J. D. Salinger: A Life

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The inspiration for the major motion picture Rebel in the Rye

One of the most popular and mysterious figures in American literary history, the author of the classic Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger eluded fans and journalists for most of his life. Now he is the subject of this definitive biography, which is filled with new information and revelations garnered from countless interviews, letters, and public records.

Kenneth Slawenski explores Salinger’s privileged youth, long obscured by misrepresentation and rumor, revealing the brilliant, sarcastic, vulnerable son of a disapproving father and doting mother. Here too are accounts of Salinger’s first broken heart—after Eugene O’Neill’s daughter, Oona, left him—and the devastating World War II service that haunted him forever. J. D. Salinger features this author’s dramatic encounters with luminaries from Ernest Hemingway to Elia Kazan, his office intrigues with famous New Yorker editors and writers, and the stunning triumph of The Catcher in the Rye, which would both make him world-famous and hasten his retreat into the hills of New Hampshire. J. D. Salinger is this unique author’s unforgettable story in full—one that no lover of literature can afford to miss.

Praise for J. D. Salinger: A Life
 
“Startling . . . insightful . . . [a] terrific literary biography.”—USA Today

“It is unlikely that any author will do a better job than Mr. Slawenski capturing the glory of Salinger’s life.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Slawenski fills in a great deal and connects the dots assiduously; it’s unlikely that any future writer will uncover much more about Salinger than he has done.”Boston Sunday Globe
 
“Offers perhaps the best chance we have to get behind the myth and find the man.”Newsday
 
“[Slawenski has] greatly fleshed out and pinned down an elusive story with precision and grace.”—Chicago Sun-Times
 
“Earnest, sympathetic and perceptive . . . [Slawenski] does an evocative job of tracing the evolution of Salinger’s work and thinking.”—The New York Times
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About the author

Kenneth Slawenski is the creator of DeadCaulfields.com, a website founded in 2004 and recommended by The New York Times. He has been working on this biography for eight years. Slawenski was born in New Jersey, and has lived there all his life.


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Additional Information

Publisher
Random House
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Published on
Jan 25, 2011
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Pages
464
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ISBN
9780679604792
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
Biography & Autobiography / Literary
History / United States / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Based on eight years of exhaustive research and exclusive interviews with more than 200 people—and published in coordination with the international theatrical release of a major documentary film from the Weinstein Company—Salinger is a global cultural event: the definitive biography of one of the most beloved and mysterious figures of the twentieth century.

For more than fifty years, the ever elusive author of The Catcher in the Rye has been the subject of a relentless stream of newspaper and magazine articles as well as several biographies. Yet all of these attempts have been hampered by a fundamental lack of access and by the persistent recycling of inaccurate information. Salinger remains, astonishingly, an enigma. The complex and contradictory human being behind the myth has never been revealed.

No longer.

In the eight years since Salinger was begun, and especially in the three years since Salinger’s death, the authors interviewed on five continents more than 200 people, many of whom had previously refused to go on the record about their relationship with Salinger. This oral biography offers direct eyewitness accounts from Salinger’s World War II brothers-in-arms, his family members, his close friends, his lovers, his classmates, his neighbors, his editors, his publishers, his New Yorker colleagues, and people with whom he had relationships that were secret even to his own family. Shields and Salerno illuminate most brightly the last fifty-six years of Salinger’s life: a period that, until now, had remained completely dark to biographers. Provided unprecedented access to never-before-published photographs (more than 100 throughout the book), diaries, letters, legal records, and secret documents, readers will feel they have, for the first time, gotten beyond Salinger’s meticulously built-up wall. The result is the definitive portrait of one of the most fascinating figures of the twentieth century.
A young and ambitious writer named Jerome David Salinger set his goals very high very early in his career. He almost desperately wished to publish his early stories in The New Yorker magazine, the pinnacle, he felt, of America's literary world. But such was not to be for several long years and the length of one long world war. The New Yorker, whose tastes in literary matters were and remain notoriously prim and fickle, was not quite ready for this brash and over-confident newcomer with the cynical worldview and his habit of slangy dialogue. But other magazines were quick to recognize a new talent, a fresh voice at a time when the world verged on madness. Story magazine, an esteemed and influential small circulation journal devoted exclusively to the art of the short story and still active and respected today, was the first publication to publish the name J.D. Salinger and the story "The Young Folks" in 1940, an impressive view of New York's cocktail society and two young people talking past one another, their conversation almost completely meaningless and empty. His next short story was published in a college journal, The University of Kansas City Review, "Go See Eddie," a tale of quiet menace as an unsavory male character gradually turns up the pressure on a young lady to see a man named Eddie. Also published in 1940, the story is notable for the backstory that is omitted - a technique that Hemingway used to great effect. Four years later toward the end of Salinger's war experience saw the publication of "Once A Week Won't Kill You," again in Story magazine. Ostensibly about a newly minted soldier trying to tell an aging aunt he is going off to war, some may see the story as a metaphor for preparing one's family for the possibility of wartime death. Three Early Stories (Illustrated), published in 2014 by Devault-Graves Digital Editions, is the first legitimately published book by J.D. Salinger in more than 50 years. Its publication was a landmark in recent publishing history. Of particular interest to scholars and lovers of literature, these three tales mark the earlier period in the development of Salinger as a published writer, taking him from his first story sale to his life-changing experiences in World War II. This new Scholastic Edition of Three Early Stories, prepared by accomplished writer and English professor Michael Compton, includes a full study guide intended for use in high school and college classrooms. The study guide includes endnotes, discussion questions, writing prompts, essays and a Salinger timeline.
Late on a warm summer night in rural Missouri, an elderly camp director hears a squeal of joyous female laughter and goes to investigate. At the camp swimming pool he comes upon a bewildering scene: his counselors stripped naked and engaged in a provocative celebration. The first camp session is set to start in just two days. He fires them all. As a result, new counselors must be quickly hired and brought to the Kindermann Forest Summer Camp.

One of them is Wyatt Huddy, a genetically disfigured young man who has been living in a Salvation Army facility. Gentle and diligent, large and imposing, Wyatt suffers a deep anxiety that his intelligence might be subnormal. All his life he’s been misjudged because of his irregular features. But while Wyatt is not worldly, he is also not an innocent. He has escaped a punishing home life with a reclusive and violent older sister.

Along with the other new counselors, Wyatt arrives expecting to care for children. To their astonishment, they learn that for the first two weeks of the camping season they will be responsible for 104 severely developmentally disabled adults, all of them wards of the state. For Wyatt it is a dilemma that turns his world inside out. Physically, he is indistinguishable from the state hospital campers he cares for. Inwardly, he would like to believe he is not of their tribe. Fortunately for Wyatt, there is a young woman on staff who understands his predicament better than he might have hoped.

At once the new counselors and disabled campers begin to reveal themselves. Most are well-intentioned; others unprepared. Some harbor dangerous inclinations. Among the campers is a perplexing array of ailments and appearances and behavior both tender and disturbing. To encounter them is to be reminded just how wide the possibilities are when one is describing human beings.

Soon Wyatt is called upon to prevent a terrible tragedy. In doing so, he commits an act whose repercussions will alter his own life and the lives of the other Kindermann Forest staff members for years to come.

Written with scrupulous fidelity to the strong passions running beneath the surface of camp life, The Inverted Forest is filled with yearning, desire, lust, banked hope, and unexpected devotion. This remarkable and audacious novel amply underscores Heaven Lake’s wide acclaim and confirms John Dalton’s rising prominence as a major American novelist.
Kenneth Slawenskin elämäkerta yhä valtavan suositusta amerikkalaisesta J. D. Saligerista avaa mainiosti arvoituksellisen ja julkisuutta karttavan kirjailijan elämää. Salinger vetäytyi julkisuudesta 1960-luvun puolivälissä suosionsa huipulla. Hän oli 50-luvulla kirjoittanut räjähdysmäisen menestyksen saavuttaneen romaanin Sieppari ruispellossa, jota on myyty maailmalla 65 miljoonaa kappaletta. Salingerin taiturimaisia novelleja on suomeksikin ilmestynyt kaksi kokoelmaa. Elämäkerta hahmottaa hyvin sitä, kuinka Salinger kantoi sisällään koko elämänsä ajan sotakokemuksiaan, Normandian maihinnoususta Dachaun keskistysleirillä näkemiinsä kauhuihin. Ennen muuta elämäkerta keskittyy siihen, mikä oli Salingerille tärkeintä siihen kuinka tarinat syntyivät.


FILI on tukenut teoksen suomentamista.





"Salingerin elämän ja hänen luomansa fiktiomaailman jännitteiden tarkastelijana Slawenski on hienovarainen ja perusteellinen kirjoittaja. Elämäkerta tarjoaa oivalluksia, miten elämä puhutteli nuorta kirjailijaa rankkoine toisen maailmansodan sotakokemuksineen, miten tämä vaikuttti häneen kirjoittamiseensa, ja miten itse kirjoittamisprosessi mystifioitui lopulta rukouksen kaltaiseksi, hengelliseksi harjoitukseksi Salingerin erämaatlon rauhassa."

Hannu Waarala, Savon Sanomat 7.3.2011



"Kaikkiaan Salinger-teos on hyvää työtä: runsas, syvämietteinen, kohdettaan kunnioittava mutta rehellisyyteen pyrkivä ja käsittääkseni pääseväkin, havainnollinen."

Kaisa Neimala, Suomen Kuvalehti 2011/8



"Sieppari -fanille kirja tarjoaa taustoja ja analyysejä, satunnaiselle lukijalle tilaisuuden sivistää itseään."

Heini Sivonen, Ilta-Sanomat 5.3.2011



"Kirjoittajan intohimo vetää helposti mukaansa lukemaan"

Ilkka Lappi, Aamuset 25.5.2011



"J.D.Salingerin kirjailijaelämänkerta on kaikkiaan hyvää työtä: runsas, syvämietteinen, kohdettaan kunnioittava mutta rehellisyyteen pyrkivä."

Suomen Kuvalehti 2011/49
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