“A Girl I Knew”…

Short stories are magical. I once read a quote, which I of course cannot find, but it called short stories “fairy tales for grown ups.” That has stuck with me for a while now, and it is absolutely true. Recently, I have been very into short stories and essays (see my post on EB White).

Yesterday, I read J.D. Salinger’s “A Girl I Knew.” To be honest, I saw one quote from this on tumblr and decided to read it. The quote was, “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” The fact that I am a hopeless romantic aside, this quote immediately caught my eye because of its sheer casual nature. The fact that Salinger can incorporate such a big concept into such a seemingly passive sentence is just so brilliant. Salinger is known for his complex, but undeniably relatable characters, the most famous being Holden Caulfield (whom I admittedly hold a special sentiment for). 

It is hard to tell someone’s story in such a short piece. It’s hard to tell someone’s story in a 500 page novel. I love the way that Salinger develops the character in this piece. Subtle comments like, “Taking this note out of Jack-the-Ripper German, it reads…” tell us how the character kind of, I don’t know, looks at himself. His lapses into English during his conversations in German with Leah show his nerves, his inexperience and his human-ness. So many authors struggle with capturing what real teenage interaction and feelings are like. I’m not a boy, so I don’t really know if this is how they think, but it seems very plausible and the way this boy acts is also normal.

If you haven’t read this piece, I would go now. Read. (also, if anyone wants to send me a copy of Nine Stories…I would not say no)– (I have a friend who has a first edition of it, which is pretty awesome).

read on :) (oh! and let me know what you think in comments!!)



6 thoughts on ““A Girl I Knew”…

  1. marshallgu says:

    “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” – well, damn, I’m going to have to read this now!


  2. Jim says:

    I searched out “A Girl I Knew” for a second read this evening. For me, it is a quite a special story, like a meaningful letter, that you wish to keep as fresh as possible, so as to have it at the ready for when you really need it. It seems to me that you characterize the line to which you refer quite appropriately. From beginning-to-end, so much in the piece, but upon first reading, the line you mention was the moment I slowed down, recognizing that I should appreciate my first experience of each sentence as something I would not be able to replicate.

    Speaking as the sort of former eighteen-year-old boy who, shamefully, might well have drawn a map of New York City, simply because I wouldn’t have known what else to do, I can confirm that at least a few of us were, indeed, as John (Salinger might have given him a more distinctive name). You wouldn’t want my dog-eared copy of Nine Stories, but I do hope you read some of the stories (you might like “To Esme–with Love and Squalor”).

    I wished to see if anyone else read it, so thank you for sharing your appreciation.



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