Mary McCarthy on Salinger's Closed Circut

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Who you callin' a phony? From her 1962 Harper's review of J.D Salinger's Frany and Zooey, here's Mary McCarthy:

Like Hemingway, Salinger sees the world in terms of allies and enemies. He has a good deal of natural style, a cruel ear, a dislike of ideas (the enemy’s intelligence system), a toilsome simplic­ity, and a ventriloquist’s knack of disguising his voice. The artless dialect written by Holden is an artful ventriloquial trick of Salinger’s, like the deliberate, halting English of Hemingway’s waiters, fishermen, and peasants — anyone who speaks it is a good guy, a friend of the author’s, to be trusted.

The Catcher in the Rye, like Hemingway’s books, is based on a scheme of exclusiveness. The characters are divided into those who belong to the club and those who don’t — the clean marlin, on the one hand, and the scavenger sharks on the other. Those who don’t belong are “born that way” — headmasters, philanthropists, roommates, teachers of history and English, football coaches, girls who like the Lunts. They cannot help the way they are, the way they talk; they are obeying a law of species — even the pimping elevator oper­ator, the greedy prostitute, the bisexual teacher of English who makes an approach to Holden in the dark.

It is not anybody’s fault if just about every­body is excluded from the club in the long run — everybody but Ring Lardner, Thomas Hardy, Gatsby, lsak Dinesen, and Holden’s little sister Phoebe. In fact it is a pretty sad situation, and there is a real adolescent sadness and lonely des­peration in The Catcher in the Rye; the passages where Holden, drunk and wild with grief, wan­ders like an errant pinball through New York at night are very good.

[Image Via: Fauxtografee]