This is a post in my 50 Nifty series, in which I’m reading through 50 books that embody each of the 50 United States. Find out why I’m doing this and which books I’m reading when (so you can read along) by checking out my first 50Nifty post, or else browse all 50Nifty posts by clicking here!
Nine Stories, “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” J.D. Salinger
It takes a true artist to write a good short story, and one of the things I love/hate about the genre is the fact that the story often ends just when I’m starting to get into the flow. I love it because it begs me as the reader to fill in what happens next; it’s practically impossible to close the book and stop thinking about it. I hate it because if I’m really engaged, the ending can feel abrupt just when I want more, as was the case with “Uncle Wiggily.” The basic setting is two college roommates who have met up in the midst of the Connecticut winter to spend an afternoon reconnecting and reminiscing over cigarettes and cocktails.
Although at first I didn’t think a short story could possibly be an adequate choice for the 50Nifty list, upon further reflection I’m going to say I’m okay with the designation. While there’s not much description of the actual land besides the fact that the slush is visibly turning to ice while the women are indoors talking, there’s more to capturing the feel of a place than describing geography. While the emotions evoked in Salinger’s story aren’t unique to Connecticut, there’s something about the mix of privilege, nostalgia for past selves and lovers, and secret sorrows about who we really are that feels very East Coast for some reason (maybe because of Gatsby). I know that may sound judge-y, so for those of you from there or living there currently, please don’t take it as a personal insult. All I mean is that I can imagine just what the afternoon Salinger describes might be like, and somehow it fits better for me in Connecticut than it might in, say, Kansas, considering the details he provides.
That said, I enjoyed “Uncle Wiggily” (even more on the second reading) and appreciated the length of this 50Nifty selection after a longer Colorado one last week. In honor of the short story selection, I’m keeping the blog post short as well, so that’s it for now!