Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction
Family Quotes Page 3
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On the other hand, in the earlier, much shorter story I did, back in the late forties, lie not only appeared in the flesh but walked, talked, went for a dip in the ocean, and fired a bullet through his brain in the last paragraph. However, several members of my immediate, if somewhat far-flung, family, who regularly pick over my published prose for small technical errors, have gently pointed out to me (much too damned gently, since they usually cone down on me like grammarians) that the young man, the "Seymour," who did the walking and talking in that early story, not to mention the shooting, was not Seymour at all but, oddly, someone with a striking resemblance to - alley oop, I'm afraid - myself. Which is true, I think, or true enough to make inc feel a craftsman's ping of reproof. And while there's no good excuse for that kind of faux pas, I can't forbear to mention that that particular story was written just a couple of months after Seymour's death, and not too very long after I myself, like both the "Seymour" in the story and the Seymour in Real Life, had returned from the European Theater of Operations. I was using a very poorly rehabilitated, not to say unbalanced, German typewriter at the tine. ("Seymour" 1.7)
This complicates our understanding both of Seymour and of Buddy. To know that Buddy wrote "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" (the story referred to in this passage) is complicated in itself. But now we have to wonder how much of anything Buddy says about Seymour is misdirected self-reflection.
Used with moderation, a first-class verse is an excellent and usually fast-working form of heat therapy. Once, in the Army, when I had what might be termed ambulatory pleurisy for something over three months, my first real relief carne only when I had placed a perfectly innocent-looking Blake lyric in my shirt pocket and worn it like a poultice for a day or so. Extremes, though, arc always risky and ordinarily downright baneful, and the dangers of prolonged contact with any poetry that seems to exceed what we most familiarly know of the first-class are formidable. In any case, I'd be relieved to see my brother's poems moved out of this general small area, at least for a while. I feel mildly but extensively burned. ("Seymour" 1.10)
This connects Seymour and Buddy in two ways. First, it sends us back to the opening of "Roof Beam" when Buddy recalls Seymour using prose as a pacifier for Franny. Second, it reminds us of what Seymour had to say about getting scars on his hands from touching certain people. As Seymour will later say, the line between the two of them is blurry indeed.
It should have been a religious story, but it's puritanical. I feel your censure on all his Goddamns. That seems off to me. What is it but a low form of prayer when he or Les or anybody else God-damns everything? ("Seymour" 1.27)
Zooey Glass expresses very similar sentiments in the short story "Zooey" (also narrated by Buddy Glass, by the way). We can really see Seymour's influence on all of his younger siblings.