By Hillel Italie, AP
NEW YORK–The authors of a new J.D. Salinger biography are claiming they have cracked one of publishing’s greatest mysteries: What “The Catcher in the Rye” novelist was working on during the last half century of his life.
Starting sometime between 2015 and 2020, a series of posthumous Salinger releases are planned, according to “Salinger,” co-written by David Shields and Shane Salerno, whose book will be published Sept. 3. The Associated Press obtained an early copy. Salerno’s documentary on the author is scheduled to come out Sept. 6.
Providing by far the most detailed report of previously unreleased material, the book’s authors cite “two independent and separate sources” who they say have “documented and verified” the information.
The Salinger books would revisit “Catcher” protagonist Holden Caulfield and draw on Salinger’s World War II years and his immersion in Eastern religion. The material also would feature new stories about the Glass family of “Franny and Zooey” and other Salinger works.
“Salinger” does not identify a prospective publisher. Spokesman Terry Adams of Little, Brown and Company, which released “Catcher” and Salinger’s three other books, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Salinger’s son, Matt Salinger, who helps run the author’s literary estate, was not immediately available for comment.
If the books do come out, they may well not be through Little, Brown. In the mid-1990s, Salinger agreed to allow a small, Virginia-based press, Orchises, to issue his novella “Hapworth 16, 1924,” which first appeared in The New Yorker in 1965. But after news leaked of the planned publication, Salinger changed his mind and “Hapworth” was cancelled.
No Salinger book came out after the early 1960s, as the author increasingly withdrew from public life. Over the past 50 years, there has been endless and conflicting speculation over what Salinger had been doing during his self-imposed retirement. That Salinger continued to write is well documented. Friends, neighbors and family members all reported that Salinger was writing in his final years and the author himself told The New York Times in 1974 that he wrote daily, although only for himself.
“There is a marvelous peace in not publishing,” he said at the time.
But there is no consensus on what he was writing and no physical evidence of what Salinger had reportedly stashed in a safe in his home in Cornish, New Hampshire. The Salinger estate, run partly by Matt Salinger and Salinger’s widow Colleen O’Neill, has remained silent on the subject since the author’s death in January 2010. The two did not cooperate with Salerno and Shields.