Short story: “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period”

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“De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period,” by J. D. Salinger

First appeared in something called the World Review (XXXIX, May 1952); in collected in Nine Stories;  online here, PDF here

10,892 words

Not sure what to say about this story except that I like it a lot. I’ve heard it described as too long, but I find its pace leisurely and pleasurable, probably because of the style of narration.

Where the narrator of “The Laughing Man” writes through his childhood self, this one writes through his teenage self. At the beginning, he uses what seems like a similar technique for calling up the urgency of a past, saying he feels the need to pay back a moral debt incurred in adolescence.

The epiphany, or whatever it is, works for me even though I don’t especially identify with De Daumier-Smith in that scene. As an outsider, I can see him being changed by his encounters with these two unknown women; I don’t have to understand his transformation to believe it. Afterwards, by reinstating his students and fetching himself a chair, he seems to show a new capacity for kindness to himself and others. He also appears to tolerate his stepfather better and to enjoy innocent sexual attraction to strangers without any anxious gloss of piety.

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