erik lundegaard

J.D. Salinger posts

Saturday 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.

Posted at 07:57 AM on Saturday October 28, 2017 in category J.D. Salinger   |   Permalink  

Sunday August 25, 2013

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.

Or “Bananafish”?

The doc opens Sept. 6.

J.D. Salinger in the 1950s

“If you really want to hear about it...”

Posted at 12:32 PM on Sunday August 25, 2013 in category J.D. Salinger   |   Permalink  

Saturday April 13, 2013

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.

  • Salinger, a documentary by Shane SalernoPhilip 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.

Posted at 03:03 PM on Saturday April 13, 2013 in category J.D. Salinger   |   Permalink  

Saturday February 27, 2010

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...”
Posted at 06:51 AM on Saturday February 27, 2010 in category J.D. Salinger   |   Permalink  

Tuesday February 23, 2010

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

Posted at 06:31 AM on Tuesday February 23, 2010 in category J.D. Salinger   |   Permalink  

Wednesday February 03, 2010

Lancelot Links (RIP JD edition)

  • My sister forwarded this Washington Post article on the unintentioned heartbreak we caused the publisher of Orchises Press, Roger Lathbury, who was all set to publish J.D. Salinger's “Hapworth 16, 1924” in January 1997 when I discovered it on amazon.com in October 1996, wrote about it briefly for a Seattle Times publication, then told my sister, who wrote about it, more prominently, for The Washington, D.C. Business Journal. Her article was picked up by The Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR, etc., and the ensuing publicity caused Salinger to withdraw permission to publish. I wrote about my experience in the matter here. The Wikipedia version is here. My apologies to Mr. Lathbury—and to myself, since I would have loved reading “Hapworth” in book form, no matter what I ultimately thought of it. According to the article, it took Salinger eight years to agree to let Lathbury publish “Hapworth.” If it had taken him six or seven, the book probably would've happened. Unfortunately, by the time he said yes we were in the dawn of the Internet age. And there are no secrets in the Internet age.
  • Don't miss the Times' “Walking in Holden's footsteps” literary map of Manhattan.
  • Here's Le Monde's version of the Salinger obituary.
  • And here's my friend Andy's poignant take on the influence of The Catcher in the Rye.
  • I also like this New York Times' piece on how “recluse” is in the eye of the beholder.
  • I linked to this last week but it's worth linking again: Steven Lomazow's post on the early, uncollected Salinger stories that I wrote about here. The post comes from Lomazow's blog on “the history, importance and joy of magazine collecting.”
  • Finally, Charles McGrath did a nice job on Salinger's obituary for The New York Times, although I would've changed the lead to read: “J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II, at a time when writers, American or otherwise, were thought to be important, died on Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.” That's part of the tragedy for Salinger and us. Apparently he couldn't stand all that attention on his writing; but if he'd simply waited a few decades his writing would've received all of the lack of attention he ever wanted.
Posted at 06:44 AM on Wednesday February 03, 2010 in category J.D. Salinger   |   Permalink  

Sunday January 31, 2010

Three Stories with J.D. Salinger — Epilogue

Epilogue: The Fat Lady Sings

I have many more stories about J.D. Salinger, of course. In Mr. Wolk’s 10th-grade English class, we had to write mini-plays about one of the texts we’d read, and I wrote mine, or ours (it was a group project), about Holden Caulfield riding an elevator up Macy’s Department Store, making it, or trying to make it, all symbolic, with each floor representing an age of life. It was a disaster. In college I rediscovered the humor of The Catcher in the Rye and delved into the book several times a week. (One of my favorite lines: “I thought the two ugly ones, Marty and Laverne, were sisters, but they got very insulted when I asked them. You could tell neither one of them wanted to look like the other one, and you couldn’t blame them, but it was very amusing anyway.”) I kept having discussions with friends about the best story in Nine Stories. Twenty years ago Pete said “Teddy.” Craig has rarely deviated from “For Esme.” I keep coming back to “The Laughing Man.”

When I interviewed Jeff Bezos in 1996, and he was informing me of the future—the Internet’s 2300 percent growth rate, the sorting capabilities of computers, the 1.5 million English-language books in print—I threw him off slightly by asking about the past, Hapworth 16, 1924, a then-31-year-old story that his Web site said was being published as a book in January. Bezos recovered nicely, though. You know how amazon.com makes recommendations based upon what you’ve bought or browsed? He was like that in the interview. I brought up Salinger so he kept bringing up Salinger. When I wondered how they weeded out frivolous customer reviews, for example, he said, “It's an incredibly small number of people who actually do that. We had God review the Bible. We had J.D. Salinger review Catcher in the Rye. It was very funny. The person who did that one actually had a terrific sense of humor.” I got the distinct impression, though, even as he spoke about him, that Bezos thought Salinger was dead.

When most famous authors die, pundits and obituary writers toss around some variation of the phrase, “A great voice has been stilled.” When J.D. Salinger died last week at the age of 91, it was opposite. Now that he’s dead, we hope he’ll talk. Are there more stories? Novels? Letters? Something? I can’t pretend I’m not intrigued. I followed him to his beginnings so I’m sure I’ll follow him to his ends. At the same time I know that a week doesn’t go by when he’s not talking with me already.

Here’s to Buddy. Here’s to the Fat Lady. Here’s to moving from one piece of Holy Ground to the next.

Posted at 05:42 PM on Sunday January 31, 2010 in category J.D. Salinger   |   Permalink  

Saturday January 30, 2010

Three Stories with J.D. Salinger — Part III

Part III: Seymour: An Erasure

During my year in Taiwan, British author Ian Hamilton published a thin biography called In Search of J.D. Salinger. It was thin because Salinger wasn’t talking, and neither were his friends, and neither, it turns out, were the letters Salinger had written to those friends in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, which Hamilton found in library collections at Harvard, Princeton and the University of Texas. They weren’t talking because it was ruled, in Salinger v. Random House, Inc., that while the letters themselves were public, Salinger still owned the words in those letters, and those words couldn’t be reprinted without his permission. Which, of course, he refused to give.

In Newsweek magazine, whose international edition I read in the Tien Mu library on the outskirts of Taipei, Walter Clemons took it upon himself to review not only Hamilton’s bio but Salinger’s oeuvre and his then-23-year silence. The review bothered me enough to write a letter to the editor. Here’s how it appeared, the second of three letters under the heading “In Defense of the Author”:

Walter Clemons writes of J.D. Salinger: “His work went to hell as he withdrew into solitude ... The sad fact is that one can’t hope that the work he’s done in his jealously defended privacy is likely to be very interesting.” No, one can still hope, Walter, despite your sad “fact.”

Erik Lundegaard
Taipei

It was Clemons’ language that pissed me off—his confusion of facts and hopes—but I didn’t agree with his opinion, either. I was still dazzled by Salinger; I hadn’t seen the pattern.

The best criticism I’ve read of Salinger is a cautionary review of Franny and Zooey by John Updike in 1962. Updike notes that in “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters”...

...Seymour defines sentimentality as giving “to a thing more tenderness than God gives to it.” This seems to me the nub of the trouble: Salinger loves the Glasses more than God loves them.

In this same review, Updike writes that the Franny of “Franny” and the Franny of “Zooey” are not the same person. The former is a simple college girl going through a spiritual crisis because she found a book, The Way of the Pilgrim, in her college library. The latter is a savant, the youngest of the seven Glass children—each of whom appeared on the radio show, “It’s a Wise Child”—who got The Way of the Pilgrim, not out of her college library, but out of older brother Seymour’s bedroom. When Zooey admonishes his mother for not realizing where Franny gets her books (“You’re so stupid, Bessie”), it’s as if he’s admonishing Salinger himself, who got it wrong the first time.

All true. But it’s nothing compared to how Salinger kept changing his second-most-famous character.

When we first see Seymour Glass sitting on a beach in 1948’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” he’s a classic Salinger hero: skinny, pale, good with kids, a bit crazy. He could be Holden as an adult. Then he returns to his hotel room, lays down next to his wife and blows his brains out.

We don’t see Seymour again until “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters,” published in November 1955. In the interim, Salinger published The Catcher in the Rye and nine short stories (the other eight stories of Nine Stories and “Franny”), but it’s not until “Raise High” that we find out that some of the characters in these stories—Seymour in “Bananafish,” Walt in “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” Boo Boo in “Down at the Dinghy,” and Franny in “Franny”—are actually part of the same family. The Glass family.

“Raise High” is about Seymour’s wedding, and his disappearance from same, in 1942, but Seymour himself is never shown. We only encounter him through the thoughts of the hapless Buddy, the second-oldest Glass child, and through excerpts in Seymour’s journal, which Buddy reads on the edge of his bathtub.

By this time, the quirky young man of “Bananafish” has become, in Buddy’s words, “A poet, for God’s sake. And I mean a poet. If he never wrote a line of poetry, he could still flash what he had at you with the back of his ear if he wanted to.” He’s a man conflicted between acceptance of everything and discrimination of, say, the best way to live, or the best poetry, and he bridges this gap with a kind of condescension. He writes of his future mother-in-law: “She might as well be dead, and yet she goes on living. ... I find her unimaginably brave.” We find out that when was young he threw a rock at a beautiful girl because she was so beautiful. He claims to have scars on his hands from touching people he loves. He’s either a crazy man or a holy man—or both crazy man and holy man—and Salinger hasn't showing his cards in the matter yet. We still have that tension. It’s part of why the story works.

“Raise High” is, in fact, one of the best pure stories I’ve ever read. It’s both rooted in the everyday and mystical. Its ending is so understated it doesn’t seem to end but continues to glide along into the unknown. He does this in 89 pages. In “Zooey,” published a year and a half later, a boy takes a bath and talks to his mother and sister. It’s 150 pages. The indulgence has begun.

“Zooey” is set in 1955, and, though Seymour’s been dead for seven years, he continues to grow. We find out he got his Ph.D. at 18. We get a glimpse of his poetry (“The little girl on the plane/ Who turned her doll’s head around/ To look at me”). The beaverboard in his old room is full of quotes from wise men and wise texts: Tolstoy, Epictetus, De Caussade, Ring Lardner, Mu-Mon Kwan, and The Bhagavad Gita. The tension between crazy man and holy man is dissolving, and, with it, story.

It’s in the next one, though, published more than two years later, that Salinger, the master storyteller, gives up on story altogether. It’s called “Seymour: An Introduction” but it might as well be called “Seymour: An Erasure.” Remember that poem about the girl on the plane? That’s actually Buddy’s translation of Seymour’s haiku, which was written in Japanese, one of dozens of languages Seymour knew. Remember the Seymour of “Bananafish”? That’s actually Buddy’s interpretation of Seymour, which he now admits was a little too much (“alley oop, I’m afraid”) like himself. By this time Seymour is no longer a crazy young man (“Bananafish”), or a poet, for God’s sake (“Raise High”); he’s one of the greatest poets in the history of the English language. And how could one of the greatest poets in the history of the English language write that crap poem about the girl on the plane? He couldn’t. Buddy did. Or Salinger did. But who’s Salinger? A hack compared to Seymour. The creation has outgrown his creator. Seymour has become too powerful to write about.

In order to even capture Seymour in “Hapworth 16, 1924,” published six long years later, Salinger has to shrink him back to the age of 8; and even here, pintsized, he’s so powerful Salinger can barely keep him on the page. Seymour may be a kid writing a letter home from summer camp, but the letter is over 100 pages long and includes sentences of Jamesian complexity. Story? Gone. Epiphany? What’s the point? Seymour is a reincarnated wise man now, increasingly aware of past, present and future. He accurately prophesies his own death. He talks about the other lives, or appearances, he’s lived, and the appearances of everyone else at the camp. So what can he realize that he doesn’t already know? How can he journey to a place he doesn’t already see? You understand why it’s the last thing Salinger ever published. He’s left himself, and his creation, nowhere to go.

Anyway that’s the story the fuss was all about.

Tomorrow: The Fat Lady Sings

Posted at 09:15 AM on Saturday January 30, 2010 in category J.D. Salinger   |   Permalink  

Friday January 29, 2010

Three Stories with J.D. Salinger - Part II

Part II: My Summer of Salinger

I first encountered J.D. Salinger the way most of us did—when I was assigned The Catcher in the Rye in high school—but there was a time when I could read no one else. It was the summer of 1987. I’d just graduated from the University of Minnesota and was in love with a girl who was in Maine for the summer while I was about to leave for Taiwan in the fall. It felt like life was flowing in the wrong direction and I could do nothing to stop it. I felt bruised, and other authors kept pressing the bruised spots. Only Salinger consoled.

I didn’t re-read Catcher. I re-read Nine Stories and the Glass family stories, and then re-read them again. I read “Hapworth” in an old copy of The New Yorker my father had kept. I was so desperate I read a slim paperback, Salinger, published in 1962, which consisted of cold, critical thoughts on the author, but which contained references to Salinger stories I’d never heard of. “Personal Notes of an Infantryman”? “Slight Rebellion Off Madison”? The titles themselves sounded magical.

Turns out that before the nine stories of Nine Stories, as far back as 1940, Salinger had published stories, in magazines like Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post, that had never been collected in book form, and I found them at the University of Minnesota library. Throughout that long hot summer, I kept returning to its cool, fluorescent-lit stacks to read about ‘30s kids at parties (“The Young Folks”) and young married couples with problems (“Both Parties Concerned”).

It was hit or miss stuff. “Hang of It,” from 1941, concerns a World War I screw-up whose drill sergeant bellows at him, “Aincha got no brains?!” and the narrator sides with the drill sergeant. In the end we find out that the narrator is (“alley oop, I’m afraid,” as Buddy Glass would later write) the screw-up, now a colonel, and forever indebted to his loveable old drill sergeant. It’s the kind of thing Holden Caulfield would’ve torn apart.

War transformed Salinger’s writing. “The Stranger,” from December 1945, is blunt and unsentimental in comparison. “Your mind, your soldier’s mind, wanted accuracy above all else,” Babe Gladwaller thinks as he returns to New York to inform Vincent Caulfield’s girlfriend about his death. “So far as details went, you wanted to be the bulls-eye kid: Don’t let any civilians leave you, when the story’s over, with any uncomfortable lies.”

That’s right: Vincent Caulfield. He first shows up in “Last Day of the Last Furlough” from 1945, telling Babe: “My brother Holden is missing [in action].” Holden, not missing at all, not touched by war at all, shows up in two other stories from 1945 and 1946, while his much-imitated way of speaking—that repetitious, inarticulate way of circling closer to the truth, replete with I means and goddamns—shows up even earlier. In “Both Parties Concerned,” Ruthie leaves her husband, Billy, but she can’t stand staying at her mother’s place and returns. “It got me down,” she tells Billy. “I mean when I saw her looking so funny in her hair net again. I knew I wouldn’t be any good at home anymore. I mean not any good at their home.”

So many bells go off reading this stuff. In “The Varioni Bros.,” Joe, the more poetic half of a songwriting duo from the 1920s, dies horribly, tragically young—prefiguring Seymour Glass. In “The Stranger,” Babe’s relationship with his sister, Mattie, is right out of the Holden-Phoebe school. In “A Boy in France,” Mattie’s letter to Babe allows him to fall “crumbly, bent-leggedly, asleep”—as Esme’s letter would for a different soldier in “For Esme—With Love and Squalor.”

Eventually my love and need for Salinger became, like all loves and needs, stifling. I was reading 50-year-old stories that—beyond this epiphany or that moment of grace—didn’t take me anywhere I hadn’t been taken before, and better, by the same author. Occasionally I’d glance through these magazines to stories by the likes of Alice Farnham and Walt Grove and wonder whatever became of them. One issue of Story trumpeted the inclusion of “the 1944 Avery Hopwood prize novella, ‘Mexican Silver’ by Hilda Slautterback.” And it dawned on me—me who had such grand literary ambitions, but who had published exactly nothing—how hard it would be, not to be published and remembered like Salinger, but simply to be published and forgotten like Hilda Slautterback.

It was a Salinger reference that finally kicked me free from Salinger. In “A Girl I Knew,” the narrator mentions Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, and I sought it out. From there I read Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and by then I was living in Taiwan and on a new trajectory.

Tomorrow: Seeing More of Seymour

Posted at 07:12 AM on Friday January 29, 2010 in category J.D. Salinger   |   Permalink  

Thursday January 28, 2010

Three Stories with J.D. Salinger - Part I

My First Story with J.D. Salinger: Hapworthed

In October 1996 I was writing an article for a short-lived Seattle Times weekly about someone named Jeff Bezos who had started something called amazon.com, and, needing to see what a .com was, I biked over to my friend Ciam’s house and went online for the first time.

It would be interesting to see a screenshot of what I saw. I remember Ciam sat down at his desk and tapped on his computer keyboard, until, after some time, and even odder noises, he declared, “Here we are.”

I look over his shoulder and narrowed my eyes. “Is this on your computer?”

His explanations about what the online world was, I’m sure, fell noiselessly into some bottomless pit in my brain labeled “tech crap.” Once things go abstract I don’t quite get them, and if I understand the online world now it’s less because I get its abstractness than because I’ve transported its abstractness into the tangible world. Some part of my brain thinks reading online is as real as reading a newspaper.

“So what kinds of books do these guys have?” I asked.

Ciam shrugged. “Give me an author,” he said. I suggested Norman Mailer. I often went through phases with writers, and I was going through a Mailer phase now—even reading him chronologically—and I was pretty aware of all he had written. Or so I thought. After we typed in his name, some of the titles that came up dumbfounded me. The Bullfighter from 1967? Ciam and I were testing amazon but it felt like I was doing the failing.

So I suggested J.D. Salinger. Just four titles, right? The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction. Sure enough, we got those four titles in all of their various incarnations. We also got this: Hapworth 16, 1924.

“You’re kidding,” I said, staring at the screen.

“What?” Ciam asked.

Hapworth. It’s the last story Salinger published—in The New Yorker in 1965—but it’s never been published in book form.” I motioned toward the screen. “Can you find out more about it?”

Ciam clicked on the link—a verb and a noun that hadn’t yet entered my vocabulary. Hapworth was due to be published by an outfit called Orchises Press in January 1997. Three months away.

“Wow,” I said. Initially I was more excited as a reader. Only slowly did I realize I had something of a scoop.

“Does anyone else know about this?” I asked, looking around.

The next time I spoke to my editor at The Seattle Times I mentioned the Hapworth discovery and suggested we do a separate story on it. Or at least a side-bar. The first J.D. Salinger book in 35 years! Think of it!

He didn’t share my enthusiasm. It’s not new? he asked. It’s just a reprint? he asked. “But feel free to put it in the story,” he added helpfully.

There are moments in life when you show what you’re made of, and, unfortunately, this was one such moment for me. I don’t remember my editor’s exact arguments but I accepted them in a defeatist way—as a door closing—rather than as what they were: a door opening. Since I was a freelancer, this editor had basically given me carte blanche to pitch the story to someone higher on the food chain: The Washington Post, The New York Times. But taking the individual for the institution, and assuming the institution knew what it was talking about, I folded.

Too bad, I thought. Felt like a story to me.

I did mention Hapworth to my sister. She had just gotten a job as a reporter with the Washington D.C. Business Journal, and, since Orchises Press was located in Virginia, I thought it might make a good local story. She ran with it. A few days after her article appeared, The Washington Post picked it up. A few days after that, The New York Times picked it up. About a week later, in the bookstore warehouse where I worked, National Public Radio, which we listened to all the time, did a feature on the excitement the new edition of Hapworth was engendering. I stood for a while and listened. In Don DeLillo’s novel, Libra, the CIA agent who suggests assassinating JFK is, by the time the assassination goes down, just a guy sitting in his basement going through his wine collection. He’s out of the picture. That’s how I felt—like I was on the wrong end of the radio. I listened for another moment before going back to shelving books.

The punchline? Perhaps because of the sudden media attention for Hapworth brought about by my sister’s story, Salinger withdrew permission to publish. Thirteen years later, the story still hasn’t been seen in book form.

Tomorrow: My Summer of Salinger

Posted at 06:16 PM on Thursday January 28, 2010 in category J.D. Salinger   |   Permalink  
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