This is a (late) memorial/composite review of Nine Stories; Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction; and Franny and Zooey. The other reviews offer a lot, I just wanted to add some more thoughts because Mr. Salinger's death motivated me to re-visit his works and because his writing has impacted my life more than any other single author it's appropriate that my first review of his works.
There's a tension in Salinger's work between "worldly" knowledge (phony-ness) and (proper)wisdom. Franny's crisis in F&Z is motivated by her frustration that college is about "knowledge" and not at all about wisdom. Salinger's characters are all critical of superficial knowledge and in love with deep, enlightened wisdom. If someone were going to try to generalize (a phony exercise to be sure; but let me be a little phony for second) Salinger's work, there's a progression from Holden (who is critical of everyone around them and their superificial-ness) to Franny and Zooey (who are ciritical of everyone around them, but are trying to find an "end" for which there criticism is a means) to Seymour (the paradigmatic enlightened one).
One thing that makes a good writer is their way to keep tension alive. For Salinger, this tension between the superficial and the enlightened is deeply embedded. The Glass's love notwithstanding, Seymour's purported enlightenment should be regarded with a grain of salt. If anyone viewed Seymour objectively, they would have to regard him as a crazy person: he throws a rock at Charlotte; he leaves Muriel waiting at the altar; finally he shoots himself. Is Seymour more enlightened than everyone else, or is the tension between detached wisdom and attached worldliness expressed more strongly in Seymour than any of Salinger's other characters?
Salinger dedicates Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by invoking the amateur reader (if there is one left in the world). I think Salinger probably regarded with disdain the professional reader. I think if I write anymore I run the risk of writing a review now amateur enough and too professional. Insofar as this review was too "professional", Mr. Salinger, I apologize.
"Against my better judgment I feel that somewhere very near here--the first house down the road, maybe--there's a good poet dying, but also somewhere very near here somebody's having a hilarious pint of pus taken from her lovely young body, and I can't be running back and forth forever between grief to high delight."