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NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The inspiration for the major motion picture Rebel in the Rye
One of the most popular and mysterious figures in American literary history, the author of the classic Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger eluded fans and journalists for most of his life. Now he is the subject of this definitive biography, which is filled with new information and revelations garnered from countless interviews, letters, and public records.
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. Here too are accounts of Salinger’s first broken heart—after Eugene O’Neill’s daughter, Oona, left him—and the devastating World War II service that haunted him forever. J. D. Salinger features this author’s dramatic encounters with luminaries from Ernest Hemingway to Elia Kazan, his 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. J. D. Salinger is this unique author’s unforgettable story in full—one that no lover of literature can afford to miss.
Praise for J. D. Salinger: A Life
“Startling . . . insightful . . . [a] terrific literary biography.”—USA Today
“It is unlikely that any author will do a better job than Mr. Slawenski capturing the glory of Salinger’s life.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Slawenski fills in a great deal and connects the dots assiduously; it’s unlikely that any future writer will uncover much more about Salinger than he has done.”—Boston Sunday Globe
“Offers perhaps the best chance we have to get behind the myth and find the man.”—Newsday
“[Slawenski has] greatly fleshed out and pinned down an elusive story with precision and grace.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“Earnest, sympathetic and perceptive . . . [Slawenski] does an evocative job of tracing the evolution of Salinger’s work and thinking.”—The New York Times
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.