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J. D. Salinger: A Lifeby Kenneth Slawenski
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"After nearly a decade's research and Slawenski's obvious empathy with his reclusive subject's search for emotional and philosophical equilibrium, this exemplary biography will be released on the first anniversary of J.D. Salinger's death. It's a highly informative effort to assess the arc of Salinger's career, the themes of his fiction, and his influence on 20th-century American literature. Born in 1919, indulged by his mother while growing up on Park Avenue, Salinger was a bored and indifferent student. He eventually found a mentor in legendary Columbia professor Whit Burnett, who encouraged him to work on the pieces that became The Catcher in the Rye even while Salinger was serving in WWII Europe. Slawenski emphasizes that Salinger's wartime experience, from D-Day to the liberation of Dachau, 'was the traumatic turning point in his life,' influencing the sense of futility that permeates his early work. Salinger's salvation, Slawenski demonstrates, came through his acceptance of Vedatic Buddhism, and he argues persuasively that Salinger came to consider writing an aspect of meditation, a task that demanded solitude and perfect control over the presentation of his fiction. The celebrity surrounding the publication of Catcher in the Rye in 1951 activated the split between his striving for asceticism and the demands of the outside world. Slawenski describes Salinger's three marriages, records his contentious relationships with his publishers, his special relationship with the New Yorker, and Slawenski's assiduous research allows him to identify and assess many obscure and unpublished stories. In total, an invaluable work that sheds fascinating light on the willfully elusive author. B&w photos. (Jan. 25)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
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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