 so this isn’t exactly a surprise. Whether he has a closet full of unpublished novels or not, I wish him the best. He was a guy who really liked to write, and I can respect that.
Perhaps I shouldn’t say “becoming”, because according to this, I already am one:
“Concerning the family relation, the anarchists believe that civil marriage should be abolished and ‘autonomic’ marriage substituted. This means that contracting parties should agree to live together as long as it seems best to do so, and that the partnership should be dissolved whenever either one desires it. Still, they would give the freest possible play to love and honor as restraining motives. They claim that ultimately, by this policy, the marriage relation would be purified and made much more permanent than it is to-day. They are ‘free lovers,’ but not in the sense of favoring promiscuity of the sexes. They hope to idealize the marriage relation and bring it under the régime of perfect liberty.” (p. 20)
Socialism and Anarchism: dissertation in partial fulfillment of the conditions necessary for the attainment of the degree of doctor of philosophy, school of political science, Columbia College. Herbert Levi Osgood, A. M., Selgman Fellow. Ginn & Company, Publishers: Boston, USA and London, 1889. [ The book contains a reprint of Political Science Quarterly, March 1889. Vol. IV, no. 1., where I believe this was first published.]
It’s funny how political rhetoric shifts over time, isn’t it?