Il a quitté les États-Unis il y a 31 mois. Il a été blessé lors de sa première campagne. Il a contracté des maladies tropicales. Il dort à moitié la nuit et fait sortir les Japonais de leur trou toute la journée. Deux tiers de sa compagnie ont été tués ou blessés. Il va repartir à l’attaque ce matin. Jusqu’à quel point un homme peut tenir ? Tom Lea
On ne se débarrasse jamais vraiment de l’odeur de chair brûlée. Quelque soit le temps qu’on vive. Salinger
Au héros du plus grand désir succède le héros du moindre désir. (…) Le romantique ne veut pas vraiment être seul; il veut qu’on le voit choisir la solitude. René Girard
L’auteur de L’attrape-cœurs est mon écrivain préféré, il a 88 ans et j’en ai marre qu’il soit mon contraire absolu. Quand il avait mon âge, Salinger était une star qui draguait les filles, dînait au Stork Club, jouait au poker, fréquentait les journalistes, et se saoûlait au Chumley’s avec des écrivains et des éditeurs. Et puis, un beau jour, il a complètement disparu.(…) Son célèbre héros Holden Caulfield, l’éternel adolescent fugueur, a changé ma vie: un garçon qui s’enfuit de son école, ment sur son âge pour entrer dans des bars, harcèle une pute, prend des taxis qui puent le vomi, se demande où vont les canards de Central Park en hiver, dit «nom de Dieu» tout le temps avant de tomber amoureux d’une bonne sœur ne pouvait que devenir mon meilleur copain. (…) En Amérique, The Catcher in the Rye est un peu l’équivalent de L’étranger de Camus, publié dix ans plus tôt (si Albert Camus n’avait pas eu d’accident de voiture en 1960, il aurait aujourd’hui à peu près le même âge que Salinger – à peine six ans de plus). Frédéric Beigbeder
Salinger told Whit Burnett his writing teacher at Columbia University and the editor at Story magazine that on D Day he was carrying six chapters of The Catcher in the rye, that he needed those pages with him not only as an amulet to help him survive but as a reason to survive. David Shields
L’un des premiers détails que j’ai appris, c’est qu’il portait avec lui six chapitres de The Catcher in the Rye quand il a débarqué le Jour J. C’est quelque chose qui m’a stupéfié. Il portait ces chapitres avec lui presque comme un talismanpour le préserver de la mort et il a travaillé sur le livre tout au long de la guerre.
Avant de participer au Débarquement, J.D. Salinger était un gosse de riche de Park Avenue. Rien ne l’avait préparé à ce que la seconde guerre mondiale allait lui faire psychologiquement. Nous le savons car à la fin de la guerre, il a fait un passage dans un hôpital psychiatrique et ensuite quelque chose de vraiment remarquable, c’est-à-dire que dès sa sortie de l’hôpital psychiatrique, il a resigné pour la dénazification de l’Allemagne.
La seconde guerre mondiale est vraiment le traumatisme qui a transformé la vie de J.D. Salinger. Elle a fait de lui un artiste, mais elle l’a brisé en tant qu’homme. Il a vécu toute sa vie avec le syndrome de stress post-traumatique. C’est quelque chose à laquelle nous croyons très fortement, et j’ai placé un de ses anciens frère d’armes de la quatrième Division dans le film pour dire comment il voyait les bombes tomber dans son salon parce que pour moi, ce n’est vraiment pas une chose qui est généralement associée à Salinger — ce ton de gueule cassée est directement lié à ses expériences de la guerre et c’est vraiment tout l’esprit qui anime ses histoires. Lorsque vous relisez l’oeuvre avec cela à l’esprit, vous vous rendez même compte que « Catcher in the Rye » est un roman de guerre déguisé. Shane Salerno
Je crois que ce qui lui plaisait, c’est que j’étais encore une enfant toutes ces années. Je savais que c’était fini. Je savais que j’étais tombée de ce piédestal. Jean Miller
Il avait une relation compliquée avec les femmes. Il s’intéressait particulièrement aux femmes qui étaient au seuil de la féminité, entre 16 et 18 ans et parfois plus. (…) pas sexuellement (…) plus comme un moyen de revenir au temps de l’innocence d’avant-guerre. Salinger a toujours rêvé de l’époque de sa jeunesse, avant que son service dans la seconde guerre mondiale change sa vie pour toujours (…) Salinger a toujours été fasciné par cette période de temps avant que le monde des adultes n’entre dans votre vie. Shane Salerno
Neuf ans de production, une centaine de photos dont nombre d’images, lettres et documents inédits, plus de 200 entretiens, annonce de la sortie dès 2015 d’au moins cinq nouveaux livres …
A l’heure où la double sortie aux Etats-Unis d’un documentaire de plus de 2 heures et d’une biographie de quelque 700 pages tous deux intitulés « Salinger » lève un coin du voile sur l’un des plus grands mythes littéraires contemporains …
A savoir les près de 45 ans de silence de l’auteur du roman fétiche de toute une génération (« The Catcher in the rye » ou « L’Attrape-cœurs » en français, soit avec 65 millions d’exemplaires en en 30 langues l’équivalent pour les adolescents américains de « L’Etranger » pour les jeunes Français, sans compter tous ceux qu’il avait inspirés comme le « Moins que zéro » de Bret Easton ou en France plus récemment « Le Coeur en dehors« ) qui sous le feu des critiques après une poignée de nouvelles n’avait pas publié depuis 1965 ou même, hormis quelques rares photos volées au téléobjectif, été vu depuis, avant sa mort il y a trois ans à l’âge de 91 ans …
Retour avec un entretien de Shane Salerno …
Qui non content d’avoir démontré, si l’on en croit ses déclarations, qu’entre ses appels aux médias, ses procès à ses biographes ou émules et son goût prononcé pour les jeunes filles en fleur, le prétendu reclus de Nouvelle Angleterre n’avait en fait jamais cessé d’écrire …
Rappelle le véritable traumatisme que fut pour lui non seulement sa rupture avec la fille du dramaturge Eugene O’ Neill qui à 18 ans à peine lui avait préféré un Charlie Chaplin de 36 ans son ainé mais surtout son expérience, à l’instar des héros de « A Perfect Day for Bananafish » ou de « For Esmé – With Love » (mais, victime d’une dépression nerveuse, Holden Caulfield ne raconte-t-il pas son récit lui aussi du lit de son sanatorium ?) , de la guerre et notamment, pour ce descendant de juifs lithuaniens, sa découverte des camps de concentration nazis …
Et redonne de ce fait une intéressante et entièrement nouvelle grille de lecture du livre culte de ce dernier comme équivalent déguisé des romans ouvertement de guerre de ses contemporains, voire de la génération précédente …
Sep 2, 2013
In the documentary ‘Salinger,’ which had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, filmmaker Shane Salerno spent a decade interviewing friends, lovers, and admirers of the reclusive author of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ to create a full-bodied portrait of a troubled soul—while revealing the titles of his upcoming works. Salerno, joined by former Salinger flame Jean Miller and others, discussed the film in a post-screening Q&A.
Salinger, the decade-in-the-making documentary on reclusive author J.D. Salinger—he of The Catcher in the Rye fame—has been buzzed about for quite some time. Just last week, news leaked that the film reveals five posthumous works by Salinger that are scheduled to be published between 2015 and 2020. And then, if things weren’t mysterious enough, the plane carrying the Salinger team crash-landed at Telluride airport (thankfully, everyone was fine).
Without further ado, here are the titles of Salinger’s unpublished works, as revealed in the documentary:
A Counterintelligence Agent’s Diary
This book is based on Salinger’s time serving in the counterintelligence division when he interrogated prisoners of war during the final months of World War II.
A World War II Love Story
This book is based on Salinger’s brief marriage to Sylvia, a Nazi collaborator, just following World War II.
A Religious Manual
This book concerns Salinger’s adherence to Ramakrishna’s Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, which he found later in life.
The Complete Chronicle of the Glass Family
This book contains five new short stories about his recurring character Seymour Glass.
“The Last and Best of the Peter Pans”
This short story was written by Salinger in 1962, and tells another tale from the perspective of Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye.
Shane Salerno’s documentary, which is a tad over two hours in length, is equal parts fascinating and exploitative, but one can’t deny the astounding level of comprehensiveness on display. The film opens with an ex-Newsweek photographer recounting how, in 1979, he was hired to snap a picture of the notoriously reclusive Salinger in his hometown of Cornish, New Hampshire—eventually capturing him leaving his local post office. It then jumps back in time, tracing Salinger’s upbringing as the child of a cheese merchant who grew up on Park Avenue and came from “country-club society,” as one talking head puts it, before being kicked out of numerous prep schools. Once someone asked him what J.D. stood for, and he famously told them, “juvenile delinquent.”
His parents enrolled him at Valley Forge Military Academy, where he began writing. But his first love was acting. When he signed his school yearbook, he signed not only his name, but the names of all the characters he portrayed in school plays. Salinger, it’s later noted, tended to treat everyone in his life, especially his revolving door of younger women, as characters whom he could, to a certain degree, manipulate to do his bidding.
Later his romance with Oona O’Neill, the debutante daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill, is documented. After Salinger signed up for World War II, he’d brag to his Army friends about the relationship and send her letters daily—that is, until she stopped replying and began seeing Charlie Chaplin. This crushed Salinger, but also perhaps provided some creative inspiration, for it was during World War II that he wrote portions of The Catcher in the Rye, allegedly carrying six chapters of the novel on his person during D-Day to protect him.
The documentary shows a brief, never-before-seen clip of Salinger in the Army during August 1944. A woman gives the soldier a bouquet of flowers, and Salinger seems so touched, he removes his hat.
“When you reread the work with that in mind, you even realize that The Catcher in the Rye is a disguised war novel.”
But WWII traumatized Salinger. In one letter to a friend he writes, “I dig my foxholes down to a cowardly depth.” After serving 299 days in the army, including participating in D-Day, V-J Day, and the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau, Salinger—oddly—married a woman named Sylvia, who is a former Nazi. They divorced soon after, and the documentary then chronicles his flings with numerous young women, including Jean Miller, who met Salinger when she was 14 at Daytona Beach. They spent quite a bit of time together, but the relationship didn’t get physical until he took her virginity one night at a hotel in Montreal. Afterwards, he left her.
Then there are the numerous rejections he received from The New Yorker, which initially refused to publish his short stories; then his successes there and the chaos surrounding the release of The Catcher in the Rye, which eventually sent him into seclusion. He still wrote until the day he died and, according to his brief fling Joyce Maynard, who was in attendance at this very screening, would write in a secluded hut called “the Bunker” and wear a canvas jumpsuit, like “a soldier going to war.”
Salinger is a thoroughly engrossing film that provides a full-bodied portrait of the man, the myth, the legend J.D. Salinger through brief reenactmentts, archival footage, and more than 150 interviews with lovers, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, super-fans, journalists, and modern-day admirers like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Martin Sheen. It is truly unbelievable how much research went into the making of this film, and it shows on screen. But Salinger is also a bit of a Catch-22, since you know that the late author, who passed away in 2010 at age 91, would have hated that this film was made.
In a Q&A following the screening moderated by famed documentarian Ken Burns, Salinger director Shane Salerno and his collaborators, including Salinger fling Jean Miller, spoke about the man behind the mystery.
On a strange correspondence with Salinger:
BURNS: “We had a correspondence that went on for some time that was distinguished by the fact that he would send me passages from Christian Science manuscripts of how to cure ailments.”
On how they documented someone so mysterious:
SALERNO: “Salinger was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my life. It consumed 10 years. Having people speak for the first time was a huge challenge. It was a bit like All the President’s Men, where doors just slammed in your face for the first couple of years, but I was very grateful to finally have people come forward and share their stories. I felt that only the people that knew Salinger could really speak to how complex and contradictory he was, and people who had spent important time with him, people who had shared real experiences with him at different stages of his life. Salinger had an interesting pattern of having people in his life for three, four, five years, and during that time he would be completely focused on them, and then there always seemed to be a big blowout, and that person would be banished from his life for one reason or another. So convincing people to speak, who in some cases were really wounded for 30, 40, or 50 years, was very difficult. But to be fair, everyone said that at other times, he was a very warm and sweet man who was always known as Jerry—no one ever knew him as J.D.”
On feeling like an expendable muse:
MILLER: “Certainly, at the time, I didn’t feel expendable, but looking at this movie, I have to say, yeah, I suppose I was expendable. But the point is, everything about [Salinger] was warm, and kind, so another way you could look at it, from my point of view and my life, was what a privilege it was to have that time with him, even if it did have quite a dramatic end.”
On Salinger’s posttraumatic stress disorder following World War II:
SALERNO: “World War II really was the transformative trauma of J.D. Salinger’s life. It made him as an artist, but it broke him as a man. He was living with PTSD throughout his life. This is something that we believe in very strongly, and I placed a fellow veteran of his from the Fourth Division in the film talking about seeing bombs falling in his living room, because I do think that that is an area that is not associated with Salinger—that shell-shocked tone is directly from his experiences in WWII, and it really is the ghost in the machine of all his stories. When you reread the work with that in mind, you even realize that The Catcher in the Rye is a disguised war novel.”
On using re-creations to depict portions of Salinger’s life:
SALERNO: “The re-creations are something that we went back and forth on. There is so little material on Salinger; there are none of the traditional tools you have. There are no interviews, no audio recordings, very few pictures. The re-creations are probably a cumulative 7 minutes of a 2-hour and 4-minute film, but we felt they were really necessary to put you in that place—to have you experience a person—because there were just inherent limitations.”
September 01, 2013
WADE GOODWYN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I’m Wade Goodwyn. J.D. Salinger spent 10 years writing « The Catcher in the Rye » – and the rest of his life regretting it. That’s the opening line of a major new work about one of America’s most revered writers. The book about Salinger’s life comes out this week. It’s called simply « Salinger. » And a documentary, which will accompany the book, will be released this coming Friday.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, « SALINGER »)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The publication of « Catcher in the Rye » in 1951 was a revolution.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: There had not been a voice like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: When you’re a kid and you read « Catcher in the Rye, » you’re just like, oh my God, somebody gets it.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: I remember that being the first book you take with you.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: It is a phenomenon.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: How many millions and millions came to that book?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: The great mystery is why he stopped.
GOODWYN: James Salerno is co-author and director of « Salinger. » I asked him about his nine-year saga researching this very misunderstood author.
SHANE SALERNO: One of the first details that I learned is that he was carrying six chapters of the « Catcher in the Rye » with him when he landed on D-Day. And that was something that stunned me. He carried these chapters with him almost as a talisman to keep him alive. And he worked on the book throughout the war. His first day of combat was D-Day, and from there he proceeded into the hedgerows in the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge, and then ultimately entering a concentration camp, a sub-camp of Dachau.
GOODWYN: I don’t think I understood just how much Salinger’s combat experience became the formative experience for everything that Salinger wrote. His main character in « Catcher in the Rye, » Holden Caulfield, isn’t born inside Salinger’s mind during the war; he’s created before that. But he’s really forged there.
SALERNO: If J.D. Salinger had not participated in World War II, we would not be having this conversation. The fact is, is that the work that is known prior to combat is not on the level that the rest of the work is. All of the work for which we know J.D. Salinger – « Banana Fish, » « Esme, » « Catcher, » « Nine Stories » – all written after the war. Before he had landed on D-Day, J.D. Salinger was a Park Avenue rich kid. Nothing prepared him for what World War II was going to do to him psychologically. And we know this because at the end of the war he checked into a mental institution and then did something truly remarkable, which is came out of the mental institution and signed back up for more and participated in the de-Nazification of Germany.
GOODWYN: Let’s talk about the writing of « Catcher in the Rye. » From reading your book, to me, Salinger’s confidence seems at once great and fragile at the same time. Did Salinger know he was writing a great American novel while he was at it, or do you think he just was hoping he was writing a great American novel?
SALERNO: It’s a great question. I mean, one of the things that we uncovered in a letter that he wrote to Jean Miller, which was a 14-year-old girl that he struck up a very unique and unusual relationship with – and he wrote her a letter where he says that he’s actually very scared about what the reaction will be to « Catcher in the Rye. » He’s very scared about what his family and friends will think about the language and some of the points of view. And I don’t think he had any idea that it would become, you know, one of the most successful novels of all time.
GOODWYN: And here’s the part that will fill every aspiring writer’s heart with hope. It’s the great American novel but he can’t get it published.
SALERNO: Not only was « The Catcher in the Rye » turned down by its initial publisher, Harcourt Brace, but it was also turned down for excerpt by The New Yorker. And that’s even a harder thing to understand because at that time J.D. Salinger was their most popular writer. And they didn’t just reject it; they rejected it and wrote him a letter that we have where they say, you know, we don’t believe this book.
GOODWYN: There’s a scene in which Salinger is treated very roughly in which he’s invited in to meet with a publisher who tells him that they’re not going to publish the book and in fact Holden Caulfield is insane, and it sends Salinger running into the street.
SALERNO: That’s absolutely true. And when we discovered that and when we investigated that and actually talked – we were the first people that really talked with people who were at Harcourt Brace at the time – I mean, they really thought Holden Caulfield was crazy, and by extension that Salinger was crazy. And since Salinger had put his whole life into « The Catcher in the Rye, » you can imagine a man who had, you know, stepped out of a mental institution a few years earlier being told that he was crazy and that Holden Caulfield was crazy was a great wound to him. And in fact, he teared up in the room and was deeply, deeply hurt.
GOODWYN: And then it is published and the world loves it. The reviews are ecstatic – maybe too much so because Salinger’s not happy. He’s such a literary snob that he worries that too much acclaim means that he’s actually written not a great book but a book for the masses. He wants a book for the ages. But the fact that he’s written both, he has difficulty seeing that.
SALERNO: He was completely overwhelmed by fame. And what he did, very much like Holden, very much out of « Catcher in the Rye, » was beat a fast exit out of New York City. And he moved to Cornish, New Hampshire, and he never looked back. He would go into the city for certain lunches and dinners with select friends or come to a bookstore or come to a play. J.D. Salinger was not a recluse. He was very private and he wanted a private life. He was a man of deep, deep contradictions. This was a man who would write about renouncing the world and then write a letter to a friend talking about how much he loved the Whopper at Burger King.
GOODWYN: He wrote this book that eloquently touched the yearning, vulnerable, young intellect inside so many who feel like Salinger has written to them, that he understands something about them that the rest of the world doesn’t. Did you get a sense of what he thought about having suddenly touched so many young people in such a powerful way?
SALERNO: He said as much. He said very specifically that he regretted ever writing « The Catcher in the Rye. » That it took over his life and made his life incredibly difficult. There are things about « The Catcher in the Rye » that are wholly unique to « Catcher in the Rye. » People read that book – and this happened for decades and decades – and they want to meet Salinger. They get in their cars – we interviewed some of these people who left their lives, left their families, left their jobs just to see him. They think that he is a guru, that they think that he has the answers to the problems in their life, that they want to have deep conversations with him. That’s wholly unique to « The Catcher in the Rye. »
GOODWYN: Salinger eventually has little patience for these people. I don’t know if he despises them or feels sorry for them. But it’s clear he was happiest when he was at his writing desk. And I wonder if that would have been true with or without « Catcher in the Rye » having been written.
SALERNO: He didn’t want people showing up at his doors. He didn’t want to be bothered. He didn’t want to answer questions. He said to Michael Clarkson, who we interview in the book and the film, I’m a fiction writer. I’m not a teacher or seer.
GOODWYN: Let’s talk about Salinger and women. The first-grade love his life is the daughter of one of America’s literary giants, Eugene O’Neill, and she’s 16 years old.
SALERNO: She’s a fascinating woman, a beautiful woman, truly beautiful woman. And just to put this in perspective: between the ages of 16 and 18, Wade, Oona O’Neill dated Peter Arno, Orson Welles and J.D. Salinger and then married Charlie Chaplin just after her 18th birthday. Salinger met her when she was 16 and fell head over heels in love with her. And they were divided by war. Salinger finds out that he loses Oona to Chaplin and is devastated. He’s overseas, can’t do anything about it and is utterly devastated. And every one of his relationships that followed that with women was haunted by his relationship with Oona O’Neill. And Salinger was always attracted to girls at the edge of their transformation into womanhood.
GOODWYN: In my own reporting I like to bury the lead, and in that regard, your research breaks some important news, and that is that Salinger may not be finished publishing.
SALERNO: That’s true. You know, after nine years and after uncovering photos and documents and interviews with people that had never come forward or never been seen, as part of that, we were able to confirm that there is more work and that work will be published fairly soon.
GOODWYN: When do you think the work might be published?
SALERNO: We think that from the sources that we have, that the work will be published in irregular installments between 2015 and 2020.
GOODWYN: I wonder how you feel about that. I mean, his last works were criticized as being long and preachy tone and short and other kinds of content. Do you worry that these new works might suffer the same fate?
SALERNO: I know it’s a concern for millions of Salinger fans. I see that reflected in various articles. I believe that the work will be significant and important. And I’m dying to read it.
GOODWYN: Shane Salerno is the co-author of a new book about J.D. Salinger and the director, producer and writer of an accompanying documentary. The film, also called « Salinger, » will be released this coming Friday, September 6. Shane, congratulations.
SALERNO: Thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed speaking with you.
Michael Cieply and Julie Bosman
The New York Times
August 25, 2013
LOS ANGELES — J. D. Salinger may not be done publishing after all, according to claims in a new film and book set for release next week.
Mr. Salinger, who died in 2010 at the age of 91, has been known for a distinguished but scant literary oeuvre that was capped by the enormous success of his 1951 novel, “The Catcher in the Rye.”
But a forthcoming documentary and related book, both titled “Salinger,” include detailed assertions that Mr. Salinger instructed his estate to publish at least five additional books — some of them entirely new, some extending past work — in a sequence that he intended to begin as early as 2015.
The new books and stories were largely written before Mr. Salinger assigned his output to a trust in 2008, and would greatly expand the Salinger legacy.
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.
For decades, those in touch with Mr. Salinger have said that he had continued to write assiduously, though he stopped publishing after a long story, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” appeared in The New Yorker. But no one had made so detailed a public claim that Mr. Salinger had left extensive posthumous publishing plans.
Matthew Salinger, who is Mr. Salinger’s son, and shares responsibility for the Salinger estate with Colleen O’Neill, the author’s widow, declined to discuss plans or the book and film. He said Ms. O’Neill, who did not respond directly to a separate query, would also decline to comment.
In an interview earlier this year, Matthew Salinger said he was skeptical that the planned book and documentary would deepen public understanding of his father, who, he said, for decades had confined his intimate dealings to a small circle of seven or eight people.
The documentary is directed by Shane Salerno, a filmmaker who spent nine years researching and filming the movie that is set for release by the Weinstein Company on Sept. 6, and will air later on PBS in the American Masters series. The companion book, co-written by David Shields, is to be published by Simon & Schuster on Sept. 3.
Speaking in his Los Angeles office on Saturday, Mr. Salerno pointed to tables and shelves filled with previously unpublished photographs, hundreds of letters and even a handwritten World War II diary that belonged to one of Mr. Salinger’s lifelong friends, a now-deceased fellow soldier named Paul Fitzgerald.
“If that’s not the inner circle, I don’t know what is the inner circle,” Mr. Salerno said.
His understanding of the publishing plans, Mr. Salerno said, took shape “fairly late” in his research.
The book and film attribute the detailed account of the plans to two anonymous sources, both of whom are described in the book as being “independent and separate.” Mr. Salerno declined to elaborate, other than to describe them as people who had not spoken to each other, but knew of the plans.
“The credibility of the last chapter,” Mr. Salerno said of a final summary of publishing prospects, entitled “Secrets,” “is in the 571 pages that preceded it.” Mr. Salerno noted that he initially had some cooperation from members of the Salinger family, but they later withdrew support.
The book and film have been marketed with the promise of revelations about Mr. Salinger, whose penchant for privacy became a hallmark. Last week, Weinstein and Simon & Schuster began a promotional campaign that includes a poster image of Mr. Salinger with a finger to his lips, beneath an admonition: “Uncover the Mystery but Don’t Spoil the Secrets!” The book, a 698-page companion to the film, is written in an oral history style with snippets of text from dozens of people who were interviewed for the project.
Jonathan Karp, the publisher of Simon & Schuster, said in an interview on Saturday that the book was “a major journalistic feat.”
“He did rely on some anonymous sources, and I’ve talked to him about that,” said Mr. Karp. “I believe that his sourcing is strong on the basis of all of the on-the-record sourcing that is unimpeachable.”
Mr. Karp said of the “big reveal” of the unpublished manuscripts, “if and when this happens, I would expect it to be one of the biggest publishing events of the year, if not the decade.”
Together, the film and book provide a highly detailed, if somewhat unconventional, tour through the life of an author who landed with the Allied invasion of Normandy in World War II, was among the first to enter the Kaufering IV death camp during his service with counterintelligence troops, suffered mental collapse, then returned to the United States — with a German wife, Sylvia Welter — where he found literary fame.
Among their more tantalizing revelations, Mr. Salerno and Mr. Shields provide little-known details and photographs of Mr. Salinger’s first wife, Ms. Welter, a German citizen who married him after World War II. At the time, in 1945, Mr. Salinger was working as a counterintelligence agent investigating Nazis who were in hiding.
But the book notes suspicious elements of Ms. Welter’s life that suggest she may have been an informant for the Gestapo, a possibility that surfaced among Mr. Salinger’s friends in the post-War era. The marriage would not last. Weeks after the newlyweds returned to the Salinger home in New York, “she found an airline ticket to Germany on her breakfast plate.”
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.
For Mr. Salerno, the near-simultaneous release of both film and book culminate a quest that took him far from his occupation as a Hollywood screenwriter of films like “Savages” and the upcoming set of sequels to “Avatar.”
Mr. Salerno said he did not expect Little, Brown and Company, which published “Catcher,” would necessarily be the publisher of future works. (The publisher declined to comment.) He said he believed Mr. Salinger’s estate has the right to place them with another publishing house.
“He’s going to have a second act unlike any writer in history,” said Mr. Salerno. “There’s no precedent for this.”
The New York Times
August 25, 2013
By David Shields and Shane Salerno
Illustrated. 698 pages. Simon & Schuster. $37.50.
In the J. D. Salinger story “Zooey,” the title character’s mother says of him and his brother: “Neither you nor Buddy know how to talk to people you don’t like,” adding: “You can’t live in the world with such strong likes and dislikes.”
This was true, too, of the famously reclusive Salinger, who retreated to Cornish, N.H., the small town where he lived in seclusion for more than a half-century. His alienation from the world and his mania for privacy became part of the Salinger myth — a myth that David Shields and Shane Salerno attempt to pierce in their revealing but often slapdash new book, “Salinger.”
Salinger stopped publishing decades ago (his last story to appear in print, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” came out in the June 19, 1965, issue of The New Yorker), but, by some reports, he continued to write nearly every day.
In “Salinger,” Mr. Salerno and Mr. Shields assert that Salinger, who died in January 2010 at 91, left instructions “authorizing a specific timetable” (starting between 2015 and 2020) for the release of unpublished work, including five new Glass family stories; a novel based on his relationship with his first wife, Sylvia Welter, a German he married shortly after World War II; a novella in the form of a counterintelligence officer’s diary entries during the war; a story-filled “manual” about the Vedanta religious philosophy; and new or retooled stories fleshing out the story of Holden Caulfield, known to generations of readers from “The Catcher in the Rye,” the novel that made its creator famous in 1951 as the voice of adolescent angst. The authors of “Salinger” attribute details of these plans to two anonymous sources described as “independent and separate.”
The sharp-edged portrait of Salinger that Mr. Shields and Mr. Salerno draw in this book is that of a writer whose “life was a slow-motion suicide mission” — a man who never recovered from the horrors of wartime combat and the soul-shaking sight of a Nazi death camp filled with burned and smoldering corpses. Salinger, they argue, tried to grapple with his post-traumatic stress disorder first with art and later with religion: “The war broke him as a man and made him a great artist; religion offered him postwar spiritual solace and killed his art.”
This reductive diagnosis of Salinger’s “condition” is accompanied by pages and pages of testimony about how his youthful arrogance (one friend said he dismissed “Dreiser through Hemingway” as “all inferior” writers) and disaffection with his parents’ bourgeois world calcified, after the war, into a deep antipathy, even repugnance for most worldly things and ideas. Eventually, that contempt infected many of his closest relationships, and as depicted in these pages, an observant, Holden-like young man evolves over the years into a blinkered and condescending curmudgeon who is frequently guilty of the same sort of phoniness or hypocrisy his characters so deplored.
Salinger’s family, the authors say, had to compete for his attention with the fictional characters he’d created. One scholar quoted here says that when Salinger went off to his writing bunker, he gave “strict orders that he was not to be disturbed for anything unless the house was burning down.” What’s more, as he retreated from the world, his writing grew increasingly solipsistic and hermetic, his mastery of the vernacular giving way to more and more abstract language.
“Story by story,” Mr. Salerno and Mr. Shields observe, “from ‘Teddy’ forward, Salinger’s work moves from religion as a factor or even a crutch in his characters’ lives, to religion as the only thing in their lives that matters, to the work’s entire purpose being to cryptically convey religious dogma.”
“Salinger,” self-promotingly described on its cover as “The Official Book of the Acclaimed Documentary Film,” is not a conventional biography but a kind of companion volume to Mr. Salerno’s documentary of the same name (to be released on Sept. 6). The book takes a montagelike form: Excerpts from interviews, snippets from books and newspaper articles, letters and photos (some new) and photocopies of documents have all been assembled along with the authors’ own remarks into a sprawling, cut-and-paste collage.
This volume is indebted to earlier Salinger biographies by Paul Alexander (listed curiously as “an adviser to this book”) and Kenneth Slawenski, and it also draws heavily upon memoirs by Salinger’s daughter, Margaret, and his former lover Joyce Maynard, who was 18 when he began courting her. Among the other voices featured in this book are Salinger friends, paramours, colleagues, acquaintances and fans, as well as reporters, critics (including this one) and photographers.
Although Mr. Salerno has done an energetic job of finding sources and persuading them to talk — he says he interviewed more than 200 people over nine years — numerous entries in this volume have been taken not from new interviews but from earlier books and articles, sometimes with and sometimes without real context. Mr. Shields offered a defense of this sort of approach in his 2010 book, “Reality Hunger,” which embraced the validity of “recombinant,” or appropriation, art.
This methodology gives the reader a choral, “Rashomon”-like portrait of Salinger, but it also makes for a loosey-goosey, Internet-age narrative with diminished authorial responsibility. Instead of assiduously sifting fact from conjecture and trying to sort out discrepancies, Mr. Salerno and Mr. Shields are often content to lay back and simply let sources speak for themselves.
This can make for sloppy scholarship with a lot of hedges like “probably thought,” “would have understood” and “might have been,” as well as outright speculation — sometimes by the authors themselves. Mr. Shields and Mr. Salerno even suggest that “Catcher” in some way played a role in the killings of John Lennon and the young actress Rebecca Schaeffer, and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. These terrible acts, the authors write, “are not a coincidence; they constitute frighteningly clairvoyant readings of ‘Catcher’ — the assassins intuiting the underlying postwar anger and violence in the book.”
The authors contend that Salinger “was born with only one testicle” and they argue that this caused him enormous embarrassment — that it was “surely one of the many reasons he stayed out of the media glare” so as “to reduce the likelihood that this information would emerge,” and that it amplified his psychological need “to create flawless art.” This assertion, however, is based on anonymous sources: two unnamed women who the authors say “independently confirmed” hearsay that Salinger suffered from this anomaly.
In another chapter, Mr. Shields and Mr. Salerno discuss outsourcing their research. They write that they “hired the literary scholar, Salinger expert, and German native Eberhard Alsen to travel to Germany to conduct an extensive investigation into Salinger’s year in the European Theater and postwar experience in Germany.” Mr. Alsen then proceeds to say that “utilizing his counterintelligence skills, Salinger forged French identification papers for Sylvia in order to circumvent the nonfraternization law,” and suggests, without hard evidence, that Sylvia “might have been a Gestapo informant.”
Attempting to identify patterns in Salinger’s life and art, Mr. Salerno and Mr. Shields quote sources who note his compulsion to try to control the lives of those closest to him and his appreciation of fiction as a way to orchestrate his fantasies. Innocence and nostalgia, they remind us, were recurring themes in his work, and they suggest that these preoccupations — not unlike his fondness for old-fashioned television like “The Lawrence Welk Show” — represented a desire to turn back the clock, to retreat to the past (before the war, before his hospitalization for “battle fatigue,” before his psyche was horribly scarred).
They also contend that this yearning for innocence — coupled with his devastation at being dumped as a young man by the teenage Oona O’Neill for Charlie Chaplin in 1943 — had something to do with his need to seek out young women: his need to idolize them, seduce them and then abandon them. With Jean Miller — a 14-year-old he met at a Florida beach resort in 1949 and who seems to have inspired the heroine of “For Esmé — With Love and Squalor” — he nurtured a five-year relationship, only to freeze her out the day after they had sex for the first time.
There is something creepy in Salinger’s use of his distinctive Holden-esque voice to try to charm his potential conquests — in a 1972 letter to Ms. Maynard the 53-year-old author describes himself as “perhaps the last active Mousketeer east of the White House” — and his judgmental, Glass-ian impulse to divide the world into us and them, inviting these worshipful young love interests to join his elite little club, only to expel them later with a curt dismissal that they’re merely ordinary or conventional, not special enough for him.
“The problem with you, Joyce,” Ms. Maynard recalls him saying, “is you love the world.
The film and book that have consumed the screenwriter’s life since 2003 began with two photos. Along the way, there have been many revelations. Now he awaits the public’s judgment.
September 5, 2013
When Shane Salerno turned 40 last year, he decided it was finally time to let his obsession go.
The screenwriter, best known for his collaborations with Michael Bay (« Armageddon ») and Oliver Stone (« Savages »), had toiled for close to a decade trying to document the mysterious life of J.D. Salinger. The author of the bestselling « The Catcher in the Rye » had stopped publishing in 1965 and retreated from the public spotlight, leaving fans to wonder why — and to guess about what he had been doing in the 45 years until his death in 2010.
Over the years, Salerno had discovered juicy details about the enigmatic author — a short-lived marriage to a Gestapo informant at the end of World War II; a long-term relationship with a teenage girl that became the inspiration for the short story « For Esmé — With Love and Squalor »; a previously unknown best friend with whom he had corresponded over five decades. But the biggest revelation of all? Two sources saying that Salinger had left behind five unpublished manuscripts to be released between 2015 and 2020.
The plan was to pour all the research into an exhaustive biography co-written with David Shields and simultaneously release a two-hour film. But every time Salerno thought he had uncovered it all, new information would trickle in.
At last, he had reached his limit. « I turned 40 and I was done, » recalled Salerno, sitting in his Brentwood office last week among the letters, photographs and documents that have consumed his life. « The film was sitting in my house as a finished master and I thought: ‘This is ridiculous, enough.’ On Dec. 3, I called my lawyer and I said, ‘I want to do this now.' »
Nine months later, the result is a 698-page oral biography, « Salinger, » published Tuesday, and a documentary of the same name that’s arriving in theaters Friday after premiering last weekend at the Telluride Film Festival. Early reviews have described both works as engrossing as well as exasperating, and time will tell how deeply Salerno’s passion project resonates with a wider audience.
« I always trusted that he had what he said he had, » said Salerno’s attorney, Robert Offer. « What I didn’t trust was that anyone would care as much as they did. »
The Salinger project began as a lark. Although the author’s work and mystique loomed large in Salerno’s household as a child (Salerno’s mother loved « Franny & Zooey » while her son was partial to « A Perfect Day for Banana-Fish » and « Esme »), his quest started in 2003, when he was in a bookstore and found the cover of Paul Alexander’s biography of Salinger which featured two incongruous photos of the author superimposed — a youthful cover portrait from « Catcher in the Rye » and a candid shot taken much later at the writer’s home in Cornish, N.H. The images depicted a man young and old, optimistic and deflated.
« I was so taken with that image that I spent 91/2 years trying to find out what happened, » said Salerno, who originally thought he would spend $300,000 and six months investigating Salinger. He wound up using $2 million of his own money.
After a privileged New York upbringing, military school as a teen and a brief stint in college, Salinger was struggling as a writer when World War II broke out. He entered the Army and was sent to Europe; Salerno said it was Salinger’s trajectory during and after the war that kept him in the hunt for so long.
« The moment I said, ‘No matter what it takes, I’m going to finish the film,’ was when I learned that he went into a concentration camp [at the end of the war], went to a mental institution as a result and did what no other person on the planet would do: He signed up for more, » Salerno said. « He joined the de-Nazification program and decided to go hunt these guys down. The minute I heard that, I was there. »
Salerno made trips to Germany, Chile and many places on the East Coast, trying to piece together Salinger’s back story. He says that although certain members of the author’s family initially cooperated with his quest, they ultimately didn’t participate in formal interviews. But Salerno, Shields and his crew, which included cinematographer Buddy Squires (« The Central Park Five »), were propelled by gets, such as a photograph of Salinger in his bedroom or a trove of letters that Salinger exchanged with author Joyce Maynard.
At times, Salerno seems to adopt a Salingeresque secrecy about his own work; ask him, for example, whether he’s seen any of the actual manuscripts he says are awaiting publication and he refuses to answer. And he says he never sought to interview the man directly. Yet Salerno is happy to wax on about what he sees as the significance of the book and film.
« This was an extraordinarily difficult project. This wasn’t doing Ted Kennedy or Steve Jobs, where there are 100 or 200 interviews that you can draw on, » he said. « We were having to pull things out of thin air. »
One of the most compelling — and disturbing — segments of the film concerns Salinger’s predilection for teenage girls. The movie touches on Salinger’s early romance love with high-schooler Oona O’Neill (who would later marry Charlie Chaplin), and describes his multiyear courtship of Jean Miller, whom he met at Daytona Beach, Fla., when she was 14 and he was 30. It also delves into his relationship with Claire Douglas, whom he met when she was 16 and who became his second wife and mother to his two children.
In the film, Miller, now 78, describes their correspondence, her trips to his house in Cornish, how they danced to « The Lawrence Welk Show » and watched Frank Capra’s « Lost Horizon. » She says that when she was 19, and he 35, she lost her virginity to him and he ended the relationship immediately.
It was a pattern Salinger would repeat at age 53 with the then-18-year-old Maynard, who came to his attention when she was featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine for her essay on life as a teenager. Maynard dropped out of Yale University after her freshman year and lived with Salinger for 10 months, writing her first novel at his house before he ended the relationship abruptly. Maynard attended the film’s premiere in Telluride, Colo., and said she was more agitated by the movie than she expected to be.
« Salinger’s interest in seeking out young girls is certainly an element in the film. But the disturbing consequences of this behavior, to the girls, is barely addressed, and the suggestion has been made that there was some kind of privilege or honor involved in having been selected as a muse, » Maynard said in an interview. « It is my view that J.D. Salinger damaged the lives of many young girls, on a far greater scale than is represented in Salerno’s film. »
Salerno said he was bothered by what he learned about Salinger’s interest in teenagers but added that he cut more information about those relationships from the film due to space constraints. (The book includes another story about a 16-year-old, Shirlie Blaney, whom Salinger had a brief relationship with when he was in his early 30s.)
« We felt after Oona, Joyce, Jean and Claire, the point had been made, » said Salerno. « When we showed people early cuts of the film, they were like, ‘We get it.' »
Coming to PBS
Salerno, who recently signed on to write James Cameron’s « Avatar 4, » has sold the TV rights to the Salinger film to PBS, and after its theatrical run, it will air on « American Masters » next year.
Salerno’s only hope now is that people like it.
« I had to make this film, and I’m sure someone could have made it better, made it different, but I know that I gave it everything I had for nine years, » said Salerno. « I really hope people enjoy it and feel that it honors Salinger, but tells the full story of his life. That was a really hard line. Yes, he’s an extraordinary artist and a deeply complicated human being. »
By David Shields and Shane Salerno
Simon and Scuster
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.