While known primarily for the novel The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger also wrote several highly-regarded short stories. This page looks at some of the most famous ones.
Salinger’s best known collection of short fiction is Nine Stories, published in 1953. It includes the following stories:
“A Perfect Day for Bananafish”
Muriel speaks on the phone with her mother about her husband, Seymour, who has returned from the war. Her mother is worried about Seymour’s driving and his general mental condition. Meanwhile, Seymour is on the beach, where he meets a young girl and tells her about the bananafish.
This story can be read in the preview of Nine Stories. (22% in)
“Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut”
Mary Jane arrives late for her visit with Eloise. The former college roommates drink, smoke and make idle chatter. After a while, Eloise’s daughter, Ramona, enters with her imaginary friend, Jimmy Jimmereeno. Mary Jane asks about him. The conversation eventually turns to Eloise’s old love, Walt Glass, a young soldier who was killed in an accident.
“Just Before the War with the Eskimos”
Ginny and Selena, high school classmates, have played tennis every Saturday for the past five weeks. They take a cab home, stopping at Selena’s place first. Except for the first week, Ginny has gotten stuck paying the full fare each time. She brings it up and asks for the money she’s owed. The argue about it a bit. They both go in at Selena’s place. While waiting, Ginny meets Selena’s brother, Franklin, and then his friend, Eric.
“The Laughing Man”
The narrator remembers his time as a nine-year-old when he was part of the Comanche Club. The leader, called “The Chief”, would take the boys on schooldays, Saturdays and holidays to play sports or go to a museum. After their activity, “The Chief” would tell them the next installment in a series of stories about The Laughing Man.
“Down at the Dinghy”
Sandra and Mrs. Snell, the maid and cleaning lady, talk about something that Sandra says she’s made up her mind not to worry about. They talk about the owner’s four-year-old son, Lionel, how he’s always underfoot and you have to be careful what you say. It seems Lionel overheard something Sandra said about his father. Boo Boo Tanenbaum, the lady of the house, enters and talks about Lionel, who’s down at the boat preparing to run away again.
“For Esmé—with Love and Squalor”
The narrator is invited to a wedding in England that he won’t be able to attend. He writes a few things about the bride, whom he knew about six years earlier. In 1944 he was with the American forces in Devon. After his training, he walked into town. He went into a church where a children’s choir was practicing. He was affected by the performance, particularly that of a thirteen-year-old girl named Esmé.
“Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes”
Lee is home with a woman. When the phone rings he checks with her before answering. It’s Arthur, a man who was just at the same party as Lee. He asks if Lee noticed when Joannie, his wife, left the party. She’s not home yet. She might have left with the Ellenbogens, but he can’t get in touch with them. Lee speculates on her whereabouts and Arthur continues to rant.
“De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period”
John Smith applies as an instructor at a Montreal correspondence art school. He embellishes his credentials and adopts the name Jean de Daumier Smith. The job turns out less glamorous than he expected. He finds himself dissatisfied with the student work that he encounters. He is impressed by the work of a nun, Sister Irma.
The McArdle family returns to America on a luxury liner after a tour of Great Britain. The ten-year-old son, “Teddy”, has been interviewed by professors for his mystical and philosophical inclinations. He ignores the direction of his father. He’s sent to find his sister, Booper, who has her father’s expensive camera.
Three Early Stories
Three Early Stories was first published in 2014 and was the first time these stories appeared in book form. It includes:
- “The Young Folks“, where two young people at a cocktail party have an inane, disconnected conversation.
- “Go See Eddie“, where a brother tries to convince his sister to pursue a job with his friend and to break off a relationship with a married man.
- “Once a Week Won’t Kill You“, where a new soldier prepares his aunt for his departure and urges his wife to visit her.
Franny and Zooey
The volume Franny and Zooey, first published together in 1961, contains the short story “Franny” and the longer story (novella) “Zooey”.
Lane Coutelle, along with many other young college men, is waiting at the train station for his date to arrive. He takes out a worn letter from Franny and starts reading it again. She expresses her love for him, and asks that he not analyze everything too much when they’re together. They have a happy reunion and go to lunch. Lane talks at length about college, while Franny seems disillusioned with the experience.
Some of this story can be read in the Amazon preview, above.
The novella “Zooey” picks up right after the events of “Franny“. Her brother Zooey, who’s back at home, reads an old letter from their brother Buddy. Their mother is concerned about Franny, who’s also staying at home.
Other Salinger Short Stories
Salinger published many other short stories in magazines which, as far as I know, haven’t been collected yet. He also wrote many others that remain unpublished.