Catcher in the Rye sequel among 'new' Salinger titles
Scantly-published in life, JD Salinger is set to become prolific in death as a new documentary reveals the titles of five works by the reclusive author that it says will be released in coming years.
For generations of The Catcher in the Rye devotees, the main protagonist Holden Caulfied will be rolled out in a short story sequel titled The Last and Best of the Peter Pans, more than half a century after Salinger wrote it in 1962.
The exhaustive documentary Salinger, which took Los Angeles script-writer Shane Salerno a decade and $2 million of his own money to make, was screened for the first time at the Telluride film festival on Monday night.
The documentary and accompanying 700-page book reveal the roles that post-traumatic stress and romantic liaisons played in Salinger’s work as he wrote several chapters of The Catcher in the Rye while serving with US forces in World War Two.
In keeping with the author’s obsessive desire for secrecy, Salinger’s family and publishers have not made any public statement on the contents of the documentary, book and a forthcoming film. What is not in doubt is that the author, who died aged 91 in 2010, would have hated the spotlight it shines on his life and work.
Citing two independent sources, Mr Salerno said that Salinger left instructions for his estate to publish the works after his death. This apparently confirms the long-held suspicion that he had been writing for decades at his isolated home in New Hampshire, even though he had nothing published since a magazine article in 1965.
Indeed, Joyce Maynard, a former lover who attended the screening, described how Salinger hid himself away to write in a hut called “The Bunker” wearing a canvas jumpsuit like “a soldier going to war”.
According to the documentary, the four other titles to be published between 2015 and 2020 are:
A Counterintelligence Agent’s Diary about his time interrogating prisoners of war when he served working in the counter-intelligence division;
A World War II Love Story based on his brief marriage to Sylvia, a Nazi collaborator, just after the war;
A Religious Manual detailing his adherence to Ramakrishna’s Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, the religion he turned to later in life; and The Complete Chronicle of the Glass Family featuring five new short stories about his recurring character, Seymour Glass.
The documentary, described as “equal parts fascinating and exploitative” in a review by The Daily Beast, traces Salinger’s roots from the child of “country club society” who was expelled from several prep schools and once noted that JD stood for “juvenile delinquent” (the first names that he stopped using in adult life were actually Jerome David).
It also throws fresh light on his history of romantic liaisons, including a relationship with Oona O’Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill. But she dumped Salinger for Charlie Chaplin after he went away to war.
That rejection appeared to drive his writing as he started work on The Catcher in the Rye and according to some reports he carried six chapters of the unfinished book with him during the D-Day operations.
But the war also dragged him down with what would now be diagnosed as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “I dig my foxholes down to a cowardly depth,” he wrote in one letter to a friend.
Mr Salerno interviewed hundreds of people and amassed hundreds of documents, letters and photographs. One of his greatest prizes, he said, was a wartime snapshot provided by a veteran who served with Salinger.
The picture was so small that it required a magnifying glass to show a mustachioed Salinger, cigarette in hand, looking up with a studied smile from a table where a notebook or journal lay open.
It turned out to be the only known photo of Salinger working on The Catcher in the Rye (On the back, a caption reads: “The writer in our outfit, Jerry Salinger, taking time out to pose”).
In a question and answer session following the screening, Mr Salerno, a Salinger aficionado who has also been working on a sequel to the blockbuster movie Avatar in his “day job”, discussed the challenges of researching such a secretive individual.
“Salinger was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my life,” he said. “It consumed ten years. Having people speak for the first time was a huge challenge… doors just slammed in your face for the first couple of years, but I was very grateful to finally have people come forward and share their stories.”
He also spoke at length about Salinger’s PTSD. “World War II really was the transformative trauma of JD Salinger’s life,” he said. “It made him as an artist, but it broke him as a man. He was living with PTSD throughout his life. This is something that we believe in very strongly.
“I do think that that is an area that is not associated with Salinger—that shell-shocked tone is directly from his experiences in WWII, and it really is the ghost in the machine of all his stories. When you re-read the work with that in mind, you even realize that The Catcher in the Rye is a disguised war novel.”