Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and
Seymour: An Introduction
by J.D. Salinger
Chances are if you're a high school student somewhere along the way you've read The Catcher in the Rye. For many teens, this book has become the bible of disillusionment and adolescent turmoil, but, unfortunately, much of its enjoyment can be lost if it is assigned reading.
In my opinion, however, it was not J.D. Salinger's best work. That great honor falls on the shoulders of the much lesser-known Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, two mini-novels (or long short stories, depending on how you look at it) that focus on Seymour Glass, the deceased older brother of the narrator, Buddy. Die-hard fans will know that Seymour is also the central character in other Salinger stories, most notably "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" (in Nine Stories) and to a lesser extent in Franny and Zooey. This book, nonetheless, is by far the most touching, intimate and intense look at what appears to be the autobiographical relationship between the two brothers. Salinger, as an author and person, remains enigmatic by nature - it is a well-known fact that he leads a reclusive existence in the countryside near the Canadian border - so the reader must wonder how much is truth and how much fiction. However, the personal feelings he exposes throughout his narrative reveal that in all probability Seymour was a brother in real life.
"Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters" is the story of Seymour's wedding day, in which the groom never actually appears. Much is learned about him and his bond with his brother through an amusing, clever plot and crisp dialogue. Moreover, the second story, "Seymour: An Introduction" is what I deem to be one of the most fantastic pieces of writing ever conceived by a human mind. It is an honest, conversational reflection on the author's feelings regarding his late brother. Salinger breaks down barriers between author and reader that were always insurmountable - until now. The story resembles a eulogy, a collection of memories about Seymour intermixed with anecdotes about Buddy's (or Salinger's) life, but it is so lively and exuberant that it becomes evident that the memories and spirit of Seymour have indeed remained alive and well.
This book is strongly suggested for all who enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye, or any who just wish to experience the scope of human feelings on the written page. This is an unbelievable book, but the literary techniques used by Salinger have such an incredible effect that it must be read to be understood. Just do it. .
Review by A. S., Seekonk, MA
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.