by Deanna K. Kreisel (Doctor Waffle)
I have a confession to make: I ❤️ Seymour Glass. If you don’t know who that is, count yourself lucky and walk away now—come back in a few weeks when I’ll be discussing humiliating experiences at middle-school dances or whatever. (Obviously I am joking—as always, I desperately want you to finish reading this essay.)
For the uninitiated, Seymour was the scion of the Glass family, a half-Jewish-half-Irish troupe of tragic prodigies populating nine stories by J. D. Salinger, of Catcher in the Rye fame, set in the years 1924 to 1959. If you’re familiar with the oeuvre of Wes Anderson, you probably know that the Royal Tenenbaums are generally considered an homage to the Glasses. Both families are casually and eccentrically well-to-do, aswim in a world of brownstones, 5 p.m. martinis, private education, summers in the Hamptons, family branches in Connecticut, fur coats, and tennis lessons. And they’re all brilliant. On this point Salinger was most adamant—every child of the Glass family, all seven of them, appeared on the fictional radio program “It’s A Wise Child,” a purportedly wholesome entertainment wherein smarty-pants kids are prompted to say unintentionally hilarious smarty-pants things, but (IMO) is clearly just a wisecrack sweatshop where children are ruthlessly exploited for their youthful naïveté and left dessicated husks sucked dry of all joy.
But Seymour alone is a true savant. Precocious even by Glass family standards, he is a brilliant poet who becomes a professor of English at Columbia by the age of 20. He is also the most tragic member of the gang, a real Romantic-hero type. Too smart and sensitive for the world around him, even his gifted family members, he eventually blows his brains out in a Florida hotel room in front of his sleeping wife. This all happens in the very first story in which he appears, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” so from the moment of his introduction we already know he is doomed. Read more »