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Tag: j.d. salinger

Million Dollar Movie

the-catcher-in-the-rye

A new documentary on J.D. Salinger claims more Salinger books are coming:

But a forthcoming documentary and related book, both titled “Salinger,” include detailed assertions that Mr. Salinger instructed his estate to publish at least five additional books — some of them entirely new, some extending past work — in a sequence that he intended to begin as early as 2015.

The new books and stories were largely written before Mr. Salinger assigned his output to a trust in 2008, and would greatly expand the Salinger legacy.

One collection, to be called “The Family Glass,” would add five new stories to an assembly of previously published stories about the fictional Glass family, which figured in Mr. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey” and elsewhere, according to the claims, which surfaced in interviews and previews of the documentary and book last week.

Another would include a retooled version of a publicly known but unpublished tale, “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans,” which is to be collected with new stories and existing work about the fictional Caulfields, including “Catcher in the Rye.” The new works are said to include a story-filled “manual” of the Vedanta religious philosophy, with which Mr. Salinger was deeply involved; a novel set during World War II and based on his first marriage; and a novella modeled on his own war experiences.

Here’s the trailer:

From Ali to Xena: 5

A WORLD OF MY OWN DESIGN

By John Schulian

My parents were devoted newspaper readers. They subscribed to two newspapers everywhere we went. In L.A., it was the Times in the morning and Hearst’s Herald Express in the afternoon. When I was 11, I started delivering the Herald: 77 copies Monday through Saturday from, if I recall correctly, 75th Street and Florence Avenue, between Crenshaw Boulevard and 8th Avenue, in Inglewood. I can’t tell how many stories about pachuco gang fights in East L.A. I hurled onto lawns with my trusty right arm. It was the same stuff I read about when I was home. I was a monkey-see, monkey-do kid, so, following my parents’ lead in my own particular way, I’d spread the paper on the living room floor and scan everything that was in it, right down to Sam Balter’s sports column and the ads for a downtown burlesque house that booked big-time strippers like Lili St. Cyr. I was aware of the bald-headed row long before I knew about “Macbeth.”

Although I mentioned Sam Balter, I’m not sure any of the L.A. sportswriters really registered on me when I was a kid. I remember Balter mainly because he was an ex-USC basketball player who played in the Hitler Olympics and broadcast the Trojans’ games. He certainly wasn’t a great prose stylist. In the Fifties, the brightest lights in L.A. sportswriting were Maxwell Stiles at the liberal Mirror and Morton Moss at the Examiner, Hearst’s morning paper. When I’ve had reason to go back and look at the Times from that era, it had a truly dreadful sports section. Jim Murray didn’t start writing for it until after we moved to Salt Lake. Bad timing on our part, because he took the sportswriting world by storm.

There were books in our house, too, of course, even though neither of my parents had made it past the eighth grade. They were from families where work came before education, and yet they made it perfectly clear that I was going to get the kind of education they never had a chance for. I have a hazy memory of my mother reading me “Treasure Island” and “Robinson Crusoe” and “Swiss Family Robinson,” and then handing me the books to see how well I could read from them. That’s probably why all these years later, I never go anywhere without a book. It probably helped, too, that I walked past a small public library to and from my way to Lutheran school. When I started going nuts about baseball, I would check out player biographies and histories of the game. One day I marched up to the checkout desk with “The Hank Sauer Story”–he presumably merited hard-cover immortalization because he was the National League’s 1952 MVP–and the librarian gave me the thrill of my young life. She said Hank lived on the same block she did. How great was that? But I never asked if she would introduce me or get me an autograph. I never hopped on my bike and tried to track old Hank down. I was going to get the kind of education that had eluded them.

It becomes more and more clear to me how much I lived in a world of my own design when I was a kid. The one year I was in junior high in L.A., I read 100 books in addition to whatever I had to read for class. Lots of Hardy Boys mysteries, lots of John R. Tunis, which was predictable for that time, but also lots of Duane Decker, who wrote about a fictional team called the Blue Sox, with Marty (Beef Trust) Blake at first base and the octopus-armed Patsy Bates (a guy, definitely a guy) at shortstop. I’m sure I read a pile of sports bios, too, you know, so I’d know the right thing to say when I was a big-league star who had his own biographer. I did a lot of dreaming like that, particularly when I was out on my paper route, riding my bike up and down those streets.

The first serious author I read-–Updike doesn’t count because “Rabbit, Run” was so far over my head-–was J.D. Salinger. No surprise there unless you consider the fact that I fancied myself more jock than anything else when I discovered him in my junior year of high school. Some seniors on the football team turned me on to “Catcher in the Rye” and I became a fan for life. The guys who told me I should read Salinger were an interesting group: one was the son of one of my future professors at Utah, another was the son of a sports columnist at the afternoon paper in Salt Lake, and I’ll be damned if I can tell you what the third kid’s father did, although he may have been an academic, too. What these guys were telling me and another friend who fell under their spell was that it was okay to nurture an intellectual streak and play sports, too. It was certainly a message no high school coach I played for was ever going to deliver.

As far as finding newspaper writers in Salt Lake who inspired me, fat chance. There were two editors from the Salt Lake Tribune who moved on to have splendid careers, Bob Ottum as a very stylish writer of skiing and auto racing at Sports Illustrated and Hays Gorey as a Washington correspondent for Time. (I went to high school with Gorey’s son, who always seemed incredibly grounded and preternaturally mature.) But I don’t think I ever saw their bylines in the Trib. And the sportswriters at the Trib and the Mormon Church-owned Deseret News were primarily living, breathing examples of how not to practice your craft. Once in a while, the Trib ran a Jim Murray column, but more often it relied on Arthur Daley, the New York Times snoremonger, for an out-of-town voice. That should tell you all you need to know about local tastes.

Jim Murray

When I was in college, I interviewed with the editor of the Tribune, a sallow, pinch-faced gentleman who looked like a good laugh might kill him. He asked me what I wanted to do in the business and I told him I wanted to be a syndicated sports columnist. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, I knew that I was a dead man in his eyes. In Salt Lake’s newspapers, you dreamed of life beyond the city limits at your own peril.

Click here for the full “From Ali to Xena” archive.

All that David Copperfield Kind of Crap

Here’s a couple of reviews of the new Salinger biography from the New York Times. The first, from Michiko Kakutani:

This volume, “J. D. Salinger: A Life,” which draws liberally from Salinger’s letters and a memoir by his daughter, Margaret, is flawed by a tendency to assume direct correspondences between the author’s life and work. And it retraces a lot of ground covered in earlier books by Ian Hamilton and Paul Alexander. Still, it does so without the sort of condescending and at times voyeuristic speculation that hobbled those earlier biographies, and it does an evocative job of tracing the evolution of Salinger’s work and thinking.

And the Sunday Book Review write-up by Jay Mcinerney:

For this reader, the great achievement of Slawenski’s biography is its evocation of the horror of Salinger’s wartime experience. Despite Salinger’s reticence, Sla wenski admirably retraces his movements and recreates the savage battles, the grueling marches and frozen bivouacs of Salinger’s war. It’s hard to think of an American writer who had more combat experience. He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. Slawenski reports that of the 3,080 members of Salinger’s regiment who landed with him on June 6, 1944, only 1,130 survived three weeks later. Then, when the 12th Infantry Regiment tried to take the swampy, labyrinthine Hürtgen Forest, in what proved to be a huge military blunder, the statistics were even more horrific. After reinforcement, “of the original 3,080 regimental soldiers who went into Hürtgen, only 563 were left.” Salinger escaped the deadly quagmire of Hürtgen just in time to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, and shortly thereafter, in 1945, participated in the liberation of Dachau. “You could live a lifetime,” he later told his daughter, “and never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose.”

…Salinger always told friends he was still writing, and it’s possible there’s a trove of unpublished stories and novels, although readers of “Hapworth,” in which he seems to be talking to himself rather than to fans of “The Catcher in the Rye,” may wonder whether they wish to see it. “J. D. Salinger: A Life” leaves this and many other questions hanging. Though Slawenski adds to the record, Paul Alexander’s biography is, to my mind, more dramatically vivid and psychologically astute.

There will probably never be a definitive biography of Salinger, but our understanding will be modified by the actions of his executors and the release of unpublished material in the coming years. For the moment, at least, Holden’s creator might take some satisfaction in knowing the extent to which his efforts to erase his own story have succeeded.

People Never Notice Anything

Dig this piece on J.D. Salinger, “Holden Caulfield’s Goddamn War” over at Vanity Fair (taken from Kenneth Slawenski’s new book on Salinger):  

In the autumn of 1950, at his home in Westport, Connecticut, J. D. Salinger completed The Catcher in the Rye. The achievement was a catharsis. It was confession, purging, prayer, and enlightenment, in a voice so distinct that it would alter American culture.

Holden Caulfield, and the pages that held him, had been the author’s constant companion for most of his adult life. Those pages, the first of them written in his mid-20s, just before he shipped off to Europe as an army sergeant, were so precious to Salinger that he carried them on his person throughout the Second World War. Pages of The Catcher in the Rye had stormed the beach at Normandy; they had paraded down the streets of Paris, been present at the deaths of countless soldiers in countless places, and been carried through the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. In bits and pieces they had been re-written, put aside, and re-written again, the nature of the story changing as the author himself was changed. Now, in Connecticut, Salinger placed the final line on the final chapter of the book. It is with Salinger’s experience of the Second World War in mind that we should understand Holden Caulfield’s insight at the Central Park carousel, and the parting words of The Catcher in the Rye: “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” All the dead soldiers.

[Picture by Lorna Burt]

No Phonies Allowed

A few weeks before I began my junior year of high school I was in Belgium visiting my grandparents. I stayed in the attic room where I daydreamed about the girl who lived across the street and all the other Belgian women who customarily sunbathed without a bikini top. 

I listened to BBC serials on the radio and read French comic books and sometimes opened the door to the storage room that occupied the other half of the attic and went inside and poked around the dusty old furniture and suitcases hunting for treasure. I once found an old copy of Oui magazine (For the Man of the World), an offshoot of Playboy, I think, which led me to believe there was more pornography waiting to be discovered. I was wrong.

I spent mornings there, sleeping late, and afternoons too, after lunch, when my grandparents took their naps. This is where I first read The Catcher in the Rye and I remember the warm sun coming through the skylight onto my bed as I tore through J.D. Salinger’s most famous book. I liked the idea of reading it, though I became impatient at times and skimmed over passages. But it was the right time and place. I got it. When I returned home, I read his three other books and liked Nine Stories best. Franny and Zooey made me feel grown-up (plus, the Glass family lived on the Upper West Side); the last one lost me.

I have not revisited Salinger’s work since, during which time I’ve met as many people who were turned off by him as those who love him. But I got to thinking about him this morning when I read his obit in the Times:

In the fall of 1953 he befriended some local teenagers and allowed one of them to interview him for what he assumed would be an article on the high school page of a local paper, The Claremont Daily Eagle. The article appeared instead as a feature on the editorial page, and Mr. Salinger felt so betrayed that he broke off with the teenagers and built a six-and-a-half-foot fence around his property.

He seldom spoke to the press again, except in 1974 when, trying to fend off the unauthorized publication of his uncollected stories, he told a reporter from The Times: “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. It’s peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”

And yet the more he sought privacy, the more famous he became, especially after his appearance on the cover of Time in 1961. For years it was a sort of journalistic sport for newspapers and magazines to send reporters to New Hampshire in hopes of a sighting. As a young man Mr. Salinger had a long, melancholy face and deep soulful eyes, but now, in the few photographs that surfaced, he looked gaunt and gray, like someone in an El Greco painting. He spent more time and energy avoiding the world, it was sometimes said, than most people do in embracing it, and his elusiveness only added to the mythology growing up around him.

Depending on one’s point of view, he was either a crackpot or the American Tolstoy, who had turned silence itself into his most eloquent work of art. Some believed he was publishing under an assumed name, and for a while in the late 1970s, William Wharton, author of “Birdy,” was rumored to be Mr. Salinger, writing under another name, until it turned out that William Wharton was instead a pen name for the writer Albert du Aime.

He was an odd bird, no doubt. Gifted writer though.

The Times also has a piece about why The Catcher in the Rye was never made into a movie.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver