A Perfect Day for Bananafish

J.D. Salinger spent countless years struggling to publish his writings. Last night I was lamenting to some of my friends about my own challenges. Publishing in Canada is exclusive and insular; doors are closed to unpublished writers unless they are endorsed by established luminaries.

I’m not very good at networking and I’m incapable of kissing ass. How do out-of-work actors get discovered without selling their souls? I understand why many young actresses turn to the casting couch. Fortunately I don’t have tolerance for bullshit. Cormac McCarthy spent much of his life in abject poverty before finding success. Perhaps it makes what he accomplished savoury.

Over Christmas I began reading Salinger’s collection of short stories entitled Nine Stories. A Perfect Day for Bananafish follows Seymour Glass who before taking his own life isolates himself on the beach while his shallow, vulgar and destructive wife spends her time in their hotel room talking on the phone with her equally vacuous mother. On the beach Seymour has a lovely encounter with an innocent little girl named Sybil. After, he returns to his hotel room to find his wife asleep on one of the twin beds. He unpacks an Ortgies calibre 7.65 automatic, sits down on the unoccupied twin bed and fires a bullet into his right temple.

A Perfect Day for Banafish was originally published in 1948 by The New Yorker, the literary magazine that had rejected Salinger’s work nine times previously. I would be remiss not to mention that they had also published one of his stories before Bananafish.

Only 20 pages in length Bananafish permanently changed Salinger’s position in the literary community. Salinger never sold the rights to his story and a hollywood movie adaption has gone unmade.

Last night I watched the film Young Adult starring Charlize Theron who portrays the central character Mavis Gary. Near the end of the black comedy, Mavis observes how difficult it is for her to be happy when it appears so easy for other people.

It was a very relatable moment for me because I often struggle with being happy. I can’t seem to get over the realities of the world we live in, the cruelty of the human species and the vapid nature of our materialistic and superficial society.

My quest in life is not to own or possess. It’s to be a good person. A difficult task due to the many vacant people I encounter throughout my life. There aren’t a lot of self-aware individuals out there.

It appears to me that Seymour’s wife is the rule and not the exception. A large number of people go through life in a narcissistic zone, spouting pearls of wisdom without care for the effects of their mind numbing, self-absorbed perspectives.

Image is everything for too many of us. It often trumps being kind. We devote too much thought to our bodies and clothes, and not enough to our actions.

There are times where it makes me want to put a pistol to my head too! But I don’t, mostly because I don’t own a gun but more importantly because it would be an easy way out. There is a lot in life to accomplish, my goals, however, will not involve ownership, but rather, intellectual and spiritual enlightenment.

I wish most parents focused their earlier efforts on the latter before having children.

Success comes to us all, but we need to reshape what it means for us individually. For some it’s owning a Mercedes Benz, while for others it’s being a mom. Some think that success is a job, or a salary, or title. For others it’s traveling and seeing more of the world. Whatever it is, it’s individual.

We have a responsibility to make the world a better place, for you, for me, for family, for the global population. You figure it out. Just remember your humanity throughout the process.

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