Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Seymour Glass and Me

I wonder if this will open the proverbial, though no more than potential (and rather unlikely, I think), floodgates of psychoanalysis, but I don't really care.

I am reading Salinger's "SEYMOUR --  An Introduction" for the second time, and I've come to the conclusion that either I was not the same person when I read it back then as I am now (an existential revelation that seems to manifest itself often during rereads of personally significant works), or I've just forgotten.

Two things.

In "Introduction," Salinger, voicing Buddy Glass, speaks at length of his own writing and the writing and writings of his older brother, Seymour.  I want to be a writer.  I can't conscionably call myself a writer until I'm published.  (At least that's what I tell myself, but even then, I expect I'll be too self conscious to manage it!)  Yet I write.  And write.  And write.  Yet I read Salinger.  And what a stupid frickin' thing to do!  Salinger who hales his characters as brilliant--ne' sublime; unapproachable--writers; Salinger who himself is so uncannily capable of making his lines appear (and maybe so they are) entirely "off the cuff" and yet bear such indelible brilliance.  I feel extraordinarily inferior--especially as I tap this out with "Introduction" hanging open to page 183, and but a scant three inches from my left hand.

As an aspiring writer, I can't help but identify with Buddy, who is himself a writer--though, unlike me, really a writer.  He has a similar, though certainly elevated, predicament.  He doesn't have Salinger breathing down his neck (or over his left hand), but the even and ever superior Seymour himself, and not just when a book of his is open on the same desk where he's writing, but, while Seymour was yet alive, in his room while he slept, poring over his manuscripts, and now that he's dead, haunting him forever--if, that is, I read aright.  On page 182, Buddy begins a transcription of a letter he received from Seymour in which the latter discusses at length his impression of one of his younger brother's literary attempts.  (You know, I intended this to be a very short entry.  Frustrating: I tried working on my novel today and couldn't squeeze out a single word that wasn't utterly false, and I deleted, trashed, and started again and again and again.  Now, wanting to be brief, I gush.  Argh!)  Anyway, the letter from Seymour to Buddy, much like the elegy of "Roof Beam" by Buddy about his brother, makes me weep, much like certain chapters, poems, and passages of Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass does.  (I'm a pathetically passionate reader.)

**pause :   shaking off whatever's haranguing me!**

Okay.  Deep breath.  Here are the words that crossed my mind some hours ago and that prompted this entry in the first place (and may it be readily acknowledged that this is in no wise intended to slight my brilliant, beautiful, and much-loved siblings or anyone else):

I wish I had an older brother 
entirely--the good and the bad--
like Seymour Glass.

No analysis but context: I have no older brother.  I feel that I fairly failed my younger siblings (ridiculous alliteration is unintended and coincidental), not that I was the oldest.  She did great!


  1. Clearly this does open you up to psychoanalysis. Fortunately, I don't have any idea how to do that.

    While I'm at it, have you ever read a book in which you found yourself identifying with the "villain"? It's a very odd experience.

  2. Yes, but I can't remember which book it was. What are you reading? I had a similar experience years ago when I read "Fight Club" (don't bother, by the way), and found myself identifying with the protagonist and the antagonist which, as it turned out in the end, were the same person, but not in the man v self way, but the man v man way. Crazy book.

  3. Oh I don't know. Take "East of Eden" for example. We're clearly supposed to identify with Cal, but if I were in the story, I'd probably be more of an Aron myself. He's not exactly a villain, but he doesn't get much sympathy.

  4. As far as I'm concerned, "East of Eden" only really has one villain, because it has one of the very greatest of all villains, and what a scary day it would be when you identify with her! On the other hand, it's hard not to identify with someone like, say, Tom Riddle when you get the back story. The bad guy's "why" always makes a huge difference for me. I'm reminded for some reason of "Silence of the Lambs." (I need to read that one again. Fantastic thriller! I recommend it.) Oh, yeah! And "The Godfather."

  5. HP: Hermione, except that I can't figure out why we're not in Ravenclaw.

  6. I always felt like the "right to choose house" in HP was a little bit of a cop-out--a necessary one, though. Hermione belongs in Revanclaw and Ron in Hufflepuff.

  7. I agree. I mean, why the HECK would ANYONE EVER want to be in Hufflepuff? (Sorry for the caps, but there are no italics in comments.)

  8. Hey - love that last line... :-)