Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters; let the poor readers out

J. D. Salinger’s 1963 bestselling fiction book is not a novel but two long stories that had appeared earlier in The New Yorker.

Like Salinger’s 1961 novel Fanny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction are told by Buddy Glass. Buddy is second of the seven children of Les and Bessie Glass all of whose college educations were paid for by their “guest appearances” on a children’s radio quiz program, “It’s a Wise Child.”

In the first of the stories, the eldest Glass child, Seymour, is getting married. None of the other family members can attend, so Buddy is ordered to pull himself out of his bed in the post hospital at Fort Benning and go to the wedding in New York City. He arrives in time to find that Seymour has left the bride waiting at the altar. Buddy piles into a car with bizarre people he has never met for a ride to what was to have been the reception.

In the other story, a few years later, Seymour has committed suicide while vacationing with his family in Florida. (He and the bride-to-be of the first story eloped from the site of the wedding reception.)

Buddy writes about his beloved older brother as a tribute, but also, apparently, as therapy. It doesn’t appear to be particularly effective therapy. All Buddy’s wisecracks and word plays cannot hide his misery.

Buddy will wring sympathy from readers, but I fear sorrow will be combined with an intense wish that he’d go blubber somewhere else.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters
and Seymour: An Introduction
by J. D. Salinger
Little, Brown
248 pages
1963 bestseller #3
My grade C-
 © 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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