A Few Thanksgivings: Salinger’s Hapworth Dances with Jesus and Bill Fay

You may know that J.D. Salinger’s final published work was “Hapworth 16, 1924”, a novella […]

David Zahl / 11.21.12

You may know that J.D. Salinger’s final published work was “Hapworth 16, 1924”, a novella which took up 81 pages of the 6/19/65 issue of The New Yorker (i.e. the entire issue). I only found out about it a couple of weeks ago. You see, although Salinger considered it “a high point of his writing,” Hapworth was not exactly hailed as a masterpiece when it arrived–the opposite, in fact–and has never been republished in any form. Which is where the Internet comes in, thankfully. It takes the form of a letter written from summer camp by a (ridiculously precocious) 7 year-old Seymour Glass, and is really quite wonderful, though it also requires a bit of familiarity with Glass family history… Anyways, not having known about it before, Hapworth is something I’m thankful for this year, so I thought I’d share a couple of choice excerpts. Happy Thanksgiving:

Something else I’m thankful for this year, HT JD. Click to enlarge.

Here, however, we move quite closer to the crux of the constant turmoil in my ridiculous breast. While I have no confidence whatsoever in go-betweens, personal opinion, and unassailable, respectable facts, I am also, in my heart, exceedingly fond of them all; I am hopelessly touched to the quick at the bravery of every magnificent human being accepting this charming, flimsy information every heartrending moment of his life! My God, human beings are brave creatures! Every last, touching coward on the face of the earth is unspeakably brave! Imagine accepting all these flimsy, personal agencies at charming, face value! Quite at the same time, to be sure, it is a vicious circle. I am sadly convinced that it would be a gentle, durable favor to everybody if someone broke through this vicious circle. One often wishes, however, there were not such a damn rush about it.

…try, while the distaste is mounting high, to take your hat off to God, quite mentally, for the magnificent complications of the human body. Should it be so difficult to offer a brief, affectionate salute to this unfathomable artist? Is it not highly tempting to take off one’’s hat to someone who is both free to move in mysterious ways as well as in perfectly unmysterious ways? Oh, my God, this is some God we have! As I mentioned while we were taking our first pleasure in the new kitchen equipment, this nostril business can be abandoned in a trice at the very instant that one takes utter and complete reliance upon God with regard to breathing, seeing, hearing, and the other maddening functions; however, we are all merely human beings, damnably remiss about this kind of reliance at all undesperate hours and situations of the day. To make up for this neglect, quite touching as well as shoddy, to rely on God utterly, we must fall back on embarrassing, sensible devices of our own; however, they are not our own, which is another humorous, wondrous side of the matter; the embarrassing, sensible devices are His, too! This is merely my forward opinion in the matter, but it is far from merely impulsive.


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