Salinger: A Biography [NOOK Book]

Overview


J.D. Salinger was one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers.  He was also one of its most elusive.  After making his mark on the American literary scene, Salinger retreated to a small town in New Hampshire where he hoped to hide his life away from the world.  With dogged determination, however, journalist and biographer Paul Alexander captured Salinger’s story in this, the only complete biography of Holden Caulfield’s creator published to date.  Using the archives at Princeton, Yale, ...

See more details below
Salinger: A Biography

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview


J.D. Salinger was one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers.  He was also one of its most elusive.  After making his mark on the American literary scene, Salinger retreated to a small town in New Hampshire where he hoped to hide his life away from the world.  With dogged determination, however, journalist and biographer Paul Alexander captured Salinger’s story in this, the only complete biography of Holden Caulfield’s creator published to date.  Using the archives at Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, NYU and the New York Public Library as well as research in New York and New Hampshire, Alexander has created a great biography of Salinger that’s further enriched by interviews with some of the greatest literary figures of our time: George Plimpton, Gay Talese, Ian Hamilton, Harold Bloom, Roger Angell, A. Scott Berg, Robert Giroux, Ved Mehta, Gordon Lish and Tom Wolfe.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Kevin Grandfield
Many people, such as biographer Alexander, cannot understand J.D. Salinger's refusal to exercise his privilege of fame. The author of Catcher in the Rye has been holed up for decades in New England, living a celebrity's nightmare but a writer's dream: no outside contact, a writing bunker where he can retire for weeks on end and a string of pretty young wives. By eschewing society and all media, he has become the subject of many speculative biographies, and this one, like most, promises more than it delivers. Alexander only shows what can be found in the public record and in previous writings: Salinger's childhood, wartime breakdown and rare recent forays into public life. Amid his speculation and armchair psychology, Alexander does provide detailed directions to Salinger's house. But his thesis that Salinger is reclusive to cultivate curiosity about him and his work reflects Alexander's desires rather than Salinger's.
Library Journal
This biography's dustjacket features a blurry photo of an aging J.D. Salinger superimposed on a picture of the young author of The Catcher in the Rye. While designed to capture the elusive quality of the notoriously reclusive writer, the jacket also reflects the book's fuzziness and skimpy feel. Although Alexander, who wrote a biography of Sylvia Plath, interviewed a number of people and used the research files of Ian Hamilton In Search of J.D. Salinger and the newly opened New Yorker archive at the New York Public Library, the result is primarily a cut-and-paste pastiche of secondary sources. This is not entirely Alexander's fault; like Hamilton, whose attempt to publish a biography was thwarted in the courts by Salinger, Alexander was unable to quote directly from Salinger's letters, and of course the man himself has long refused to be interviewed. Still, Alexander has drawn an eerie portrait of an increasingly eccentric writer whose attempts to maintain his privacy is actually--in Alexander's opinion--a manipulative way of promoting himself and his books.--Wilda Williams, "Library Journal" Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"As good a biography of Salinger as we're likely to get for a while. Alexander...[has] succeeded in placing Salinger in the context of his times, and in finding in the author's life seeds of inspiration for his fiction." —Boston Globe

"Alexander has drawn an eerie portrait of an increasingly eccentric writer whose attempts to maintain his privacy [are] actually...a manipulative way of promoting himself and his books." —Library Journal

"Alexander documents, among other things, Salinger's nervous breakdown after World War II; his hatred of New York publishers; his hatred of Hollywood; and his ugly divorce from Clair Douglas." —Liz Smith

"For hardcore fans, this biography is a must." —Toronto Sun

'It is safe to say that Alexander will not be making any friends among the faithful by bringing us even closer to a man who wants to be known only as the creator of Holden Caulfield." —New York Magazine

"Alexander's volume is a major publishing event...A skilled investigative reporter, journalist, and biographer. Alexander surveyed numerous archives...to get his 'story'...Strongly recommended." —Choice

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466853218
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 8/27/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 522,530
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author


PAUL ALEXANDER is the author of many biographies, including Rough Magic, a biography of Sylvia Plath; Man of the People, a biography of John McCain; and Machiavelli’s Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Karl Rove. His nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Nation, New York Magazine, and The Daily Beast.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Sonny

1

If Salinger was so consumed with the subject of youth, what was his own youth like? Was there something about it that made him unable to leave it behind?
On January 1, 1919, in the Nursery and Child's Hospital on West Sixty-first Street in New York City, Jerome David Salinger was born to parents who, because of who they were and the heritages they came from, created in him a sense of conflict about himself that was present from the very beginning of his life. His father, Sol Salinger, had been born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1888; he was not only a Jew but the son of a rabbi -- a rabbi who became a doctor. One family member later stated: "[Sol's father, Simon,] was a rabbi with a congregation in Louisville, Kentucky. But though he had a wife and five children, he had wanted to become a medical doctor. He sought and received permission from his congregation to enroll in night courses in medical school while retaining his pulpit; it took many years, but he ultimately achieved his goal, gave up the rabbinate, and practiced medicine for the balance of a long and productive lifetime."
As a young man, Sol lived in Chicago and worked at a company called J. S. Hoffman, an importer of European cheeses and meats that made and sold products under the names Hofco Family Swiss Cuts and Hofco Baby Goudas. Though he may not have been a practicing Jew, religion became a problem when he met the woman he would marry— Marie Jillich. Marie's family came from Scotland and Ireland and Marie was Christian. There is every reason to believe that the Salingers did not approve of the marriage for that reason. As a result, not long before the wedding, Marie made the most fundamental— and telling — move she could make to appease her future in-laws. She changed her name from the Catholic-sounding Marie, to the Jewish-sounding Miriam. It was a dramatic gesture, yet afterward there is no evidence that Miriam either studied or practiced Judaism.
Perhaps the Salingers' ambivalence about Miriam was still in evidence in 1912, even after Sol and Miriam had had their first child (a daughter, Doris, was born in 1911) or perhaps Sol was simply longing for a city where he could have greater financial opportunity. Whatever the reason, during 1912 Sol and Miriam moved themselves and their baby daughter from Chicago to New York. There, Sol became the general manager of J. S. Hoffman's New York operation. Jerome Schuman, a colleague, later remembered Sol: "[He] was an excellent businessman and a very good general manager. He ran a tight ship but at times he was dominated by the chairman and president of the corporation, Harry Hoffman in Chicago, who often used Sol as a whipping boy. Nevertheless, he was markedly successful in his operation. He was also an excellent public speaker. Considering that he probably had a limited education, he was extremely articulate and used the English language well. He was intelligent and dynamic."
By 1919, the year the Salingers had their second child, Jerome David, whom they nicknamed Sonny, Sol was doing well enough that he moved his family from their apartment at 3681 Broadway in northern Harlem to an attractive, upscale building on the corner of 113 Street and Riverside Drive in the neighborhood where Columbia University is located. Then, between 1919 and 1928, the Salingers moved three more times before they ended up in a pleasant apartment on West Eighty-second Street. It was here they would live for the next four years. During those years, Sonny was described by observers outside his family as "solemn" and "polite" and more than willing to take long walks by himself. As for school, he attended a public grammar school, where one year it was determined he had an IQ of 104, a number which tended to indicate that Sonny had little more than average intelligence. His grades also suggested that Salinger was mediocre. He made mostly B's the year his IQ was tested, except in arithmetic, a subject in which he did much worse. In fact, that year the only area of his schooling in which he performed worse than arithmetic was deportment, which was assessed by his teachers as "poor."
While he was growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan during the 1920s, Sonny was in many ways an average boy— not at all like the sometimes troubled teenager he would soon become, when he started to resemble characters he would later create as an adult, characters such as Holden Caulfield. In his younger years, Sonny had a stable family life and was, according to family friends, unusually close to his mother, who loved her children, but who was also, to quote a family acquaintance, "overshadowed by Mr. Salinger."
During the summer, as many city children did, Sonny went to camp. In the summer of 1930, he attend Camp Wigwam in Harrison, Maine. At age eleven, he was good at tennis and adept at making friends, but one development that took place at Camp Wigwam gave some indication as to the interests he would foster in the coming years. Based on the work he had done in the camp's dramatic production, Sonny was voted Camp Wigwam's "most popular actor" of 1930.
Up to this point Sonny had lived a decidedly ordinary life in New York City. "As a boy," William Maxwell later wrote in an essay that dealt in part with Salinger's youth, "Salinger played on the steps of public buildings that a non-native would recognize immediately and that he never knew the names of." Macy's and Gimbel's, Maxwell continued, were "apotheosized" landmarks to the young Salinger — as they were to many New Yorkers. Sol moved his family to Park Avenue— another kind of landmark— in the fall of 1932. Specifically, he selected a spacious apartment at 1133 Park Avenue, a handsome building on the corner of Ninety-first Street. But this move, the last the Salingers made while Sonny was growing up, had special meaning, since it suggested to Sol, and no doubt to Miriam and Sol's families, that Sol had truly made it in the business world. Before, the Salingers had lived on the Upper West Side. Not as bohemian as Greenwich Village, not as grungy as Hell's Kitchen, the Upper West Side attracted actors, writers, intellectuals, artists, and the like, of different races and backgrounds. It also had a large Jewish population, making the Upper West Side more liberal than many parts of the city. Lively and varied, the neighborhood was not, however, an "appropriate" place to live if one had social aspirations.
For that, one chose the Upper East Side, which connoted status and wealth. As if to reinforce his desire to live a life of social rank, Sol purchased an expensive car, which the family used to drive around the city, and decided to take Sonny, then thirteen, out of public school and enroll him in an expensive private school—another mainstay of the Upper East Side elite. So Sol, the rabbi's son who had defied his father and married a Christian, had made it. In his business he had become such a success that he now lived on one of the most famous and exclusive streets in the world. Interestingly, that street was located in a neighborhood not known for having a significant Jewish population. If Sol seemed to be rejecting his Jewishness by dating and then marrying a Christian, he was certainly abandoning it by passing over other sections of New York to live in a neighborhood synonymous with WASPs and money— Park Avenue on the Upper East Side. Without question, Sol passed his values and preferences on to his son, who years later would choose not to write about the world of the immigrant Jew and his descendants, but instead the world of the Upper East Side WASP -- the very world Sol Salinger had embraced so completely.
In the end, the relationship between the father and the son was complicated, partly because of the kind of person Sol was. "Sol's personality was very complex," Jerome Schuman would later write. "I believe he covered over an inferiority complex with an aura of supreme self-confidence. He was highly intelligent, extremely well organized, and had a good sense of humor. He was a man who achieved and accomplished a lot." However, of all the areas of his life in which he attained so much, there was one in which he did not achieve even a qualified success: the way he got along with his son. "The relationship of Sol Salinger and his son was one where the father exhibited great pride in the accomplishments of the son, but the relationship could not be described as a warm family relationship."

Excerpted by permission of Renaissance Books. Copyright c 1999 by Paul Alexander.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 2 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2001

    Not great, but informative

    I read this book to help me with a research project on Salinger's reclusive lifestyle. Overall, the book is doomed from the beginning. Alexander's interpretations of Salinger's stories are far-fetched and a bit skewed. The only decent thing about this book is that it collects all the various stories about Salinger's run-ins with admirers and reporters in one place. On the whole, the book was somewhat disappointing and I expected as much. It is tough to write a biography on a man who is so wrapped up in his own reclusive lifestyle.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2001

    Informative enough

    Oh come on it isn't that bad! Its quite tough to do a biography about a recluse--Alexander did a good job gathering the info. Helped me a lot for my project.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)