Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction Seymour: an Introduction Summary
The narrative opens with two epigraphs. The first is from Franz Kafka and deals with the writer's ability to write about his subject matter. This ability is checked by love for the subject matter, Kafka tells us.
The second epigraph is from Søren Kierkegaard, and speaks to errors that are important parts of their surrounding compositions. In the case of writing, such errors stand as evidence that the writer is a poor writer.
Buddy Glass is once again the narrator, only now the year is 1959 and he is 40. He begins by wondering what you (his reader) are like.
Buddy found out about his general reader years ago. As a general reader, you are a great bird lover, and you wonder at the fact that their steady-state temperature is 125 degrees Fahrenheit and that only a few living people have ever seen the curlew sandpiper. Anyway, he knows you well enough to guess "what kind of well-meant gesture might be welcomed" right now, and that turns out to be "this unpretentious bouquet of very early-blooming parentheses: (((( ))))" ("Seymour" 1.1).
He then informs you that right now he is an ecstatically happy man, and has never been before. He claims that a happy writer can do great things on the page, but that he can't do them briefly or with any sense of detachment. So be prepared.
Buddy explains that he will not do a good job of simply getting on with the story, there will be many parenthetical breaks, and he will stop at every possible moment to point out interesting things to you as he goes along. If you're not ready, he advises that you leave now, though he may point out additional exit points as he goes.
Buddy moves on to discuss his two epigraphs. He's chosen these paragraphs because he feels they are representative of the two writers quoted (Kafka and Kierkegaard) but also of "all the four dead men, the four variously notorious Sick Men or under adjusted bachelors" whom Buddy always turns to when he wants "any perfectly credible information about modern artistic processes" ("Seymour" 1.2). These other two men in this group of Sick Artists turn out to be Van Gogh and Seymour Glass himself.
Buddy says the quotes "stand in regard to the over-all mass of data [he] hope[s] to assemble here" ("Seymour" 1.2).
Buddy digresses to the topic of psychology, noting that "the artist and Sick man [he's] loved most in the world" (that would be Seymour) has been poked and prodded at by every brand of professional Freudian who stopped short only of taking a brain smear from the poor boy ("Seymour" 1.2).
Buddy returns to the idea of the sick artist and explores the concept further.
The sick artist laments his sickness at length, but if you ask him where it hurts he can't tell you or get help. He may claim at times to want to lose both his sickness and creativity and live a normal life, but he usually realizes that everyone is dying, and he is "at least being done in by the most stimulating companion […] he has ever known" ("Seymour" 1.2).
At least, that's what the rumors say about Sick Artists, and Buddy feels that Seymour reinforced the stereotype.
He wonders now, where the bulk of the pain that a sick artist feels comes from. He sends you back to his epigraphs so that you may conclude with him: the eyes.
The true artist – poet or painter – is really a seer. "Isn't it clear?" asks Buddy. "Don't those cries come straight from the eyes? However contradictory the coroner's report – whether he pronounces Consumption or Loneliness or Suicide to be the cause of death – isn't it plain how the true artist-seer actually dies? I say (and everything that follows in these pages all too possibly stands or falls on my being at least nearly right) – I say that the true artist-seer, the heavenly fool who can and does produce beauty, is mainly dazzled to death by his own scruples, the blinding shapes and colors of his own sacred human conscience." ("Seymour" 1.2). "My credo is stated," he concludes ("Seymour" 1.3).
Buddy figures he'd better get on to the business stated in his title: introducing Seymour. Seymour killed himself in 1948 while vacationing on Florida with his wife. While alive, he was a lot of things to a lot of people and everything to the Glass siblings, including the family poet and mystic.
Seymour was so many things, that Buddy has trouble writing about him with normal narrative compactness. He planned to write a story called SEYMOUR ONE, and follow it with SEYMOUR TWO and so forth, but has found this to be impossible.
"I'm anything but a short-story writer where my brother is concerned," he says. "What I am, I think, is a thesaurus of undetached prefatory remarks about him. […] I want to introduce, I want to describe, I want to distribute mementos, amulets, I want to break out my wallet and pass around snapshots, I want to follow my nose" ("Seymour" 1.4).
Buddy admits that he's been talking about Seymour as though he's a saint, but sure, the guy had his faults. A real God-knower, as Seymour was, often ends up looking like a fool, says Buddy.
For example, take Seymour's speech patterns. He was either silent or a non-stop talker. In a house full of verbose Glass children, he was indisputably the champion talker, though he certainly did not want the title.
Buddy admits that he's written about his brother before. In fact, he can't help but write about his brother, even accidentally. In the text, he alludes to several of Salinger's other works (of course claiming them as his own), including "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," "Teddy," "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters," and even Catcher in the Rye (though this last allusion is subject to debate).
When discussing "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" – the story of Seymour's suicide – Buddy admits that, as several members of his family pointed out, he actually ended up crafting the character of "Seymour" more after himself than his brother.
Buddy again notes how happy he is and how much it is affecting his writing. If you, his reader, indeed loves birds, as he earlier suggested, then you surely love the poet "who can write a poem that is a poem," for among human beings, he is the curlew sandpiper ("Seymour" 1.8).
Seymour was such a poet (or sandpiper, if you want to carry the metaphor through).
Since Seymour's suicide, Buddy has been sitting on a collection of Seymour's poetry written in the last three years of his life. He now intends to pick 150 poems and send them to a publisher. Buddy takes a moment to explore why he wants to do this now after having sat on them for a decade.
First, he says, his family has been pressuring him to do something with the poems instead of keeping them hidden.
Second, he has a theory about keeping contact too long with valuable writing. Once, in the Army, when he had pleurisy (a painful lung condition), he wrote a Blake lyric on a piece of paper and stuck it in his shirt pocket. It cured him. But he worries that prolonged contact with Seymour's poetry is starting to leave a burn, and he had better get rid of the material soon.
He explains that Seymour was drawn first to Chinese and then to Japanese poetry. Buddy struggles to define what makes a very good Chinese or Japanese poet, but a story comes to mind in the process.
Once, when he and Seymour were six and eight years old, his parents threw a retirement party for and invited about sixty people. Seymour watched all the guests all night long, and then at the end of the night, he was able to bring everyone their proper coats and hats without asking what belonged to whom.
"Now, I don't necessarily suggest that this kind of feat is typical of the Chinese or Japanese poet," writes Buddy, "and certainly I don't mean to imply that it makes him what he is. But I do think, that if a Chinese or Japanese verse composer doesn't know whose coat is whose, on sight, his poetry stands a remarkably slim chance of ever ripening. And eight, I'd guess, is very nearly the outside age limit for mastering this small feat" ("Seymour" 1.10).
Buddy then moves on to the subject matter of Chinese and Japanese poetry. People generally call it "simple," but Buddy doesn't like this word. He gives a few examples of famous short poems and then asserts that the subject matter chooses the writer, not the other way around.
Seymour's interest in poetry began when he was eleven. Seymour was at the public library with Buddy, when he discovered translated verses of P'ang's poetry.
After this discovery, he used to jot his own little poems down in his spare time, and his family was forever going through his jacket pockets looking for new gems.
Though there is no break in the text, Buddy informs his reader that a day has passed between this and the last sentence, in which he called up Boo Boo (his sister) to see if she had a favorite poem of Seymour's that she would care to have included in this introduction.
She picked one that Seymour wrote when he was eight: "John Keats / John Keats / John / Please put your scarf on" ("Seymour" 1.12).
When he was 22, Seymour had a thin volume of written poems, and Buddy wanted him to submit it for publication.
But Seymour explains that his poems were too Un-Western. He lives in the Western world of big refrigerators and eight-cylinder cars, but there is no trace of his Western life in his "lotusy" poems ("Seymour" 1.12).
Seymour says that when he writes poems he thinks about Miss Overman, the public librarian. He knows that if he published something, she might read it after reading Wordsworth or Browning, and anything he publishes would have to satisfy her at that moment.
Buddy is certain, though, that Seymour came to be satisfied with his work in the last three years of his life, when he finally discovered the form that suited his poetry best.
(Buddy digresses in a footnote to say that he can't paste any of Seymour's poems in here, because they belong legally to his widow, who doesn't want them included in this story.)
The form was a sort of double-haiku, a six-line verse (haiku's are usually three lines), generally iambic, 34 syllables.
Most of these poems can be read by anyone, says Buddy, but he "wouldn't unreservedly recommend the last thirty or thirty-five poems to any living soul who hasn't died at least twice in his lifetime, preferably slowly" ("Seymour" 1.13). His own favorites are the final two.
The second-to-last poem is about a married woman and mother having an affair. She comes home late one night from a tryst and finds a balloon on her bedspread.
The last poem is about a young suburban widower who sits on his patch of lawn one night to look at the moon. His white cat comes over and the man allows her to bite his left hand.
Seymour's verses are generally bare. Buddy and Seymour's sister Franny found it odd that Seymour specified that the cat bit the left hand. She felt this was something Buddy would do, not Seymour, and that it was an unnecessary and unpoetic detail.
Buddy argues rather vehemently that this is not the case. "I know how my brother felt about human hands," he says. "I'm certain in my own mind that Seymour thought it vital to suggest that it was the left, the second-best, hand the young widower let the white cat press her needle-sharp teeth into, thereby leaving the right hand free for breast- or foreheadsmiting" ("Seymour" 1.14).
He also adds that, as a prolific reader, he can generally tell when a writer is writing from first, second, or tenth experience, or is just making things up all together.
From the poem about the widower, Buddy would have guessed that Seymour had buried at least one wife that the family never knew about. "He hadn't, of course" adds Buddy, "and was about as far from being a widower as a young American male can be" ("Seymour" 1.14). Their brother Waker contends that Seymour is writing from experiences in a past life.
Seymour wrote another Haiku-style poem, in Japanese, and left it on the desk in his hotel room right before he killed himself. It was about a young girl on the plane sitting in front of him, who turned her doll's head around to look at him. Buddy is sure that such an event did not actually occur, as Seymour's poetry never reveals any real details from his Western life.
Buddy knows that he's going on too much about his brother's poetry, but that since he's started he feels he won't get another chance to make a final statement on the status of his brother as a poet.
He asserts that in America, "we have had only three or four very nearly nonexpendable poets," and that "Seymour will eventually stand with those few" ("Seymour" 1.15). It will take some time, and first his work will have to be subjected to the responses of various critics, but "a real artist […] will survive anything," even poetry critics ("Seymour" 1.15).
Buddy remembers once when they were boys and Seymour woke him up to say that he had finally figured out why Christ said to call no man fool. (This had bothered Seymour, apparently, because is sounded more like Emily Post advice than the words of a savior.) Seymour said that this was because there were no fools. Dopes, yes, but fools, no. And so, says Buddy, over time, even poetry critics will prove themselves unfoolish.
Buddy has a feeling that, once Seymour's poems have become part of the literary canon, students of literature from all over will come banging on his door wanting to know more about Seymour. He explains that he lives in a secluded house in the woods and teaches at a Women's college, so people know where he is if they want to find him.
There are three types of students who would venture forward, he expounds. The first type is the student "who loves and respects to distraction any fairly responsible sort of literature and who […] will make do with seeking out manufacturers of inferior but estimable products." These types are "naïve […], alive, […] enthusiastic, […] usually less than right, […] ebullient, cocksure, irritating, instructive, [and] often charming" ("Seymour" 1.16).
The second type "suffers, somewhat proudly, from a case of academicitis" ("Seymour" 1.16). These are the pretentious academics who use fancy words like "Zeitgeist."
The third type is the student who is more interested in the personal lives of writers than in the writing itself. He points out that everyone knows about the gossip surrounding Percy Bysshe Shelley's personal life, but can't say too much about his work " Ozymandias."
This reminds him of another of Seymour's poems, in which an old ascetic on his deathbed, surrounded by chanting priests, strains to hear what the wash lady outside is saying about his neighbor's laundry. On first read, says Buddy, this is a shocker, but on subsequent reads, "as heartening a paean to the living" that he's ever read ("Seymour" 1.17).
At any rate, he says, people seem to really like poets who have something wrong with them in their personal lives.
Buddy wonders how he can write all this and still feel happy. Yet, he is still elated.
He was going to say that should any of these students actually stop by to ask him about Seymour, he would not receive them well.
As both he and Seymour spent the better part of their childhoods answering questions on a radio quiz program, he doesn't have an interest in talking about it anymore. Also, he adds, he has the Glass family disease, which makes him run in the opposite direction any time he sees someone under forty approaching.
That's what Buddy intended to tell you, but he has just realized that, in fact, he longs to be questioned about Seymour. He knows that he's the only one alive with such intimate knowledge of the deceased. So let any interested parties come and ask him what they will.
Buddy takes a moment to talk about his family history; they are descended from a long line of entertainers. Their parents, Les and Bessie, were a Vaudeville duo, and the entertainment genes were passed along to all of the Glass children. Both Franny and Zooey, the two youngest, are professional actors, and the other Glass children were also, if to a lesser degree.
Buddy suggests that poems are Seymour's manifestation of the family genes – Seymour juggles words.
buddy digresses to an anecdote. One night, when Buddy and Seymour were adults and living in their own apartment in New York, their father Les stopped by, in a bad mood. He asked Seymour if he remembered riding around on the handlebars of Joe Jackson's bicycle when he was a little kid. (Joe Jackson was a fellow entertainer who worked with Bessie and Les.)
Seymour replied that he wasn't sure he'd ever gotten off that beautiful bicycle. Buddy believes that this answer was very true.
(Buddy explains that two months have elapsed in between the previous paragraph and this one.)
He was sick in bed with hepatitis, but now he is better and up and about. He is eager to emphasize that that his previous happiness was not simply the fever of oncoming illness, but was in fact very genuine. In fact, he is still, at this time, very much elated.
The sickness did not leave him unmarred, however. He is no longer inspired to write about Seymour. Seymour grew too big while Buddy was away sick.
However, he has just done something this evening that gives him the confidence that he'll be back at work again tomorrow, writing. He's read a letter that Seymour left for him back in 1940.
Buddy prepares to present several notes that Seymour left for him when they were younger. All of the notes are written responses to Buddy's short stories, which Seymour was always the first to read.
Buddy reveals seven separate short responses that Seymour once wrote him. Seymour is very reflective and particular about his responses. (It's a good idea to read the book to get the proper feel for Seymour's voice.)
After these short seven responses, Buddy presents one long memo. This memo is the longest piece of writing he's ever received from Seymour. It was written in 1940 in response to the most ambitious literary output of Buddy's career to date. Buddy was 21 at the time; Seymour was 23 and a professor of English.
In the memo, Seymour has a lot to say to Buddy and isn't sure of how to organize his thoughts. He tells Buddy that earlier that day he wrote something which ended up sounding more like Buddy's writing than his own. But he doesn't think this is so bad. He thinks there is a thin membrane between the two of them, and adds that he, Buddy, and Zooey have been brothers for at least their last four incarnations.
Then he tells him that he borrowed and wore a special necktie that Buddy had hidden away and told him not to take. Seymour felt a special pleasure in wearing the forbidden object.
He advises Buddy that his writing should be compelling "because all your stars are out" ("Seymour" 1.37). He tells him that writing is his [Buddy's] religion, not his profession, and he ought to treat it as such. He advises that Buddy write the one thing that Buddy would most like to read.
The memo ends. Buddy says he's tired and is going to go to bed, but he'll resume this piece tomorrow. Then Buddy will take Seymour's advice, and write the thing that he most wants to read: a full physical description of Seymour.
Buddy begins by telling you an anecdote. He remembers going to the barbershop with Seymour and getting upset about the fact that he always ended up with Seymour's hair all over him. He told Seymour this once, to his great regret, because Seymour from then on always took great pains to stop his hair from jumping onto Buddy.
Buddy stops to ask what he intends to do with this here piece of writing. He wants to publish it, but he wants it to be such that he won't even have to mail it to the publishers. Instead, he'll just give it some train fare and it will take itself down to the publishing house. He's had enough for one night and he's going to bed.
It's another night of writing, and Buddy tells us that Seymour had very wiry black hair. Seymour's hair was "pullable" stuff that got pulled quite frequently by the babies in the family.
Seymour loved all the children and their horseplay, where Buddy only loved the childish horseplay sometimes.
He explains that Seymour had a way of genuinely instructing the younger siblings, whereas when Buddy tried he sounded like he was being overbearing.
Buddy digresses into a discussion on the nature of his Introduction, which he refers to as a confession of sorts. He says that he's writing about the only truly large person he's ever known, a person who "kept, on the sly, a whole closetful of naughty, tiresome little vanities" ("Seymour" 3.3).
In an aside, Buddy notes that Seymour said nothing frightened him about teaching except for the penciled commentary that students had written in the margins of books he took out of the library. Buddy's point is that he knows that all readers are not skilled readers.
He decides that he'll never finish this piece on Seymour, because for it to be complete he would have to touch on the details of Seymour's suicide, which he's not, and won't be for some time, prepared to do.
He also takes stock of the fact that he is writing this from his own 40-year-old point-of-view, and will keep this in mind as he goes. But he knows if he and Seymour's positions were reversed, and if Seymour were writing as a 40-year-old, he'd be "so affected – so stricken, in fact – by his gross seniority as narrator and official shot-caller that he'd abandon this project" ("Seymour" 3.4).
Buddy takes a moment to consider the task at hand, a full physical description of Seymour. "It would help enormously if some kind soul were to send me a telegram stating precisely which Seymour he'd prefer me to describe," he says ("Seymour" 3.8).
When Buddy pictures Seymour, he simultaneously sees him at various ages doing various things.
He decides to go to bed.
A new day. Buddy thinks he should let one of his parents have the first word when it comes to describing Seymour. Bessie (their mother) always noted Seymour's tallness, though he was only five ten-and-a-half ("a short tall man" by Buddy's standards) ("Seymour" 4.1).
Seymour never particularly enjoyed being tall, and he was always glad that Zooey grew up to be short, as "he was a firm believer in low centers of gravity for real actors" ("Seymour" 4.1).
Onto Seymour's smile. He was always smiling when others were somber and vice versa. But Buddy liked this about him. Seymour didn't smile just because it was social to smile. He was one of the few adults in New York with an unguarded face.
Next is ears. Seymour had long, fleshy lobes that seemed like something out the Tang dynasty (or earlier, according to Buddy).
Once, Boo Boo hung a pair of rings detached from a loose-leaf notebook from his ears. She found it endlessly amusing, and Seymour left them on all night.
Buddy is ready to go to bed. He's tempted to pass up the rest of Seymour's face, except for the eyes, because he feels he ought to leave something to the reader's imagination.
Seymour's eyes, like those of the entire Glass family, were brown and had half-circles visible underneath. Buddy explains that he wrote a story once (he here alludes to "Teddy") in which the main character's eyes were given a thorough description. He repeats the description here for you, in quotes. He was trying to get at Seymour's eyes, he explains, but this description is in no way reflective of the attempted subject.
Now the nose. Really the only way to tell that Seymour and Buddy were brothers was by their noses and chins. They had almost no chins and very noticeable noses (that of their grandfather Zozo). Seymour's was particular in that it had a crooked bend in it, from when "someone in the family was rather dreamily making practice swings with a baseball bat in the hall" ("Seymour" 5.3). Buddy goes to bed again.
The next night, Buddy doesn't dare to look back over what he has written so far. But he concludes, based on the details he's covered so far, that Seymour was an Attractive Ugly Man.
Actually, all the Glass children were pretty homely growing up. But this never bothered Buddy. He believed that he was charming and able and anyone who thought otherwise was simply acting in poor taste.
Seymour cared either entirely or not at all about his appearance. When he cared, it was for the sake of other people, like his sister Boo Boo, who went through a period of great social consciousness.
Buddy notes that he's spent all this time on the features of Seymour's face without touching on the life of his face at all. This is depressing for Buddy. Yet he feels that he's learned from all these attempts over the last eleven years to capture Seymour on paper. He's learned that Seymour "cannot be got at with understatement" ("Seymour" 6.2).
Buddy explains that he's burned at least a dozen stories about Seymour since 1948. What starts as an understatement turns quickly, into a lie.
Though he has described Seymour as an Attractive Ugly man, Buddy explains that there are parts of him that were rather attractive. His hands, for example.
After going on at length about the beauty of Seymour's hands, Buddy wonders if such poetic waxing threatens his status as a heterosexual man. But he insists that there is "an enormous amount of the androgynous in any all-or-nothing prose writer" ("Seymour" 6.5).
Then there is Seymour's incredible voice, "the best wholly imperfect musical instrument" Buddy has ever listened to ("Seymour" 6.6). However, at this moment, he would like to postpone giving you a full description.
Seymour's skin, he continues, was dark and extremely clear. He never had a pimple, much to Buddy's jealousy, despite the fact that he wasn't very good about staying clean. Seymour once tried to skip out on going to the barber's with Buddy because he was embarrassed that his neck wasn't clean.
Buddy goes to bed again.
Buddy moves on to the subject of clothes. He says that writers hold back in giving too much information about a character's clothes because the reader might not draw the same conclusions that the writer intends him to draw.
As older boys, both Seymour and Buddy were terrible dressers. When they were small their mother Bessie used to take them to a store called De Pinna's on Fifth Avenue, and as soon as they were old enough they started going on their own.
As an example, Buddy talks about the clothes they wore to the radio show in 1933, the last year they appeared on the show together. Buddy came every night in a double-breasted pale-gray suit with heavily padded shoulders over a midnight-blue shirt and a yellow necktie.
Seymour wore very orderly clothes that fit him terribly. However, once he put an article of clothing on, he stopped being conscious of it. Yet he picked them out at the store with incredible care.
Buddy segues into a discussion of Seymour's movement. Seymour never walked up stairs, but bounded up them. And this doesn't surprise Buddy. A good amount of sheer physical stamina is required to get through a first-class poem, and so it's fitting that Seymour was one of the few nearly tireless men he knew. He never saw Seymour yawn.
And Seymour didn't sleep much. He would sometimes go two or three nights without sleep, and the only indication was that he felt imaginary cold drafts and had to wear several pairs of socks at a time.
Buddy says good night again.
It is Thursday, says Buddy, and he is back in his old chair. He's been trying to think of a way to introduce Seymour as an athlete without irritating those who dislike athletics.
Buddy himself is a big baseball fan. He thinks part of the reason he was so popular on "It's a Wise Child" is that he knew all the facts one could know about baseball by the time he was two.
Though he is hesitant to present Seymour as an athlete, he must. Seymour loved all sports and games, and he was either very good or very bad at them. He always had a unique way of playing, too. When he played ping-pong, for example, he would slam down each shot as though he were returning a lob. He played tennis the same way.
In Go Fish games, he used to tell his opponents which cards to ask him for. In poker, he would let someone else win if he liked him. In soccer, he would charge down the field and then wait for the goalie to get a good position before he took a shot. In football, he was an asset so long as he didn't suddenly "elect to give his heart to an oncoming tackler" ("Seymour" 8.6).
Buddy explains the nature of stoopball, a game they play in the city that involves throwing a rubber ball against an outdoor wall. Seymour threw like he was smashing a ping-pong ball – downwards. And yet he was infinitely better than anyone else. When others tried to throw like him, they just lost.
He details another game where the first player rolls a marble along the street, and the second player rolls another marble and tries to hit the first one. If you hit the first guy's marble, you got to keep it. Buddy tells an anecdote about playing marbles with his friend one evening just as it was starting to get dark. Seymour came out and told him not to aim so much at trying to hit the other guy's marble. If you aim and hit it, he said, then you only hit it by luck.
Of course, this seems counterintuitive to Buddy, but Seymour makes a decent argument.
In re-telling this tale, Buddy has a revelation of sorts: "A place has been prepared for each of us in his own mind," he says. "Until a minute ago, I'd seen mine four times during my life. This is the fifth time. I'm going to stretch out on the floor for a half hour or so. I beg you to excuse me" ("Seymour" 8.10).
Buddy returns and explains that he was not intoxicated by his own powers of total recall. Rather, it suddenly struck him that Seymour is his Davega bicycle (he'll explain in a moment). All his life, he's been waiting to give away a Davega bicycle, and this is it.
When Buddy was thirteen and Seymour fifteen, they walked in on a scene in their living room. Les was raging, Bessie was upset, and their younger brother Waker (it was his birthday that day) was in tears. Les laid the case before Seymour who was family arbiter.
It seems that, for the twins' birthday (the twins being Walt and Waker), Les and Bessie gave them very nice over-the-birthday-budget matching red Davega bicycles – bicycles they had been admiring in the store window for almost a year. Then that afternoon in Central Park, while the twins were riding around, some little boy that Waker had never seen in his life asked for the bicycle. And Waker gave it to him.
Buddy won't explain the details of how Seymour managed to reconcile everyone in about three minutes (which he did) – that's not the point of his story. His point is the "blatantly personal one" he has already stated, namely that Seymour is his Davega bicycle ("Seymour" 9.2).
Buddy returns to the story of Seymour's coaching (re: the marble game) from the curb that night at dusk. Seymour was ten at the time, and Buddy believes that he was "instinctively getting at something very close in spirit to the sort of instructions a master archer in Japan will give when he forbids a willful new student to aim his arrows at the target; that is, when the archery master permits, as it were, Aiming but no aiming" ("Seymour" 9.3).
He doesn't want to discuss Zen any further, however; Buddy dislikes Western writers who promote Zen while misunderstanding it completely.
Buddy himself is not a Zen Buddhist, nor is he Zen adept. He's studied it, he says, and he teaches a class on Zen literature at his college, but what little he's really been able to apprehend of the Zen experience is the result of following his own "rather natural path of extreme Zenlessness […], largely because Seymour himself literally begged [him] to do so" ("Seymour" 9.3).
Anyway, he says, there's no need to bring anything Zen or even Eastern into this. If you want to understand what Seymour was getting at when he told Buddy not to aim, just relate it to "the fine art of snapping a cigarette end into a small wastebasket from across the room" ("Seymour" 9.3).
What follows is going to be his last physical notation on Seymour, and it takes the form of another anecdote.
When he was a boy, Buddy pretended that he was the Fastest Boy Runner in the World. One night, Bessie sent him to get a few quarts of ice cream at the corner store. As soon as he turned the corner from their building, he broke into a sprint, eager to demonstrate (to himself) that he was indeed the fastest boy runner in the world.
On the way, he suddenly felt that someone was coming up behind him. He ran as hard as he could, but the someone caught up to him and grabbed his sweater. It turned out to be Seymour, who was terribly worried and wanted to know what was wrong. Why was Buddy running that way?
Of course Buddy explained that he was just running for fun. But it always hurt his pride that Seymour was able to catch up to him from a considerable starting lag. Also, he adds, "I was extremely busy noticing that he was panting a lot. It was oddly diverting to see him pant" ("Seymour" 9.6).
And now he's finished, says Buddy, or rather, this piece is finished with him. He doesn't like stories that follow a typical beginning-middle-end structure.
Also, he notes, it's just about seven in the morning, and he has to teach class at nine in that awful room 307. He'd like to say something caustic about the college students he teaches, but the fact is he can't write something about Seymour "without being conscious of the good, the real" ("Seymour" 9.7).
"I can't be my brother's brother for nothing," he says, "and I know – not always, but I know – there is no single thing I do that is more important than going into that awful Room 307" ("Seymour" 9.7). Because all the girls in there are as much his sister as Franny or Boo Boo, and they all shine. And there's really no place in the world he'd rather go than room 307 Right now.
"Seymour once said that all we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next," writes Buddy. "Is he never wrong?" ("Seymour" 9.7)
He then heads to bed, "quickly and slowly" ("Seymour" 9.8).