Biography claims more Salinger books

THE AUTHORS OF a new J.D. Salinger biography are claiming they have cracked one of publishing’s greatest mysteries: What The Catcher in the Rye author was working on during the last half century of his life.

By Hillel Italie (AP)

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Published: Fri 30 Aug 2013, 11:01 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:26 AM

Between 2015 and 2020, a series of posthumous Salinger releases are planned, acc-ording to Salinger, co-written by David Shields and Shane Salerno; the book will be published September 3. The Associated Press obtained an early copy. Salerno’s documentary on the author is scheduled to come out September 6.

The Salinger books would revisit Catcher protagonist Holden Caulfield and draw on his World War II years and his immersion in Eastern religion. The material also would feature new stories about the Glass family of Franny and Zooey and other works.

If the books do come out, they may well not be through Little, Brown. In the mid-1990s, Salinger agreed to 
allow a small, Virginia-based press, Orchises, to issue his novella Hapworth 16, 1924, which first appeared in The New Yorker in 1965. But after news leaked of the planned publication, Salinger changed his mind and Hapworth 16 was cancelled.

No Salinger book came out after the early 1960s, as the author withdrew from public life. Over the past 50 years, there has been endless and conflicting speculation over what Salinger had been 
doing during his self-imposed retirement. That he continued to write is well documented. Friends, neighbours and family members all reported that Salinger was writing in his fin-al years and the author himself told The New York Times in 1974 that he wrote daily, 
although only for himself.

“There is a marvellous peace in not publishing,” he said at the time. But there is no consensus on what he was writing and no physical evidence of what Salinger had reportedly stashed in a safe in his home in Cornish, New Hampshire. The Salinger estate, run partly by his son Matt Salinger and widow Colleen O’Neill, has remained silent on the subject since the author’s death in January 2010. The two did not cooperate with Salerno and Shields.

Salerno is a Hollywood screenwriter whose credits include Armageddon, the Oliver Stone film Savages and a planned sequel to James Cameron’s Avatar. Shields has written 13 books, including the novel Dead Languages; a nonfiction work on pro basketball; and Reality Hunger, a self-described “manifesto” for modern literature. Their 700-page Salinger biography has new information well beyond any possible posthumous fiction. Nine years in the making and thoroughly documented, Salinger features many rare photographs and letters; unprecedented detail about the author’s World War II years and brief first marriage; a 
revelatory interview with the former teenage girl, Jean Miller, who inspired his classic story For Esme — With Love and Squalor; and an account of how Salinger, who supposedly shunned Hollywood for much of his life, nearly agreed to allow Esme to be adapted into a feature film.

Salinger both fleshes out and challenges aspects of the author’s legend. He is portrayed as deeply traumatised by his war experiences and stunned by his post-Catcher fame. But he also comes off as far less reclusive and deta-ched than long believed. He does agree to the occasional interview, even initiating discussion with The New York Times, and appears sensitive to his public image. His affinity for young people is not confined to his books, and Salinger’s biographers closely track his history of intense attachments to teens.

The book is structured as an oral history, featuring interviews, newspaper articles and previous biographies and commentary from Shields and Salerno. Those quoted range from Salinger’s children to authors Tom Wolfe and Gore Vidal to Mark David Chapman, who cited Catcher as a reason he murdered John Lennon in 1980.

Salinger never authorised a biography, but several unauthorised books have come out over the past 30 years, notably one by Ian Hamilton. In 1987, Salinger successfully blocked the release of Hamilton’s J.D. Salinger: A Writer’s Life, citing the use of previously unpublished letters. Hamilton described his legal battle in Searching for J.D. Salinger, published in 1988.

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