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Dream Catcher: A Memoir by Margaret A.…

Dream Catcher: A Memoir

by Margaret A. Salinger

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found today 8/2/2013 1 of 20 books for $10
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
An engrossing read. unusually so in many ways. ( )
  jhhymas | Jul 3, 2011 |
Peggy Salinger, who is J D Salinger's daughter, holds nothing back in this tell-all tale about her dysfunctional family. Well, most of them anyway. She has nothing particularly bad to say about her younger brother, the actor Matthew Salinger. Her mom doesn't fare too well, but her famous and reclusive father is portrayed as an insensitive, self-centered kind of monster. Which, I have to say, didn't really surprise me all that much. Because I did struggle through Franny and Zooey, as well as the other book, Raise High ... and Seymour ... back when I was in college. Those two books kinda left me thinking, "Huh? Is this the same guy that wrote Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories?' Because they are so dense and strange as to be nearly unreadable, as far as I was concerned. But I kept on trying to understand the guy who'd created Holden Caulfield. I even tracked down a copy of a New Yorker with his last "major" work, Hapworth 1924. It was awful - just an incoherent rant, as far as I could tell. I wish I'd stopped after Catcher and the Nine Stories book, but I didn't. So I always wondered about Salinger. What I hadn't known, and learned from Peggy's memoir, was that her father landed on Omaha Beach on D-day and fought his way across much of Europe, had a mental breakdown near the end of the war and was briefly hospitalized, but managed to talk his way out of that and got a normal discharge. He was, in short a decorated WWII veteran. But he came home from the war a damaged and shaken man, judging from those later things he wrote - and from what his daughter reports about him and his strange behavior, not just as an author, but as a husband and a parent. He was abusive and tyrannical to all of the women in his life, and seemed to be most attracted to young, innocent, virginal schoolgirl types. (Think Brittany Spears' first video here.) Once that blush of innocence was gone, Salinger had very little use for his women, and showed his true colors - and showed the women the door. In short, J D Salinger is just not a very nice man. Peggy's own story is a sad one of neglect and emotional abuse. She experimented with drugs and was sexually active from her early teens as she was shunted about between boarding schools and sought shelter with friends' families when her own parents were too busy to bother with her, which was most of the time. She had several boyfriends and affairs as a teenager and young woman and ended up with a grab bag of health problems later on. And yet she managed to graduate with highest honors from college in her mid-twenties and spent a few years at Oxford. There is much to admire about Margaret Salinger, and also much to pity her for. But most of all I have to respect her for telling her story. One of the things that intrigued me most about this book was finding out about all the other J D Salinger stories that have never been published in book form - many of them never at all. And from what Peggy says about them, I think I'd like to read them. They sound gentler, more human, than the ones I have read. If Salinger fans are interested in reading some of these stories they can be found at a website called deadcaulfields.com . But, I've babbled on long enough. This is a good if perhaps a bit painful read. Bravo, Peggy. Be well and live your life. Finally, while Salinger may be an ogre, Holden Caulfield will always remain one of my favorite fictional characters. ( )
  TimBazzett | Jul 23, 2009 |
This has to be one of the most wonderful biographical pieces I have ever read. Ms. Salinger glows, and I wish I could know her, for better and worse.
  syrinx77 | Oct 11, 2007 |
Typically the key to writing a solid memoir is to have had an interesting life. If you haven't had any wild adventures, then you must be capable of telling an excellent story. Margaret Salinger has neither of these qualities. She begins by banking off of the first 10 years of her life in which she lived with her father, J.D. Salinger. Although she mentions that she barely knew that he was writing (let alone publishing Raise High... and Seymour while living with her), she manages to keep the 1st hundred pages of this 500 page memoir interesting by explaining her relationship with her father.

Her father is the interesting part, what people are reading for; no one bought the novel for the transcriptions of Margaret's middle school notes (despite the fact that she includes a lot of them) or her rambling explanation about her chronic fatigue syndrome, bad days at camp, or her frustration at Joyce Maynard (Salinger's short lived lover who's own memoir "At Home in the World" is an excellent read).

The sliding focus from J.D. Salinger to Margaret's own life story is distracting. She forgets that the audience doesn't care about her life or her thesis papers. Throughout the novel you'll notice that she seems to have an unusual desire to go for pages about cults and anti-semitism, both sections are more heavily footnoted than any other part of the book.

In comparison, the first hundred pages of this novel has some good information for those who're desperate to discover more about J.D. Salinger than most of his other biographies. Margaret helpfully points out a few of the factual flaws in the biography of Salinger pieced together by Ian Hamilton.

The cost of getting (somewhat) useful information from a (somewhat) reliable source is that the reader's forced to wade through some atrociously self indulgent writing. If your brain doesn't completely power down while you're reading this book you'll notice entire sentences repeated in full pages after you first read them.

Unless you're really interested in learning what to avoid when writing a memoir, I'd stay clear of this. Even if you're a diehard fan of Salinger's writing, I wouldn't recommend staying with the book past the point when Margaret shifts the focus onto how badly her parents messed her up. It's apt that this nightmare of a memoir is caught within a book called Dreamcatcher-- I wouldn't recommend letting it out. ( )
1 vote misirlou | Sep 22, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0671042823, Paperback)

In her memoir Dream Catcher, Margaret Salinger--who is, as everyone and their cat must surely now know, the daughter of writer and recluse J.D. Salinger--describes a childhood of unbelievable isolation and emotional stress, "lush with make-believe," "a world both terrible and beautiful ... that dangled between dream and nightmare on a gossamer thread." What she's describing, of course, is madness, first incipient and then in hothouse cultivation. In fact, just reading about it made this reviewer feel like her f-a-c-u-l-t-i-e-s were not quite intact. What was it like to grow up with a father whose love for children amounted almost to a religion? Well, for one thing, there were always those impossibly swell fictional kids around to make you look bad. (J.D. actually wanted to call his daughter Phoebe, after the sister in The Catcher in the Rye.) Worse, though, it meant being forced to sacrifice her childhood on the altar of Daddy's saintliness. She quotes the famous paragraph in which Holden envisions standing guard to catch little children from going over a cliff. "When I read this passage as an adult with a child of my own, my first reaction was outrage.... Where are the grown-ups? Why are those kids allowed to play so close to the edge of a cliff?" Salinger's reaction might be literal-minded, but it contains considerable truth--especially considering that she herself went over that cliff once or twice, and ol' J.D. certainly wasn't around to catch anybody.

When it comes to the ethics of writing a book about the experience, of course, friends must agree to let friends disagree. No one can deny that Salinger's account is balanced, thorough, and honest--sometimes to a fault. Moreoever, it's clear that Peggy Salinger is an admirable person, who has fought long and hard to attain the level of happiness and understanding that made the writing of this memoir possible. And yet, there's also no denying that her book cries out for a strong editing hand. Reading it feels like watching someone sort out complicated feelings in front of you: compelling, certainly, but also a little voyeuristic, and more than occasionally digressive. Salinger's analysis of her father seems psychologically (and literarily) acute, but--urine-drinking aside--there's nothing she tells us about his character that a diligent reader of his books doesn't instinctively know. "Get what you can from his writing, his stories," Salinger writes, "but the author himself will not appear out of nowhere to catch those kids if they get too close to that crazy cliff." Did anyone think he would? Dream Catcher is written by the only person who had the right to expect such a thing. Sadly, his fictional creations, those wise children, were given his best self, and his daughter was left with the rest. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:41 -0400)

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The daughter of J.D. Salinger offers a portrait of life with her reclusive father, providing a study of her complex family relationships.

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