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JD Salinger and his posthumous literary resurgence

  • Published at 04:30 pm September 14th, 2019
JD Salinger
JD Salinger | Photo credit: deadcaulfields.com

Lit news

Writing about JD Salinger, his daughter Margaret mentions in her memoir Dream Catcher that he hit one of the Normandy landing beaches on D-day in the Second World War, fought for days and when Paris was liberated, he roamed around with famous American author Ernest Hemingway; he also visited concentration camps, which brought him face to face with the Holocaust. The experience he had being an army sergeant, caused him to develop battle fatigue and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But during that time of great suffering, he had been thinking, writing, editing and rewriting a story that eventually came out as the novel The Catcher in the Rye in 1951, which has become an all-time bestseller. This novel and a few other short story collections gave him immense popularity, something that he failed to cope up with. He was hounded by fans and journalists, who were “wanters” in his eyes. So he lived the later days of his life in reclusion, avoiding public appearance, although everybody knew he never stopped writing until his death in 2010. 

Since 1965, when Salinger published his final short story “Hapworth 16, 1924,” not a single word of his has been published. What he has written during his four decades long reclusion remains one of the biggest literary mysteries of world literature.  

This mystery seems to be unfolding within the next few years, as his family has recently confirmed that his unseen and unpublished writings are to be published. But until then readers would love to know that the complications holding digital publication of his published writings have been cleared. Since August 13, online bookstores have been selling the E-book editions of four of Salinger’s greatest published works—The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour—An Introduction.

Salinger was known not only for his desolation, his distaste for computers and modern technology but also for his lack of enthusiasm to publish his works. In 1974, when unauthorized collections of his early magazine stories started showing up in different bookstores, in a rare interview with the Times he denounced it and even said, “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing.” He also quipped, “Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy.” 

So for his son, Matt Salinger, 59, who helps run the JD Salinger Literary Trust and is currently typing Salinger’s unpublished writings, this is a “weird” situation. Over the years he has been a circumspect guardian of his father’s legacy and privacy. “It’s weird, because I’ve spent my whole life protecting him and not talking about him,” Matt said in an interview with the New York Times. JD Salinger was “leery of many things, but he had a profound love for his readers,” he added. “He wouldn’t want people to not be able to read his stuff.” 

He also told the Guardian that his father “was writing for 50 years without publishing, so that’s a lot of material,” and that his father wanted him to pull it together. 

JD Salinger knew, considering the magnitude of his unpublished writings, it would take a long time. So his son affirmed the readers that “there’s not a reluctance or a protectiveness: when it’s ready, we’re going to share it.” 

Hironmoy Golder is Staff Writer, Arts & Letters.