Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction
How we cite our quotes:
"It's closed for alterations," [the Matron of Honor] stated coldly, looking at me. Unofficially bat unmistakably, she was appointing me odd-man-out again, and at that moment, for no reason worth going into, I felt a sense of isolation and loneliness more overwhelming than I'd felt all day. Somewhat simultaneously, it's worth noting, my cough reactivated itself. I pulled my handkerchief out of my hip pocket. ("Roof Beam" 2.143)
Look at the connection between the physical and the emotional here. Now we can start thinking about Buddy's cough in a more symbolic way.
I think one most recurrently hears about the curiously-productive-though-ailing poet or painter is that he is invariably a kind of […]Sick Man who […] gives out terrible cries of pain, as if he would wholeheartedly let go both his art and his soul to experience what passes in other people for wellness, and yet (the rumor continues) when […] someone who actually loves him […] passionately asks him where the pain is, he either declines or seems unable to discuss it at any constructive clinical length, and […] he looks more perversely determined than ever to see his sickness run its course, as though […] he had remembered that all men […] eventually die, […] but that he […] is at least being done in by the most stimulating companion […] he has ever known. ("Seymour" 1.2)
This is an interesting concept –the connection between brilliant artistry and painful sickness – and it's a real favorite of Salinger's over the course of many of his works. An illustrative line on this matter comes from another of Salinger's stories, "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period": "The worst thing that being an artist could do to you would be that it would make you slightly unhappy constantly. This is not a tragic situation, in my opinion." This possibly has a lot to do with the discussions of happiness both in "Roof Beam" and in "Seymour."
And I'm reminded, too, that once, when we were boys, Seymour waked me from a sound sleep, much excited, yellow pajamas flashing in the dark. He had what my brother Walt used to call his Eureka Look, and lie wanted to tell the that he thought he finally knew why Christ said to call no man Fool. ("Seymour" 1.15)
This is interesting – the color yellow is important in "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," the story of Seymour's suicide, as possible representing innocence and purity. Buddy may be cross-referencing his other works yet again.