J.D. Salinger postsSaturday October 28, 2017
Claim to Non-Fame
I was referenced without being named in a New York Times piece earlier this week.
Matthew Haag, a Brother of the Double-A, wrote an article entitled “So Where Are the New J. D. Salinger Books We Were Promised?” which is my question these days, too. In the disappointing 2013 Shane Salerno doc “Salinger,” and in articles surrounding that doc, we were told, starting in 2015, we would begin to see the following stories Salinger supposedly wrote but never published after 1965:
- “A Counterintelligence Agent’s Diary,” a novella, most likely based on Salinger's work during World War II
- “A World War II Love Story,” most likely based on his short, odd marriage to Sylvia Welter just after the war
- “The Complete Chronicle of the Glass Family,” featuring five new stories about Seymour Glass
- “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans,” about Holden Caulfield
- A religious manual on Hinduism
Well, here we are, nearly in 2018, and where are they?
Haag doesn't really answer that question, just gives us the back-and-forth between Salerno, who says they're still coming, and J.D.'s son (and one-time Captain America) Matthew, who is terse and opaque. Haag also gives us this:
[Salinger's] last published work, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” appeared in The New Yorker in June 1965, but Mr. Salinger decided in the mid-1990s to release it as a novella. He chose a small publishing company, Orchises Press, and demanded that the distribution be limited, that bookstores could not discount the price and that his name not be included on the cover.
But shortly before the work's release, a reporter uncovered details about it in a Library of Congress catalog, and the story spread. Afterward, Mr. Salinger never called Orchises Press to finalize the publication and it was never released, Roger Lathbury, the company's owner, recounted in New York magazine after the author's death.
That's me. I'm “a reporter.”
Actually “a reporter” is kind of an amalgamation of my sister and myself. I found “Hapworth” on amazon.com's site, back when amazon was less than a year old and got its book list in part from the Library of Congress, wrote about it in a small piece on Jeff Bezos for The Seattle Times, told my sister about it, she did the heavy lifting. It's our claim to non-fame. It's a little sad all around. If I hadn't been such a fan, I wouldn't have known “Hapworth” was anything and publication would've continued apace. But I was so it didn't.
Raise High the Bookshelves, Carpenters: More Salinger Books on the Way
Since I'm the man who inadvertently put the kibosh on the last published J.D. Salinger book, I'm delighted with the news, via Michael Cieply in The New York Times, that more Salinger books, plural, are on the way:
One collection, to be called “The Family Glass,” would add five new stories to an assembly of previously published stories about the fictional Glass family, which figured in Mr. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey” and elsewhere, according to the claims, which surfaced in interviews and previews of the documentary and book last week.
Another would include a retooled version of a publicly known but unpublished tale, “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans,” which is to be collected with new stories and existing work about the fictional Caulfields, including “Catcher in the Rye.” The new works are said to include a story-filled “manual” of the Vedanta religious philosophy, with which Mr. Salinger was deeply involved; a novel set during World War II and based on his first marriage; and a novella modeled on his own war experiences.
Not sure which excites me more: the five new Glass family stories (since “Hapworth” was hardly “Franny” or “Bananafish”), the novel set during World War II, or the WWII-era novella.
Cieply gathered the news from the new Shane Salerno documentary, as well as its accompanying book, both entitled “Salinger.”
The Salinger family, meanwhile, is still not talking.
The downside of all of this? The companion book, which comes out Sept. 3, was co-written by David Shields, whose “Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season,” I skewered almost 15 years ago. How does that guy keep getting work? And awards?
Oh right. The world.
This Salinger tidbit via Cieply is equally fascinating—if creepy:
Another relationship described in the book and film will provide plenty of intrigue to Salingerologists: after the war, Mr. Salinger met a 14-year-old girl, Jean Miller, at a beach resort in Florida. For years, they exchanged letters, spent time together in New York and eventually had a brief physical relationship. (She said, in an interview in the film and book, that Mr. Salinger dumped her the day after their first sexual encounter.) Ms. Miller said in the book that Mr. Salinger once saw her stifle a yawn while talking to an older woman and borrowed the gesture for one of his short stories, “For Esmé — With Love and Squalor.”
“He told me he could not have written ‘Esmé’ had he not met me,” Ms. Miller said in an interview in the book.
The doc opens Sept. 6.
“If you really want to hear about it...”
The Goddamn Movies
Here's the cast list for the upcoming Shane Salerno documentary, “Salinger,” set for a Sept. 6, 2013 release. See if you notice anything about it.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman
- Edward Norton
- John Cusack
- Martin Sheen
- Tom Wolfe
- Gore Vidal
And the rest of cast listed alphabetically:
- Judd Apatow
- Danny DeVito
- Robert Towne
- David Milch
- Stephen Adly Guirgis
- John Guare
- E.L. Doctorow
- A. Scott Berg
- Elizabeth Frank
Right, a lot of actors. As talking heads? Talking about Salinger? We get a few writers, certainly (Vidal, Wolfe, Towne, Doctorow, Berg, Guigis), but where are the non-actor readers? Particularly for a documentary about a writer who famously refused to sell his stuff to Hollywood? Whose most famous character talks disparagingly of the movies? Here's the end of the first paragraph of “The Catcher in the Rye”:
If there's one thing I hate, it's the movies. Don't even mention them to me.
Here's what the L.A. Times is saying about it:
Reps for the film said that “Salinger” will feature well over 100 interviews with the author’s inner circle about his life and career, as well as include talks with entertainment personalities such as David Milch and Philip Seymour Hoffman about the influence Salinger had on their work. In a statement, Harvey Weinstein called the movie “a haunting piece of documentary filmmaking.”
The goddamn movies.
Gopnik on Salinger
If you didn't read Adam Gopnik's postscript on J.D. Salinger in The New Yorker a few weeks, back, do so now. I know how difficult it is to write about Salinger's writing, and Gopnik gets to the heart of what made him unique and necessary. Some excerpts:
- “...his death throws us back from the myth to the magical world of his writing as it really is, with its matchless comedy, its ear for American speech, its contagious ardor and incomparable charm.”
- “...it was Salinger’s readiness to be touched, and to be touching, his hypersensitivity to the smallest sounds and graces of life, which still startles.”
- “He was a humorist with a heart before he was a mystic with a vision...”
J.D. Quote of the Day
“A community of seriously hip observers is a scary and depressing thing. It takes me at least an hour to warm up when I sit down to work. ... Just taking off my own disguises takes an hour or more.”
—J.D. Salinger, in a letter to Lillian Ross, and quoted in The New Yorker, Feb. 8, 2010