“She wrote to him fairly regularly, from a paradise of triple exclamation points and inaccurate observations.”


So I have a confession. I used to hate short stories, not for any rational logical reason mind, I just didn’t like them. In my head I guess I thought they weren’t worth reading, they just weren’t worth my time, and couldn’t be possibly as good as a ‘real book’. I have recently seen the error of my ways.
Those of you that know me might know I have been going to a creative writing class, and this is what changed my mind. Short stories require a little more effort, you’ve to concentrate from the get go cause they are so jam packed with hints there really are no wasted words. Someone once said “please forgive this long and drawn out letter, I did not have time to write you a short one.” I think that explains what I’m getting at, there’s nothing left in a short story that isn’t necessary (well written ones anyway!) So with that in mind, on to the review.

For Esme – With Love And Squalor is (and this should come as no surprise) a collection of short stories. Written by J.D Salinger (he of the catcher in the rye fame), you can find the same book published under the name nine stories, that was what they called it in America, apparently Americans are a little less adverse to short stories. I’m not going to sit and give a synopsis of each story, that would be tedious.
People tend to either love Salinger or hate him, I alas fall somewhere in between. His writing is excellent that is in no doubt but his characters annoy me a little. There tends to be two categories of character in his stories, the pure innocent good children and the damaged occasionally mean, occasionally crazy adults. He writes both well, particularly crazy, but I didn’t like any of them, in that I found them all unlikeable. Not everyone has this reaction, a lot of people like the characters but they just weren’t my sort of people. Obviously this should mean the collection of stories was absolutely tedious to read but that was strangely not the case.
I liked the stories he was telling, I just didn’t like the characters. In fact I liked the stories he was telling so much that it didn’t particularly matter that I wasn’t so keen on the characters. Some of the stories where sad, actually the majority of them where, nearly all of them had you sightly winded by the end and there was enough humour in each that you don’t end up a depressed quivering wreck after you’ve read them all. Salinger didn’t publish a massive amount of books for all his talents (he ended up so reclusive in later life that by comparison Garbo seems entirely sociable) so it’s definitely worth reading what he did write, there aren’t many like him.


Reviewed by:

Sarah Smith

Added 17th June 2015