‘A Perfect Day for Bananafish’ by J.D. Salinger

The way Salinger calibrates the different voices of the characters in this story from the nagging mother, to the bored young married daughter Muriel, to Muriel’s war-damaged husband Seymour, to Sybil, the child at the beach, always strikes me as masterful. Sybil, for example, says “my daddy’s coming tomorrow on a nairiplane” and “I like to chew candles.” Like any five-year-old would, she stomps on a sagging sandcastle as she runs down the beach. The tripartite structure of the story creates tension and serves the pace, and you have to read right through to the final phrase to know what happens to whom.

First published in The New Yorker, January 1948, and available online to subscribers here. Collected in Nine Stories, Little, Brown, 1953

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