Culled from over 200 interviews with friends and associates, this extensive oral biography pieces together the mystery of Salinger's disappearance from the public eye. Including previously unpublished photos and letters, the authors present Salinger not as a recluse but as a man with a full, yet private, life. Recommended By Jen C., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
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.
"Unprecedented....Nine years in the making and thoroughly documented....Providing by far the most detailed report of previously unreleased material, the book . . . both fleshes out and challenges aspects of the author's legend....[Salinger] has new information well beyond any possible posthumous fiction."
Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
"Eloquently written and exhaustively reported...Salinger is an unmitigated success....Shields and Salerno have struck journalistic gold. Salinger is a revelation, and offers the most complete picture of an American icon, a man deified by silence, haunted by war, frustrated in love — and more frail and human than he ever wanted the world to know....A startlingly revealing story."
"Revealing....[A] sharp-edged portrait."
Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Vivid....There are riches here...[Salinger] presents a decade's worth of genuinely valuable research....Salinger doesn't excuse its subject's personal failings, but it helps explain them: in his fiction, Salinger had a chance to be the good, untraumatized man he couldn't be in real life."
Lev Grossman, Time
"A stupendous work....I predict with the utmost confidence that, after this, the world will not need another Salinger biography." John Walsh, Sunday Times (London)
"Salinger gets the goods on an author's reclusive life....It strips away the sheen of his exceptionalism, trading in his genius for something much more real."
Los Angeles Times
"Salinger is the thorny, complicated portrait that its thorny, complicated subject deserves....The book offers the most complete rendering yet of Salinger's World War II service, the transformative trauma that began with the D-Day invasion and carried through the horrific Battle of Hürtgen Forest and the liberation of a Dachau subcamp."
The Washington Post
"Engrossing....There are fascinating and unique accounts that get to the heart of Salinger....The freshest material comes from Salinger's letters, which bring his own voice, often adolescent-sounding, into the commentary. Previous biographers didn't have access to much of this material."
The Wall Street Journal
"The reminiscences are layered with a stunning array of primary material....Taken as a whole — the memories, the documents, the pictures — the book feels as close as we'll ever get to being inside Salinger's head."
"Juicy....Salinger is full of fascinating revelations....The most extensive portrait yet of a writer who spent nearly sixty years doing everything in his power to avoid precisely this kind of exposure."
The Daily Beast
"Unprecedented....A masterwork....An exquisitely researched and beautifully engineered piece of storytelling about one of modern history's most enigmatic personas."
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
"Refreshingly frank about [Salinger's] many shortcomings and how they might have affected his work....Salinger amply documents the author's youthful arrogance and selfishness, his infatuation with his own cleverness and his inability to see the world from the perspective of anyone who wasn't a lot like himself."
Laura Miller, Salon
An oral biography of reclusive author J. D. Salinger.
About the Author
David Shields is the author of fifteen books, including the New York Times
bestseller The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead
; Reality Hunger
, named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications; and Black Planet
, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His work has been translated into twenty languages.
Shane Salerno is the director, producer, and writer of Salinger, the highly anticipated documentary film about J.D. Salinger that will premiere theatrically in September 2013 from the Weinstein Company and debut as the 200th episode of American Masters on PBS in early 2014. In addition to Salinger, Salerno has written and produced a number of successful films and TV series. He most recently co-wrote and served as executive producer of the critically acclaimed film Savages, directed by three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone.
Read exclusive essays by David Shields from 2010