Discussion Notes: The Laughing Man

We selected “The Magic Chalk ” by Kobo Abe for next week’s story.

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher and various podcatchers. If you can take a few moments to leave an iTunes and/or Stitcher review, it would help us immensely.

Oh J.D. Salinger, you made us scratch our heads. Today we sort out how a story with such great language and well drawn characters left us the minute we finished reading it. It was interesting listening to each of us come to different conclusions on the theme and meaning of The Laughing Man. We also broached the question, ‘is the podcast or the fact that we’re writers affecting how we read?’ The messy podcast is on the Youtube page, and the glistening audio version will be available Wednesday morning. Don’t forget to check out our Author’s Spotlight on J.D. Salinger to learn more about the author.

We do have a rating scale. For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” You gave last week’s story, “The Hasselblad” by Jocelyn Johnson, 3 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “The Laughing Man“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

After Kenechi’s horrible no good very bad quiz, we selected “The Magic Chalk ” by Kobo Abe for next week’s story. Anais was especially excited to read this story as Wikipedia described the author as a surreal nightmarish Kafka… I think perhaps this tells us too much about Anais.

7 comments on The Laughing Man – J.D. Salinger – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 7

  1. EmergingWriter says:

    I think where this story missed for me was in its lack of emotional impact. I didn’t really feel much of anything while reading the story. I should have been… I don’t some… something: pulling for the Chief and Mary Hudson to work out their differences or devastated at the end when the narrator went home with his teeth chattering after the death of the Laughing Man in the final installment. Instead, I was just flat-lined the whole way through. Maybe it’s an issue of my life experiences not lining up with the material in a way that resonates. However, I often read about people with experiences very different from my own and am still drawn in emotionally. This one didn’t do that for me.

    A disappointment for sure, as Salinger’s “Nine Stories,” in which this story appears, often shows up on lists of must-read books. This sample didn’t make me want to read the others, sadly. But, on the plus side, I enjoyed the discussion, as always! Thanks for the cast!

    1. EmergingWriter says:

      I borked my comment.. Where it says “I don’t some,” it should say “I don’t know.” 🙂

  2. Douglas Concepcion says:

    I really enjoyed the story, it was written using easy language, with easy transitions between the two primary stories being told. There are three stories being told, one is not literal but is understood by the interactions, that being the relationship of Mary and the Chief. As below I agree that both stories being told are parallel, but my conclusion is different.

    I believe the Laughing Man was actually the children, with the mask being the mask of innocence. Once the mask of innocence is removed they see the ugliness of the world, depicted by the two murderers and the glee they take in the kill of the hero and of the wolf. This leads to the realization we all have that we are not that perfect, that if we take a deep look at ourselves we may not like what we see, which is represented by the hideous distortion of the Laughing Man’s face.

    One part I found confusing, and have gone back and written a few times to see if I can figure it out is when Mary shows up at the ballgame with two nannies with children, and sits between them. I still don’t now if it indicated that she was pregnant, or that these were her children. Her running off seems to indicate the Chief broke up with her, and this is tied to the two nannies with carriages, but how… I do not know.

    I enjoyed the story, I give it a four.

    1. The part with the nannies confused me too. I also am not sure about who broke up with who. Before the nannies, the Chief waits for her at the usual spot and she stands him up. So is she leaving him? Or is he leaving her, as you suggest? This is the trouble with seeing the relationship through the yes of a 9 year old boy – he’s dumb as heck when it comes to romantic relationships!

      I like what you said about the mask representing innocence. A good take on it!

  3. mconcepcion says:

    I really enjoyed this story, it was light and funny. I agree the two stories were parallel stories. The chief used his personal experiences as a catalyst for the the laughing man story, and he use the laughing man story as a refuge for his emotions in dealing with issues affecting him personally. This leads me to conclude that the story is actually about story telling. There is however, more than one theme.

    I also agree the story is about the loss of innocence, not because of Mary Hudson. She does not affect the lives of the Comanches. She affects the Chief, and in a indirect way affects the story of the Laughing Man. Having the laughing man die in the story is the more direct cause of their loss of innocence, this may be the first time they are faced with death, and the first time they are coming to term with their own mortality.

    I give it 5 bradberries!

    1. Maya Goode says:

      I love your comments on how this may be the first time they are faced with death. As I read the story, I found the beginning and the ending of the story the strongest. In part because of the intense loss of innocence at the end. It’s funny that I didn’t pick up a story telling theme as I read it. I definitely want to re-read it with that thought in my head and see how or if it changes my experience of the story. I’m really glad you enjoyed this story.

    2. Good point! It may also be the first time the boys have seen a hero fall – two heroes! T he Laughing Man and The Chief are both no longer larger than life.

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