Salinger

Salinger

3.3 18
by David Shields, Shane Salerno, Peter Friedman, January LaVoy
     
 

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

THE BOY WHO BECAME A REBEL. THE REBEL WHO BECAME A SOLDIER. THE SOLDIER WHO BECAME AN ICON. THE ICON WHO DISAPPEARED.

Raised in Park Avenue privilege, J. D. Salinger sought out combat, surviving five bloody battles of World War II, and out of that crucible he created a novel, The Catcher in the Rye, which

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Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

THE BOY WHO BECAME A REBEL. THE REBEL WHO BECAME A SOLDIER. THE SOLDIER WHO BECAME AN ICON. THE ICON WHO DISAPPEARED.

Raised in Park Avenue privilege, J. D. Salinger sought out combat, surviving five bloody battles of World War II, and out of that crucible he created a novel, The Catcher in the Rye, which journeyed deep into his own despair and redefined postwar America.

For more than fifty years, Salinger has been one of the most elusive figures in American history. All of the attempts to uncover the truth about why he disappeared have been undermined by a lack of access and the recycling of inaccurate information. In the course of a nine-year investigation, and especially in the three years since Salinger’s death, David Shields and Shane Salerno have interviewed more than 200 people on five continents (many of whom had previously refused to go on the record) to solve the mystery of what happened to Salinger.

Constructed like a thriller, this oral biography takes you into Salinger’s private world for the first time, through the voices of those closest to him: his World War II brothers-in-arms, his family, his friends, his lovers, his classmates, his editors, his New Yorker colleagues, his spiritual advisors, and people with whom he had relationships that were secret even to his own family. Their intimate recollections are supported by more than 175 photos (many never seen before), diaries, legal records, and private documents that are woven throughout; in addition, appearing here for the first time, are Salinger’s “lost letters”—ranging from the 1940s to 2008, revealing his intimate views on love, literature, fame, religion, war, and death, and providing a raw and revelatory self-portrait.

Salinger published his last story in 1965 but kept writing continuously until his death, locked for years inside a bunker in the woods, compiling manuscripts and filing them in a secret vault. Was he a genius who left the material world to focus on creating immaculate art or a haunted recluse, lost in his private obsessions? Why did this writer, celebrated by the world, stop publishing? Shields and Salerno’s investigation into Salinger’s epic life transports you from the bloody beaches of Normandy, where Salinger landed under fire, carrying the first six chapters of The Catcher in the Rye . . . to the hottest nightclub in the world, the Stork Club, where he romanced the beautiful sixteen-year-old Oona O’Neill until she met Charlie Chaplin . . . from his top-secret counterintelligence duties, which took him to a subcamp of Dachau . . . to a love affair with a likely Gestapo agent whom he married and brought home to his Jewish parents’ Park Avenue apartment and photographs of whom appear here for the first time . . . from the pages of the New Yorker, where he found his voice by transforming the wounds of war into the bow of art . . . to the woods of New Hampshire, where the Vedanta religion took over his life and forced his flesh-and-blood family to compete with his imaginary Glass family.

Deepening our understanding of a major literary and cultural figure, and filled with many fascinating revelations— including the birth defect that was the real reason Salinger was initially turned down for military service; the previously unknown romantic interest who was fourteen when Salinger met her and, he said, inspired the title character of “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor”; the first photographs ever seen of Salinger at war and the last known photos of him alive; never-before-published love letters that Salinger, at fifty-three, wrote to an eighteen-year-old Joyce Maynard; and, finally, what millions have been waiting decades for: the contents of his legendary vault—Salinger is a monumental book about the cost of war and the cost of art.

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Editorial Reviews

The Associated Press - Hillel Italie
“Unprecedented . . . Nine years in the making and thoroughly documented . . . Providing by far the most detailed report of previously unreleased material, the book . . . both fleshes out and challenges aspects of the author’s legend. . . . [Salinger] has new information well beyond any possible posthumous fiction.”
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
“Revealing . . . [A] sharp-edged portrait.”
Publishers Weekly
★ 09/23/2013
The culmination of over 200 interviews and almost a decade of research, Shields (How Literature Saved My Life) and Salerno, director of the documentary accompanying the book, offer an oral history, effectively blended with narrative and analysis of the iconic writer and his body of work. In lesser hands, this approach could quickly spiral out of control, but Shields and Salerno keep the story on track. Granted, many mileposts and lore—such as Salinger's predilection for young girls or Catcher in the Rye's influence on high-profile assassinations—will not be all that revelatory but the authors' impressive collection of first-person accounts by those who were there gives readers greater insight into the writer and his place in the world. Literary snippets, such as "I'm Crazy," a short story Salinger wrote in Europe that was the first story narrated by Holden Caulfield, and asides—"Jesus, he has a helluva talent," Hemingway is reported to have said of Salinger—combined with a number of photos will make this a must-read for fans of the celebrated author. Photos. (Sept.)
Washington Post
"Positively thick with previously unreleased photos, interviews, and correspondence."
Entertainment Weekly
"The reminiscences are layered with a stunning array of primary material. . . . Taken as a whole—the memories, the documents, the pictures—the book feels as close as we'll ever get to being inside Salinger's head."
Los Angeles Times
"Salinger gets the goods on an author's reclusive life. . . . It strips away the sheen of his exceptionalism, trading in his genius for something much more real."
People
"An explosive new biography."
Denver Post
"An exhaustively detailed portrait of the famously reclusive novelist."
USA Today (3.5 out of 4 stars)
“Eloquently written and exhaustively reported . . . Salinger is an unmitigated success. . . . Shields and Salerno have struck journalistic gold. Salinger is a revelation, and offers the most complete picture of an American icon, a man deified by silence, haunted by war, frustrated in love—and more frail and human than he ever wanted the world to know. . . . A startlingly revealing story.”
The Washington Post
Salinger is the thorny, complicated portrait that its thorny, complicated subject deserves. . . . The book offers the most complete rendering yet of Salinger’s World War II service, the transformative trauma that began with the D-Day invasion and carried through the horrific Battle of Hürtgen Forest and the liberation of a Dachau subcamp.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Engrossing . . . There are fascinating and unique accounts that get to the heart of Salinger. . . . The freshest material comes from Salinger’s letters, which bring his own voice, often adolescent-sounding, into the commentary. Previous biographers didn’t have access to much of this material.”
The Daily Beast
“Juicy . . . Salinger is full of fascinating revelations. . . . The most extensive portrait yet of a writer who spent nearly sixty years doing everything in his power to avoid precisely this kind of exposure.”
Brain Pickings - Maria Popova
“Unprecedented . . . A masterwork . . . An exquisitely researched and beautifully engineered piece of storytelling about one of modern history’s most enigmatic personas.”
Salon - Laura Miller
“Refreshingly frank about [Salinger’s] many shortcomings and how they might have affected his work . . . Salinger amply documents the author’s youthful arrogance and selfishness, his infatuation with his own cleverness and his inability to see the world from the perspective of anyone who wasn’t a lot like himself.”
Time - Lev Grossman
“Vivid . . . There are riches here . . . [Salinger] presents a decade’s worth of genuinely valuable research . . . Salinger doesn’t excuse its subject’s personal failings, but it helps explain them: in his fiction, Salinger had a chance to be the good, untraumatized man he couldn’t be in real life.”
Sunday Times (London) - John Walsh
“A stupendous work . . . I predict with the utmost confidence that, after this, the world will not need another Salinger biography.”
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-10-01
Overstuffed, thoroughly revealing biography--from oral and written sources, and always episodic--of the legendary writer. The big news in Shields (How Literature Saved My Life, 2013, etc.) and Salerno's book, the companion to Salerno's documentary, has been the promise of several new books, completed and approved by Salinger, that will be issued between 2015 and 2020. One is a World War II story, and therein hangs another tale--and a long part of the present volume. Other biographers have noted how strong a part Salinger's wartime experience played in his subsequent thought, but Shields and Salerno chase down the story in minute detail, including Salinger's witness to the liberation of Nazi death camps and the psychological breakdown that ensued: "You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose entirely, no matter how long you live." As he went into combat at Normandy, we learn, Salinger carried six chapters of Catcher in the Rye--"not only as an amulet to help him survive," Shields notes, "but as a reason to survive." Catcher, Salinger's most famous book, was of course autobiographical, and Shields and Salerno lend specific weight to just how and how much. They also link Salinger's famous hermitage, beginning in the 1950s, not necessarily to a desire to flee fame so much as a fulfillment of the Vedanta ideals he had adopted as another kind of sanity-preserving talisman, in which withdrawal from and eventual renunciation of the world is necessary. No question but that Salinger was troubled--and, as the testimonial of former paramour Joyce Maynard and others has it, capable of cruel and creepy behavior. About the only drawback of Shields and Salerno's book is their overly credulous reliance on other writers and their heavy-handedness in piling on the heaps of negativity (some deserved) about Maynard and her ambitions. Was Salinger the major artist he has been held up to be? This book helps defend the affirmative response and whets the appetite for the Salinger books to come.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442365711
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
09/03/2013
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.40(d)

Meet the Author

Shane Salerno is the director, producer, and writer of Salinger, which premiered theatrically in 2013 from the Weinstein Company and will debut as the 200th episode of American Masters on PBS in early 2014. In addition to Salinger, Salerno has written and produced a number of successful films and TV series. He most recently co-wrote and served as executive producer of the critically acclaimed film Savages, directed by three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone.

Campbell Scott directed the film Off The Map, and received the best actor award from the National Board of Review for his performance in Roger Dodger. His other films include The Secret Lives of Dentists, The Dying Gaul, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle and Big Night, which he also co-directed.

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