The Admirals and Bananafish

I have been horrible and don’t I know it!! But with the new year comes yet another determination to be better. My new theory is if I keep trying, eventually, a habit will form and then I won’t be able to stop! Here’s hoping…

The Admirals

I did finish “The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King – the Five-Star Admirals Won the War at Sea” by William R Borneman. This book covers all four generals from their beginnings, their time at the naval academy, early Naval careers, World War II responsibilities and impact, and where they ended up after the war. Very little time is spent covering their early and later years – the bulk of the book is from their time in the Naval Academy through the end of WWII.

This book flips a great deal from one Admiral to the next – it’s almost set chronologically but the author, when switching to the next Admiral, often must go back a few years at the start of the next chapter. This didn’t make it difficult to read but sometimes, I had to remind myself how this chapter time period relates to the time period covered in previous chapters covering the other Admirals.

Borneman doesn’t go into a great detail of each and every battle, given that only one of the Admirals was actually fighting (Halsey). There weren’t always details about the number of lives lost but does cover most of the ships lost. Most of the book is spent on the decisions and events that occurred outside the battles which I found interesting.

What I found most interesting was the lives of the Admirals. Not so much their personal lives (the book doesn’t go into too great a detail on the personal side) but their thought processes throughout their careers and how, even though they each traveled very different paths during their time with the Navy, they all managed to be named 5-Star Admirals in World War II.  This book was also informative in terms of differentiating between different styles of leadership and management and its impact on the subordinates and their careers.

The last chapter of the book covers their post-military, post-war lives and I always find these kind of chapters sad when you see how much these people had accomplished and how it ended for them – not all badly but some were depressing.

If you’re looking for a book about the Pacific War and the battles, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a biography of each Admiral, this book will fit the bill. Overall, this is moving to the 3rd shelf of the books read bookcase (translation: 3 of 5 stars).

J.D. Salinger in military school

J.D. Salinger in military school

I also just completed “Nine Stories” by J.D. Salinger. This book is a compilation of short stories (9 in all as the title suggests) and per usual when it comes to Salinger, I loved them but I have no idea why…I’m only going to discuss my favorite and least favorite stories below. Four of the stories involve characters that are veterans of WWII as Salinger himself was so that’s how it relates to a Military History blog 🙂

The first story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, starts off by introducing us to Muriel Glass, newly married to what we learn is someone who came back from the war and mentally off, Mr. Seymour Glass (aka see more glass). We start with the couple during their vacation. That’s the only time period covered (it could be their second or third day of vacation). Of all nine stories, this is the one where for some reason, the ending caught me off guard completely. Per his usual style, the reader thinks the story is going to go in one direction, and in this case, Salinger throws the reader a curve ball. I am awfully tempted to spoiler alert this portion also but it’s definitely a great read so I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. This was my favorite of all the short stories. This story is under 20 pages (6 of the 9 are under 20 pages, 3 stories are under 40 pages) so it is a real quick read.

The second story, “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut”, (**SPOILER ALERT**) was probably my least favorite because at the end of the story, I have no idea what it was about. It covers a conversation between old school chums, Mary Jane and Eloise, that takes place during an afternoon of drinking at Eloise’s house. Eloise’s daughter, Ramona, has quite a knack with the imaginary friends and seems to be on her mother’s last nerve. Although, I got the impression Eloise has very short nerves. As the afternoon wears on, the more Eloise and Mary Jane drink. By the time the story ends, Mary Jane is passed out and Eloise goes on some rampage with Ramona, waking her up and yelling at her. The story ends with Eloise waking up Mary Jane and asking her if she remembered a dress in school and then asking the question, “‘I was a nice girl,’ she pleaded, ‘wasn’t I?'” And that’s it!! I have no idea what made her go crazy on Ramona or why she’s flipping out other than it seems she’s not happy with her life (the afternoon binge drinking was one clue).

The other 7 stories were classic Salinger – at times they seem to ramble about nothing in particular and they are not always (usually not) wrapped up neatly. This book was like “Franny and Zooey”, one of Salinger’s other novels, in that I couldn’t really sit down and say exactly what the book/stories are about but I did enjoy reading them immensely. It’s quite possible that there are some themes that are beyond my comprehension. I consider myself neither unintelligent nor highly intelligent, just average but I think the themes might be beyond me.  This book is also moving to the third shelf (even though I cannot explain adequately why I liked it so much).

Did you read this book or other Salinger works? What do you think?

Next book: “The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916” by Alistair Horne


About jenvolk5

Bank auditor by day, trivia and knowledge hound all other times.
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3 Responses to The Admirals and Bananafish

  1. Dale says:

    I have the other eight of Salinger’s short stories included in my Deal Me In Short Story project for 2013. “For Esme – With Love and Squalor” was my favorite short story from last year. I just bought “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High The Roofbeam Carpenters/Seymour: An Introduction” and plan to read them soon. This was a great post! Look forward to reading more of them in the future!

  2. Jay says:

    I think I’ve read four or five of the nine stories thus far. Unlike you, I actually liked Uncle Wiggily in Connectictut (I’m not claiming I ‘figured it out’ but my post about it is at )

    I liked “For Esme…” a lot too. I didn’t like A Perfect Day for Banana Fish,though. 🙂


  3. Hi! I’ve been reading your website for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the excellent work!

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