An 8.25 N.Y. Times story by Michael Cieply and Julie Bosman passes along information that “at least five additional books” by the late J.D. Salinger, “some of them entirely new, some extending past work,” will be published beginning in 2015. The reclusive Salinger, who died in 2010 at age 91, stopped publishing new material in the early ’60s. The information about the new writings is contained in Shane Salerno‘s Salinger (Weinstein Co. 9.6), a documentary that no one I know has seen or has even been invited to see. What’s up with that?
The immediate source of the information is contained in a Salinger companion book, co-written by Salerno and David Shields and slated for release on 9.3.
Entertainment Weekly has summarized the forthcoming works:
* The Family Glass, an anthology that will include the existing Glass family stories along with five new ones as well as a Glass family genealogy.”
* “A World War II novel inspired by Salinger’s enormously complicated relationship with his first wife, Sylvia, who may have been a Gestapo informant.”
* “A manual of the Hindu Vedanta religion, which Salinger followed for the last 50 years of his life.”
* “A novella based on Salinger’s own experiences that, according to the authors, ‘takes the form of a counterintelligence agent’s diary entries during World War II.'”
* “A complete retooling” of Salinger’s unpublished Holden Caulfield story The Last and Best of the Peter Pans, which will be packaged with the existing Caulfield stories as well as new stories and The Catcher in the Rye, ‘creating a complete history of the Caulfield family.'”
I suspect (and you can throw this theory into the trash if you want) that Salinger stopped writing for publication because he felt deep down that he’d more or less shot his wad — that he’d said all he had to say by ’62 or thereabouts so what was the point? This knowledge on its own was agonizing enough to the man. He certainly didn’t think he could stand hearing that judgment on an increasingly frequent basis from book reviewers, and so he decided to just pack it in and live like a hermit and grapple with his own demons in his own way without having to cope with the outside world.
How likely is it that these new works will be as good as the stuff he wrote in the ’50s and ’60s? Or that they’ll mean even half as much to the book-reading world of 2013 (which is what, less than 1% of the population?) as they did between the early ’50s and early ’60s?
How did Salinger pay the bills without publishing? How much could the royalties from The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey and all the rest have amounted to? Did he live on nuts and berries and heat his New Hampshire home with wood and kindling gathered from the nearby forest?
I always loved the title Raise High The Roof Beam Carpenters — just the sound of it, I mean.