By Jocelyn McClurg, USA TODAY
J.D. Salinger, who published his last story in 1965 and zealouslyguarded his privacy for decades, is suddenly back in the limelight,thanks to a new biography that says a trove of unknown Salinger workswill be published.
Salinger (Simon & Schuster, on saleSept. 3), by David Shields and Shane Salerno, cites "two independent andseparate" but unnamed sources who say the works will be releasedperiodically, starting between 2015 and 2020. The book says Salingerapproved them for publication.
They include stories about the Glass family and Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye fame;a World War II novel based on Salinger's relationship with his firstwife, Sylvia Welter; and a World War II-set novella that takes the formof a counterintelligence agent's diary, culminating with the Holocaust.
Salingerdied in 2010 at age 91. And although he stopped publishing decadesbefore his death, he apparently continued to write, and rumors haveswirled about works hidden in a secret vault.
Jonathan Karp,president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, said on Monday that hetrusted the authors' sourcing and claim that new works will bepublished. "I don't ask Bob Woodward his sources," says Karp, whopublishes Woodward. "We have made the determination to trust theseauthors. I believe the sourcing is solid because of the preponderance ofon-the-record material that is airtight."
The book is a companionvolume to a new documentary, to be released in theaters on Sept. 6.Salerno conducted more than 100 interviews and directed the film.
Salernosaid Monday that Salinger marked his manuscripts with colored tabs: ared dot meant the work was ready for publishing; a green dot indicatedit needed editing first.
"There's no question that he wascontinuing to write; many people and friends have said that on therecord," says Salerno. "We just spent nine years doing detective workand due journalistic diligence. And when we got two sources who gave theexact account, we went with it."
Salerno says that while the newwork should thrill fans, it should also stun them. "What was Salingergoing to do? Write all those years, then burn everything?"
Salingerdidn't want the work published while he was alive "because he wasn'twriting for applause or ego. He was writing for himself. He wasn'tseeking out rewards," Salerno says.
Isaac Gewirtz, curator of theBerg Collection of English and American Literature at the New YorkPublic Library, said Monday that any publication of new Salinger workswould be significant. "Certainly it's very exciting when the work of avery good writer that has not yet been seen comes to light," he said,citing Salinger's "great literary gift."
It's not clear who would publish the new Salinger works. Little, Brown, which publishes The Catcher in the Rye, declined to comment, as did Harold Ober Associates, the agent of Salinger's estate.
Butshould the unpublished Salinger works be made available to multiplepublishers, "there certainly would be a spirited bidding war offeverish proportions," Karp said.
At least one Salinger fan had decidedly mixed feelings about the news on Monday.
David Gilbert, whose July novel & Sons (RandomHouse) features a reclusive novelist based partly on Salinger, said his"great fantasy" - that new Salinger works would someday be published -now fills him with dread.
"You always think, 'oh my god, theremust be these great manuscripts out there that we're eventually going toget to read.' But now that it might happen, I have the exact oppositereaction," Gilbert says. "I don't want to see them. I don't wantSalinger to be dug up from the grave to be this big media sensation. Ifeel bad for the guy all of a sudden. Even in his death I don't want himto go through this round of publicity that he would obviously run awayfrom."
And worst of all, Gilbert worries, the posthumous publications "might not be good."