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The war hangs over these wry stories of loss and occasionally unsuppressed rage. Salinger's children are fragile, odd, hypersmart, whereas his grownups (even the materially content) seem beaten down by circumstances - some neurasthenic, others (often female) deeply unsympathetic. The greatest piece in this disturbing book may be The Laughing Man, which starts out as a man's recollection of the pleasures of storytelling and ends with the intersection between adult need and childish innocence. The narrator remembers how, at nine, he and his fellow Comanches would be picked up each afternoon by the Chief - a Staten Island law student paid to keep them busy. At the end of each day, the Chief winds them down with the saga of a hideously deformed, gentle, world-class criminal. With his stalwart companions, which include a glib timber wolf and a lovable dwarf, the Laughing Man regularly crosses the Paris - China border in order to avoid capture by the internationally famous detective...