Deconstructing Salinger Frenzy

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

Deconstructing Salinger Frenzy


Byline: Martin Rubin, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

This odd book is the brainchild of a Salinger fanatic. Shane Salerno, the driving force behind Salinger is a successful movie producer, director and screenwriter. Such is his obsession with J.D. Salinger, however, that he has devoted much of the past decade to delving deep into all matters concerning him, a task that accelerated following the writer's death three years ago. You've got to give Mr. Salerno credit for putting his money where his mouth is, since he has reportedly spent $8 million of his own money funding this book and the movie being released with it.

So, just what is this hefty book? Billed by its publisher as an oral biography, its nearly 700 pages consist mostly of snippets of information by sundry relatives and associates of J.D. Salinger, other writers and critics. Note the absence of the word friends - he seems to have had some when young, but as time went on, they don't seem to have featured much in his life. Although the book - compiled with the help of writer David Shields - makes great claims for overturning misconceptions, it doesn't provide a great deal of information not already available to anyone who cared. What news it does have regarding plans for publishing those much-awaited works Salinger was reported to be working on all those decades has leaked out ahead of simultaneous publication and screening. Is it just a massive companion volume to the film?

Well, a bit more than that. One wishes that Mr. Salerno and Mr. Shields had actually harnessed all this passion to fashion a real biography drawing on all this less than adequately filtered raw material. The actual parts written by the authors is rather well-presented and valuable. Curiously, Mr. Salerno chooses also to speak out amid all the cacophony of voices presented, just another name followed by a quote. This is consistently interesting. For all his dedication to Salinger, one wishes that Mr. Salerno had not shied at the final hurdle.

Whether or not Salinger was actually the recluse he was widely thought to be (this book sheds doubt), he was, one way or another, adept at playing that role to the hilt. He managed to equal the feat of E.M. Forster, who was always said to become more famous with each year that he did not write a book between A Passage to India in 1925 and his death 45 years later. …

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