off subject { J.D. Salinger }

May 08, 2009

In jury duty today I was re-reading two of the short stories in Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger, my second favorite short story collection (1st favorite goes to Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut) 

First I re-read Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut, which is the story that "My Foolish Heart" was loosely based upon, and which I love to read over and over and over. 

Then I re-read De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period. I'm not sure if you are familiar with this story, so I'll give you a little background- An art student living in NYC sees an ad for one of those mail-order art schools (send us your art & we'll have a real artist critique it for you) in Montreal, and applies immediately-- seriously padding his resume and dropping names left and right. (Picasso is his oldest family friend, dont'cha know?)

When he arrives in Montreal and meets his employer, Mr. Yoshoto, he is ridiculously nervous and eager to please him and this situation makes for the most hilarious paragraph ever. (Well, maybe not ever, but it did have me trying, and failing, to contain my laughter in the middle of a very quiet courtroom) 

He started to apologize for the fact that there were no chairs in his son's room--only floor cushions--but I quickly gave him to believe that for me this was little short of a godsend. (In fact, I think I said I hated chairs. I was so nervous that if he had informed me that his son's room was flooded, night and day, with a foot of water, I probably would have let out a little cry of pleasure. I probably would have said that I had a rare foot disease, one that required my keeping my feet wet eight hours daily.)

Maybe it's just me, but I cannot stop laughing when I read this. I can picture it so vividly in my mind! Reading De Daumier Smith's Blue Period and Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut got me to thinking about J.D. Salinger's decision to refuse selling his stories to Hollywood.  Apparently, My Foolish Heart was not what he had in mind at all when he wrote Uncle Wiggly (though it's one of my favorite films!) and, so upset was he, that he decided to never again let Hollywood make one of his stories into a movie.  I think this is a darn shame. 

Here's why: if, IF, J.D. Salinger ever changes his mind, or if his estate changes this rule after he's gone, the movies will be made in present day Hollywood, with present day actors and actresses. Nobody today could do justice to his stories like they could have in the 1940's or the 1950's. Okay, so he didn't like My Foolish Heart. Then try selling one to a different studio; request a specific director! His stubbornness may have cost the world a few really fantastic films.

I for one would never go to see a modern Salinger movie, not if you paid me a million dollars. (Okay, maybe a million, but no less!) Since the chance at seeing one of his films made the right way is long gone, I'll have to be content to imagine his characters in my minds eye, which, I guess, isn't so bad after all.

** The picture of the chairs behind the crossed out mark was taken by my brother, Kyle. It's a beautiful picture of chairs that he saw on a hillside in Vermont. Please take a look at the original (before I photoshopped all over it) here**


SP said...

I've always loved those shorts too. I was on holiday in NYC a few weeks ago and we went into a vintage shop in Williamsburg purely because it was called Franny & Roey and reminded me of the Salinger story (with Zooey, of course). Daft I know, but hey...
As for making a film of Salinger, it would never be the film in my mind's eye but I'm sure a few people could respect the period detail, no? (Although having said that, the only modern version of a mid-century book I can think of recently is Revolutionary Road and that was pretty contrived... Scrap that thought!)
One away from 100 followers now too, congrats!

Paul D Brazill said...

a classic collection.

Unknown said...

SP- Hey, I would have done the same thing! I was on a silly Three's Company streak in 2005, and while in Toronto I found a pub called "The Regal Beagle" (from the show) - I ate there very night!

I didn't see Revolutionary Road, I don't usually watch newer films all that much- but glad to hear I didn't miss much!

99 followers... ahh! I'm too excited!!

Paul- Indeed -- which is your favorite? I think mine is De Daumier Smith's Blue Period, if only for that one paragraph alone!