More than any other author, Salinger can make me feel seconds from crying, for either hilarity or sorrow.
I do not know how he does this.
I think it has mostly to do with his sets of siblings, his large families (the Glass family, the Caulfields), his struggles between siblings to understand each other or let each other go, and the fact that, always, at least one of the siblings is Tragically Absent. If this is the case, then probably I'll have to concede that not every one will "get" Salinger--readers raised as only children, or without the tricky netting of sibling rivalry and support (or they at least won't "get" him quite like I do)--but I do hope very much that I am wrong, and that Salinger's appeal is not quite that limited. This is merely what I love Salinger for--the siblings, and the fantastic writing.
RAISE HIGH THE ROOFBEAM & SO ON is the very last Salinger book, the one that I'd been hoarding, hoping against hope (and the laws of the universe) that reading this one wouldn't leave me utterly without an unread Salinger novel, but now...Alas. There are no more. I'll be stuck with rereading, it seems.
RAISE HIGH is also the last, and most conclusive, book dealing with the Glass family, whose members appear in Franny & Zooey, RAISE HIGH, and at least two of Salinger's Nine Stories. Also, RAISE HIGH (joy of joys!) approaches, at last, that most elusive Glass, Seymour.
This is a good order in which to read Salinger's books (three of them, I might interject here, are not novels but collections of either two or nine short stories): The Catcher in the Rye first, then Franny & Zooey, followed by Nine Stories and, lastly, RAISE HIGH THE ROOFBEAM, CARPENTERS, ETC. I offer you an order which allows the great overarching Glass family story to unfold.
I will not go into it much more, I think, so as not to rob first-time readers of certain surprises which can easily be blown in a summary. For example: who is narrating. And: what he has to say. I mention only that it is a delight to be offered an unpretentious bouquet of early-blooming parentheses: (((()))). For me, as a reader, that is truly a first.
(Oh, yeah, and God bless the Internet, but there's a site with tons of unpublished Salinger stories: it's not over! Hallelujah!)