Number 83- For Esmé – with Love and Squalor

This story by J.D. Salinger is from his book 9 Stories.  I remember my mom reading this story to us on one of our road trips.  I was probably in middle school and I remember a long discussion of what squalor meant.  My parents did a really good job of describing this word, but I still couldn’t really grasp the meaning.  I remember asking, “So, a slug is like squalor?” and my parents saying, no, not really.

I really loved this story of wartime England because of the simple characters who are drawn so beautifully by Salinger:  “She was about thirteen, with straight ash-blond hair of ear-lobe length, an exquisite forehead, and blasé eyes that, I thought, might very possibly have counted the house.  Her voice was distinctly separate from the other children’s voices, and not just because she was seated nearest me.  It had the best upper register, the sweetest-sounding, the surest, and it automatically led the way.  The young lady, however, seemed slightly bored with her own singing ability, or perhaps just with the time and place; twice, between verses, I saw her yawn.  It was a ladylike yawn, a closed-mouth yawn, but you couldn’t miss it; her nostril wings gave her away.”  That passage has stuck with me over the years… especially the part about the yawn.

I can’t really say exactly why I love this story so much except to agree with Esmé by saying I prefer stories about squalor.



1 Comment

Filed under Books I love, Things

One response to “Number 83- For Esmé – with Love and Squalor

  1. Mom

    This story has always been and still is one of my favorites, too!

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