Friday, July 6, 2018

July 6: Nine Stories

This book sat on my mother's shelves throughout my childhood and I found myself attracted first to the weird cover with the pathetic sixties colors on the cover (why isn't Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes the GREEN box?). I picked it up in high school and have devoured it several times. I have never read Catcher in the Rye and it is unlikely I ever will. But these little stories have woven their way into my thought patterns.

My oldest daughter's middle name is Esme, for God's sake.

It is filled with midcentury themes of ennui, loneliness and disconnection--the idea that we can't really know each other at all (which I don't think I believe), snappy dialogue, precocious children and immature adults.

My book club that I don't belong to anymore, the way it worked was each month a new person picked the book, A-B-C order by last name. Each round through the members had a theme--one year was "books we should have read in school" and another was banned books and so forth. A couple years in, the theme was historical fiction. After we survived Pillars of the Earth, I tossed Nine Stories in the ring. It's historical...kind of...I mean, not really but now it is, written completely steeped in its own time.

My fellow members rejected it completely. They compared it to root canals and Mad Men.

I sat there with the old paperback copy, split down the middle through overuse, held together with a hair rubberband listening to a former English teacher break Salinger down into his base materials, finally admitting that she hadn't read Nine Stories, just Catcher in the Rye.

I dropped out of the book club after the next month, in which they read Cold Mountain, but I didn't even try to read. I was done talking about books in people's living rooms. Now my book discussions are "did you read that too? What did you think?" one on one with my mother or sister or friends.

Or here. Here is good.


  1. OMG, perfect cartoon. I have written about my love/hate relationship to book group before. I do like the people in it. But I haven't been once this year, and a only a few times last year. I'd say more, but I should blog it. I loved this book, but again, it's hard for me to remember it. The good news? It survived my book purge. I still have it (but not Catcher). Years ago, Tim and I used to make a (Moosewood?) dish called "A Perfect Day for Bananafish."

  2. I am very taken with, and laughing at the phrase, "They compared it to root canals and Mad Men."

  3. Another one for my list. Honestly, any book "held together with a rubber band" has to be good. I wanted so badly to join a book club, and when I did it was just disappointing. My fellow clubbers would ONLY read literary fiction. It felt more like a look-how-smart-I-am club than a book club.

  4. Our book club was always much more like a discussion of what we'd read and what we thought. No English lit analysis, thank goodness! And to be honest, I can't remember if I've read Catcher or not. It was never required reading here.

  5. I've read Franny and Zooey (loved it) and Catcher in the Rye (didn't like it), but not Nine Stories. Definitely adding it to my to-read list.

    1. There are stories in nine stories about Franny and zooeys family.