J. D. Salinger: A Life
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One of the most popular and mysterious figures in American literary history, author of the classic Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger eluded fans and journalists for most of his life. Now comes a new biography that Peter Ackroyd in The Times of London calls “energetic and magnificently researched”—a book from which “a true picture of Salinger emerges.” Filled with new information and revelations—garnered from countless interviews, letters, and public records—J. D. Salinger presents an extraordinary life that spanned nearly the entire twentieth century.
Kenneth Slawenski explores Salinger’s privileged youth, long obscured by misrepresentation and rumor, revealing the brilliant, sarcastic, vulnerable son of a disapproving father and doting mother and his entrance into a social world where Gloria Vanderbilt dismissively referred to him as “a Jewish boy from New York.” Here too are accounts of Salinger’s first broken heart—Eugene O’Neill’s daughter, Oona, left him for the much older Charlie Chaplin—and the devastating World War II service (“a living hell”) of which he never spoke and which haunted him forever.
J. D. Salinger features all the dazzle of this author’s early writing successes, his dramatic encounters with luminaries from Ernest Hemingway to Laurence Olivier to Elia Kazan, his surprising office intrigues with famous New Yorker editors and writers, and the stunning triumph of The Catcher in the Rye, which would both make him world-famous and hasten his retreat into the hills of New Hampshire.
Whether it’s revealing the facts of his hasty, short-lived first marriage or his lifelong commitment to Eastern religion, which would dictate his attitudes toward sex, nutrition, solitude, and creativity, J. D. Salinger is this unique author’s unforgettable story in full—one that no lover of literature can afford to miss.
is known to have written that year. Salinger claimed to have worked on the piece for five months, but it actually took far longer. It appears that Salinger began writing the story soon after the rejection of “Requiem for the Phantom of the Opera” in January 1951. The first available reference to the story is contained in an undated letter to Gus Lobrano.* Just before Salinger left for Britain on May 8, Lobrano had taken him to lunch at the Algonquin Hotel, where they had discussed the story.
that appeared on July 24, 1981, in the popular literary magazine The Paris Review. Entitled “What I Did Last Summer,” the article was edited by George Plimpton and was bylined Betty Eppes. Eppes had obtained the “interview” through a ruse. According to the article, Salinger had been tricked into meeting with her after reading a note left for him at the Windsor post office in which Eppes identified herself as a struggling novelist who simply wanted to meet a great author and would respect his
121. 2. Salinger to Learned Hand, April 18, 1960. 3. Salinger to Robert Machell, March 22, 1960. 4. Salinger to Learned Hand, February 19, 1961. 5. Margaret Salinger, Dream Catcher (New York: Washington Square Press, 2000), 148. 6. J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey, dust jacket excerpt (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1961). 7. Salinger to Donald Fiene, September 6, 1960. 8. Heinemann Press memo, March 20, 1962. 9. Salinger to Miss Pat Cork, Hughes Massie & Co., Ltd., May 26, 1962. 10.
For Salinger, the timing could not have been better. Life with Laurene certainly softened the blow during the months of Oona O’Neill’s rejection. It might well explain his declared loss of affection for O’Neill in a January letter to Elizabeth Murray. And it gave him a path along which to channel his romantic energies. Laurene recalls that Salinger proposed marriage to her. Whether such a proposal was ever actually made or not remains an open question, but the timing of her recollection does
with revulsion for the sergeant. Although not directly guilty of the death of Leah and her family, he is held responsible nonetheless because of his attitude and the realization that without such indifference the Holocaust would never have taken place. The character of Leah therefore represents more than a romantic interest. On the one hand, she symbolizes the fragile and beautiful things of life that have been crushed by the Second World War. On the other hand, her treatment even after her death