Every summer during my childhood, I’d sign up for the reading club at the library and knock off 20 or 30 titles, no sweat. At the end of August there would be a performance by a bad magician, a container of warmish Sundew orange drink and a free laminated bookmark. Eventually I made the leap from easy childhood summer reading to difficult adulthood summer reading (think Middlemarch).
But in between, there was Salinger.
In particular, there was Nine Stories. It was an adult book, to be sure, but still it welcomed me when I wasn’t yet fully grown. I was 15 when I read it, off at a summer camp for the arts. Having quickly realized how sophisticated my new crowd was, I fished the book out of my duffel and carried it face-out, one of a rotation of volumes meant to impress the other teenagers. But after I read the first, devastating story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” in which Seymour Glass commits suicide, I began holing up under trees and in my teepee, reading the remaining eight and not caring who saw me. I didn’t even care — or remember — that anyone else at camp, or in the world, existed. Which, I sometimes think these days, is the whole point of reading.
Wolitzer’s latest novel is The Interestings
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