One of the best qualities of J.D. Salinger’s writing is his characters: their interactions that are laden with nuanced layers and characterized with conversations that are so realistic and natural in feel that you could overhear any one of them anytime. Not one who lays out the obvious conclusion, Salinger’s work leads you to the conclusions that he wants, or leaves you with enough information to make a decision for yourself: either way you will walk away with a different perspective and the feeling that you have entrée into some secrets you never knew before.
In this collection, three of his short stories are gathered together and carry a common thread in the interactions between the characters. Salinger is not only proving himself as the consummate observer of human behavior, but his skill in word choice and deft manipulation of the reader’s emotions as the stories all carry very specific starts, climaxes and conclusions.
Starting with The Young Ones, a group of college aged people are gathered at a party, and the story shows those “small talk” moments between people, gossip, connections and innuendo. With dialogue that clearly shows inattention and disinterest, it is one of those scenes all too familiar to many.
In the second story, Go See Eddie, the purported simple interaction between a brother and sister gradually increases in malice as the two butt heads over a simple request. But, as with all things Salinger, simple requests are often nothing close to straightforward, and his ability to use his observational skills is highlighted as he sets the scene, describing the room to the smallest detail, including the patterns of sunshine.
Lastly is also the oldest story, Once a Week Won’t Kill You, a series of reminiscences and emotions that hit with great poignancy, as a young man heading to war is preparing his family for his leaving. Laden with what was and what will come all manage to layer the story with both a temporary and final goodbye, the emotional impact of the ‘possible’ is only revealed in the description of the action moments: deliberately to vaguely, done in such a way that while voices don’t crack, you just know the emotions are just below the surface.
Narrated by Mike Dennis, the first story started off a touch rough and felt very “read” rather than performed in the early sentences, he quickly managed to remove that slight hesitancy from his delivery and the story started to flow smoothly. His voice is slightly gruff, and that works well for the male characters, clipping or drawing out sounds and words to add the emotion necessary. For the female voices he does not (thankfully) over-reach for a particularly female tone, rather taking a softer sibilance and raising the pace slightly, not particularly ‘female’ in sound, but clearly feminine in pattern and approach. There is no overreach or overly exaggerated delivery here, each choice, like Salinger’s words, is carefully approached and consistently applied.
If you are a fan of Salinger, or you want a particularly good collection of short stories in written or audio form, this is the collection for you.
Stars Overall: 5 Narration: 5 Story: 5
Title: Three Early Stories
Author: J.D. Salinger
Narrator: MIke Dennis
Published by: The Devault-Graves Agency
Source: Audio Producer
Audio Length: 39 minutes
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A young and ambitious writer named Jerome David Salinger set his goals very high very early in his career.
He almost desperately wished to publish his early stories in The New Yorker magazine, the pinnacle, he felt, of America’s literary world. But such was not to be for several long years and the length of one long world war. The New Yorker, whose tastes in literary matters were and remain notoriously prim and fickle, was not quite ready for this brash and over-confident newcomer with the cynical worldview and his habit of slangy dialogue.
But other magazines were quick to recognize a new talent, a fresh voice at a time when the world verged on madness. Story magazine, an esteemed and influential small circulation journal devoted exclusively to the art of the short story and still active and respected today, was the first publication to publish the name J.D. Salinger and the story “The Young Folks” in 1940, an impressive view of New York’s cocktail society and two young people talking past one another, their conversation almost completely meaningless and empty.
His next short story was published in a college journal, The University of Kansas City Review. “Go See Eddie” is a tale of quiet menace as an unsavory male character gradually turns up the pressure on a young lady to see a man named Eddie. Also published in 1940, the story is notable for the backstory that is omitted — a technique that Hemingway used to great effect.
Four years later toward the end of Salinger’s war experience saw the publication of “Once A Week Won’t Kill You,” again in Story magazine. Ostensibly about a newly minted soldier trying to tell an aging aunt he is going off to war, some may see the story as a metaphor for preparing one’s family for the possibility of wartime death.
Devault-Graves Digital Editions, a publisher that specializes in reprinting the finest in American period literature, is proud to bring you this anthology by one of America’s most innovative and inspiring authors.