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J. D. Salinger: A Life
by Kenneth Slawenski

Published: 2011-01-25
Hardcover : 450 pages
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One of the most popular and mysterious figures in American literary history, author of the classic Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger eluded fans and journalists for most of his life. Now comes a new biography that Peter Ackroyd in The Times of London calls ?energetic and magnificently ...
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Introduction

(One of the most popular and mysterious figures in American literary history, author of the classic Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger eluded fans and journalists for most of his life. Now comes a new biography that Peter Ackroyd in The Times of London calls ?energetic and magnificently researched??a book from which ?a true picture of Salinger emerges.? Filled with new information and revelations?garnered from countless interviews, letters, and public records?J. D. Salinger presents an extraordinary life that spanned nearly the entire twentieth century.

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 and his entrance into a social world where Gloria Vanderbilt dismissively referred to him as ?a Jewish boy from New York.? Here too are accounts of Salinger's first broken heart?Eugene O?Neill's daughter, Oona, left him for the much older Charlie Chaplin?and the devastating World War II service (?a living hell?) of which he never spoke and which haunted him forever.

J. D. Salinger features all the dazzle of this author's early writing successes, his dramatic encounters with luminaries from Ernest Hemingway to Laurence Olivier to Elia Kazan, his surprising 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.

Whether it's revealing the facts of his hasty, short-lived first marriage or his lifelong commitment to Eastern religion, which would dictate his attitudes toward sex, nutrition, solitude, and creativity, J. D. Salinger is this unique author's unforgettable story in full?one that no lover of literature can afford to miss.
 

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2011: In the year since his death, we've heard much more about J.D. Salinger's reclusiveness and eccentricities, both real and exaggerated, than we have about the writing that made him famous in the first place. Kenneth Slawenski's Salinger: A Life avoids such scandalmongering in order to deliver a sensitive (but not fawning) portrait of Salinger the writer. Slawenski looks not only at Salinger's most famous works, but also finds a wealth of psychological insights in places like rejection letters and biographical statements. Not surprisingly, Salinger's life, and especially his service in World War II, provided much of the raw material for his stories. But Slawenski does much more than compare Salinger's biography to his literary output: he also shows how compromises, conflicts, and editorial intrigues shaped Salinger's works, even when he was at the peak of his career. The book has much less to say about Salinger's post-1960 retirement and self-seclusion, apart from the author's occasional foray into the public eye by way of a rare interview or court case. But Slawenski does this for good reason: Salinger: A Life seeks only to explain Salinger as most of us knew him, through his writing. As a result, both die-hard fans and those who last picked up Catcher in the Rye in high school will find it enlightening. --Darryl Campbell



A Look Inside J.D. Salinger: A Life

© PS 166
Until he was thirteen, Sonny attended public school on the Upper West Side. This is a class photo of Salinger and his schoolmates on the steps of P.S. 166, circa 1929.

© Valley Forge Military Academy
Cadet Corporal Salinger in 1936. Salinger's yearbook photo from Valley Forge Military Academy. Salinger used his own boarding school as the inspiration for Holden Caulfield's Pency Prep when writing The Catcher in the Rye. Unlike Holden, Salinger excelled at Valley Forge.

© Dorothy Nollman/Peter Imbres
Jerry in 1939. A photo taken by his friend Dorothy Nollman while on break from Columbia University. Within a year, Salinger's first short story would be published and his career launched.

Between boot camp and combat. Air Corps photo taken in 1943 while Salinger was assigned to the Public Relations Department of the Air Service Command. A year later he would be fighting in Europe.


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