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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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
Biography & Autobiography / Literary Figures
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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“A love song to a lost New York” (New York magazine) from novelist, essayist, and critic Frederic Tuten as he recalls his personal and artistic coming-of-age in 1950s New York City, a defining period that would set him on the course to becoming a writer.

Born in the Bronx to a Sicilian mother and Southern father, Frederic Tuten always dreamed of being an artist. Determined to trade his neighborhood streets for the romantic avenues of Paris, he learned to paint and draw, falling in love with the process of putting a brush to canvas and the feeling it gave him. At fifteen, he decided to leave high school and pursue the bohemian life he’d read about in books. But, before he could, he would receive an extraordinary education right in his own backyard.

“A stirring portrait…and a wonderfully raw story of city boy’s transformation into a writer” (Publishers Weekly), My Young Life reveals Tuten’s early formative years where he would discover the kind of life he wanted to lead. As he travels downtown for classes at the Art Students League, spends afternoons reading in Union Square, and discovers the vibrant scenes of downtown galleries and Lower East Side bars, Frederic finds himself a member of a new community of artists, gathering friends, influences—and many girlfriends—along the way.

Frederic Tuten has had a remarkable life, writing books, traveling around the world, acting in and creating films, and even conducting summer workshops with Paul Bowles in Tangiers. Spanning two decades and bringing us from his family’s kitchen table in the Bronx to the cafes of Greenwich Village and back again, My Young Life is an intimate and enchanting portrait of an artist’s coming-of-age, set against one of the most exciting creative periods of our time—“so thrilling…so precise in presenting a young man’s preoccupation and occupation” (Steve Martin).
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.
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.
In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.  How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir.  In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his  cash.  He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented.  Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away.  Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless's short life.  Admitting an interst that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the dries and desires that propelled McCandless.  Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

When McCandless's innocent mistakes turn out to be irreversible and fatal, he becomes the stuff of tabloid headlines and is dismissed for his naiveté, pretensions, and hubris.  He is said  to have had a death wish but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless's uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity , and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding--and not an ounce of sentimentality. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, Into the Wild is a tour de force. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer's stoytelling blaze through every page.
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