We have touched on this in the past, but the faculty here have decided it would be good to write a more in-depth explanation of the relationship between weight lifting and The Straight Edge. The Straight Edge is a life style and personal philosophy which is built upon dedication, strength, perseverance,and mental clarity. All four of these attributes are easily and best expressed in physical activities, of which weight lifting, or lifting as it is popularly known, may indeed be the chiefest of them all. For a person to dedicate not only their mental capacities but also their physical ones as a sign of the values which The Straight Edge instills in them is among the most Edge things that an edgewoman or edgeman could do.
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The facts at hand presumably speak for themselves, but a trifle more vulgarly, I suspect, than facts even usually do. As a counterbalance, then, we begin with that everfresh and exciting odium: the author's formal introduction. The one I have in mind not only is wordy and earnest beyond my wildest dreams but is, to boot, rather excruciatingly personal. If, with the right kind of luck, it comes off, it should be comparable in effect to a compulsory guided tour through the engine room, with myself, as guide, leading the way in an old one-piece Jantzen bathing suit.
To get straight to the worst, what I'm about to offer isn't really a short story at all but a sort of prose home movie, and those who have seen the footage have strongly advised me against nurturing any elaborate distribution plans for it. The dissenting group, it's my privilege and headache to divulge, consists of the three featured players themselves, two female, one male.
We'll take the leading lady first, who, I believe, would prefer to be briefly described as a languid, sophisticated type. She feels that things might have gone along well enough if I'd just done something about a fifteen- or twenty-minute scene in which she blows her nose several times-snipped it out, I gather.
She says it's disgusting to watch somebody keep blowing her nose. The other lady of the ensemble, a svelte twilight soubrette, objects to my having, so to speak, photographed her in her old housecoat. Neither of these two lovelies as they've hinted they'd like to be called takes any very shrill exception to my over-all exploitive purposes.
For a terribly simple reason, really. If, to me, a somewhat reddening one. They know from experience that I burst into tears at the first harsh or remonstrative word. It's the leading man, however, who has made the most eloquent appeal to me to call off the production.
He feels that the plot hinges on mysticism, or religious mystification-in any case, he makes it very clear," a too vividly apparent transcendent element of sorts, which he says he's worried can only expedite, move up, the day and hour of my professional undoing. People are already shaking their heads over me, and any immediate further professional use on my part of the word "God," except as a familiar, healthy American expletive, will be taken-or, rather, confirmed -as the very worst kind of name-dropping and a sure sign that I'm going straight to the dogs.
Which is, of course, something to give any normal fainthearted man, and particularly writing man, pause. And it does. But only pause. For a point of objection, however eloquent, is only as good as it is applicable.
The fact is, I've been producing prose home movies, off and on, since I was fifteen. Somewhere in "The Great Gatsby" which was my "Tom Sawyer" when I was twelve , the youthful narrator remarks that everybody suspects himself of having at least one of the cardinal virtues, and he goes on to say that he thinks his, bless his heart, is honesty. Mine, I think, is that I know the difference between a mystical story and a love story.
I say that my current offering isn't a mystical story, or a religiously mystifying story, at all. I say it's a compound, or multiple, love story, pure and complicated. The plot line itself, to finish up, is largely the result of a rather unholy collaborative effort.
Almost all the facts to follow slowly, calmly to follow were originally given to me in hideously spaced installments, and in, to me, somewhat harrowingly private sittings, by the three player-characters themselves. Not one of the three, I might well add, showed any noticeably soaring talent for brevity of detail or compression of incident. A shortcoming, I'm afraid, that will be carried over to this, the final, or shooting, version.
I can't excuse it, regrettably, but I insist on trying to explain it. We are, all four of us, blood relatives, and we speak a kind of esoteric, family language, a sort of semantic geometry in which the shortest distance between any two points is a fullish circle. One last advisory word: Our family's surname is Glass.
In just a moment, the youngest Glass boy will be seen reading an exceedingly lengthy letter which will be reprinted here in full, I can safely promise sent to him by his eldest living brother, Buddy Glass. The style of the letter, I'm told, bears a considerably more than passing resemblance to the style, or written mannerisms, of this narrator, and the general reader will no doubt jump to the heady conclusion that the writer of the letter and I are one and the same person.
Jump he will, and, I'm afraid, jump he should. We will, however, leave this Buddy Glass in the third person from here on in. At least, I see no good reason to take him out of it. Ten-thirty on a Monday morning in November of , Zooey Glass, a young man of twenty-five, was seated in a very full bath, reading a four-year-old letter.
It was an almost endless-looking letter, typewritten on several pages of second-sheet yellow paper, and he was having some little trouble keeping it propped up against the two dry islands of his knees. At his right, a dampish-looking cigarette was balanced on the edge of the built-in enamel soapcatch, and evidently it was burning well enough, for every now and then he picked it off and took a drag or two, without quite having to look up from his letter.
His ashes invariably fell into the tub water, either straightway or down one of the letter pages. He seemed unaware of the messiness of the arrangement. He did seem aware, though, if only just, that the heat of the water was beginning to have a dehydrating effect on him.
The longer he sat reading-or re-reading-the more often and the less absently he used the back of his wrist. In Zooey, be assured early, we are dealing with the complex, the overlapping, the cloven, and at least two dossier-like paragraphs ought to be got in right here. To start with, he was a small young man, and extremely slight of body.
From the rear- particularly where his vertebrae were visible-he might almost have passed for one of those needy metropolitan children who are sent out every summer to endowed camps to be fattened and sunned. Close up, either fullface or in profile, he was surpassingly handsome, even spectacularly so. His eldest sister who modestly prefers to be identified here as a Tuckahoe homemaker has asked me to describe him as looking like "the blue-eyed Jewish-Irish Mohican scout who died in your arms at the roulette table at Monte Carlo.
I myself hold a very different opinion from either of these. I submit that Zooey's face was close to being a wholly beautiful face. As such, it was of course vulnerable to the same variety of glibly undaunted and usually specious evaluations that any legitimate art object is. I think it just remains to be said that any one of a hundred everyday menaces-a car accident, a head cold, a lie before breakfast-could have disfigured or coarsened his bounteous good looks in a day or a second.
But what was undiminishable, and, as already so flatly suggested, a joy of a kind forever, was an authentic esprit superimposed over his entire face-especially at the eyes, where it was often as arresting as a Harlequin mask, and on occasion, much more confounding.
By profession, Zooey was an actor, a leading man, in television, and had been for a little more than three years. He was, in fact, as "sought after" and, according to vague second-hand reports that reached his family, as highly paid as a young leading man in television perhaps can be who isn't at the same time a Hollywood or Broadway star with a ready-made national reputation. But possibly either of these statements, without elaboration, can lead to an overly clearcut line of conjecture.
As it happened, Zooey had made a formal and serious debut as a public performer at the age of seven. In all that follows, only the two youngest of the seven children will be directly seen or heard. The remaining five, however, the senior five, will be stalking in and out of the plot with considerable frequency, like so many Banquo's ghosts.
The reader, then, may care to know at the outset that in the eldest of the Glass children, Seymour, had been dead almost seven years. He committed suicide while vacationing in Florida with his wife. If alive, he would have been thirty-eight in The second-eldest child, Buddy, was what is known in campus-catalogue parlance as "writer-in-residence" at a girls' junior college in upper New York State.
He lived alone, in a small, unwinterized, unelectrified house about a quarter of a mile away from a rather popular ski-run. The next-eldest of the children, Boo Boo, was married and the mother of three children. In November, , she was travelling in Europe with her husband and all three of their children.
In order of age, the twins, Walt and Waker, come after Boo Boo. Walt had been dead just over ten years. He was killed in a freakish explosion while he was with the Army of Occupation in Japan.
Waker, his junior by some twelve minutes, was a Roman Catholic priest, and in November, , he was in Ecuador, attending a Jesuit conference of some kind. All this data, I think, is to some degree relevant. For all the gaps and years between their individual heydays on the program, it may be said with few, and no really important, reservations that all seven of the children had managed to answer over the air a prodigious number of alternately deadly-bookish and deadly-cute questions-sent in by listeners-with a freshness, an aplomb, that was considered unique in commercial radio.
Public response to the children was often hot and never tepid. In general, listeners were divided into two, curiously restive camps: those who held that the Glasses were a bunch of insufferably "superior" little bastards that should have been drowned or gassed at birth, and those who held that they were bona-fide underage wits and savants, of an uncommon, if unenviable, order. At this writing , there are former listeners to "It's a Wise Child" who remember, with basically astonishing accuracy, many of the individual performances of each of the seven children.
In this same thinning but still oddly coterie-like group, the consensus is that, of all the Glass children, the eldest boy, Seymour, back in the late twenties and early thirties, had been the "best" to hear, the most consistently "rewarding. And since we have a singularly workaday interest in Zooey here, it may be appended that, as an ex-panelist on "It's a Wise Child," he had one almanaclike distinction among or over his brothers and sisters.
Off and on, during their broadcasting years, all seven of the children had been fair game for the kind of child psychologist or professional educator who takes a special interest in extra-precocious children. In this cause, or service, Zooey had been, of all the Glasses, hands down, the most voraciously examined, interviewed, and poked at. Very notably, with no exceptions that I know of, his experiences in the apparently divergent fields of clinical, social, and newsstand psychology had been costly for him, as though the places where he was examined had been uniformly alive with either highly contagious traumas or just plain old-fashioned germs.
For example, in with the everlasting disapproval of his two eldest brothers, both of whom were in the Army at the time he had been tested by one research group alone in Boston, on five separate occasions. He was twelve during most of the sessions, and it's possible that the train rides-ten of them-held some attraction for him, at least in the beginning. The main purpose of the five tests, one gathered, was to isolate and study, if possible, the source of Zooey's precocious wit and fancy.
At the end of the fifth test, the subject was sent home to New York with three or four aspirins in an engraved envelope for his sniffles, which turned out to be bronchial pneumonia. Some six weeks later, a long-distance call came through from Boston at eleven-thirty at night, with much dropping of small coins in an ordinary pay phone, and an unidentified voice-with no intention, persumably, of sounding pedantically waggish-informed Mr.
Glass that their son Zooey, at twelve, had an English vocabulary on an exact par with Mary Baker Eddy's, if he could be urged to use it. To resume: The long typewritten, four-year-old letter that Zooey had checked into the bath-tub with, on this Monday morning in November, , had obviously been taken out of its envelope and unfolded and refolded on too many private occasions during the four years, so that now it not only had an over-all unappetitlich appearance but was actually torn in several places, mostly along the creases.
The author of the letter, as stated earlier, was Zooey's eldest living brothers, Buddy. The letter itself was virtually Endless in length, overwritten, teaching, repetitious, opinionated, remonstrative, condescending, embarrassing-and filled, to a surfeit, with affection. In short, it was exactly the kind of letter that a recipient, whether he wants to or not, carries around for some time in his hip pocket. And that professional writers of a type love to reproduce verbatim:. Surely the only woman in the world who can write a letter in invisible italics.
Dear Bessie. I get five hundred words of copy from her like clockwork every three months on the subject of my poor old private phone and how stupid it is to pay Good Money every month for something nobody's ever even around to use any more. Which is really a big fat lie. When I'm in town, I invariably sit talking by the hour with my old friend Yama, the God of Death, and a private phone's a must for our little chats. Anyway, please tell her I haven't changed my mind.
Bhagavad-gita, Ugy Ahogy Van
Salinger, J. D.: Zooey