Author JD Salinger poses for a portrait as he reads from his classic American novel 'The Catcher in the Rye' on November 20, 1952 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Salinger died on January 27, 2010. (Photo by Antony Di Gesu/San Diego Historical Society/Hulton Archive Collection/Getty Images)
By Jocelyn McClurg, USA TODAY
J.D. Salinger, who published his last story in 1965 and zealously
guarded his privacy for decades, is suddenly back in the limelight,
thanks to a new biography that says a trove of unknown Salinger works
will be published.
Salinger (Simon & Schuster, on sale
Sept. 3), by David Shields and Shane Salerno, cites "two independent and
separate" but unnamed sources who say the works will be released
periodically, starting between 2015 and 2020. The book says Salinger
approved 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 first
wife, Sylvia Welter; and a World War II-set novella that takes the form
of a counterintelligence agent's diary, culminating with the Holocaust.
died in 2010 at age 91. And although he stopped publishing decades
before his death, he apparently continued to write, and rumors have
swirled about works hidden in a secret vault.
president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, said on Monday that he
trusted the authors' sourcing and claim that new works will be
published. "I don't ask Bob Woodward his sources," says Karp, who
publishes Woodward. "We have made the determination to trust these
authors. I believe the sourcing is solid because of the preponderance of
on-the-record material that is airtight."
The book is a companion
volume to a new documentary, to be released in theaters on Sept. 6.
Salerno conducted more than 100 interviews and directed the film.
said Monday that Salinger marked his manuscripts with colored tabs: a
red dot meant the work was ready for publishing; a green dot indicated
it needed editing first.
"There's no question that he was
continuing to write; many people and friends have said that on the
record," says Salerno. "We just spent nine years doing detective work
and due journalistic diligence. And when we got two sources who gave the
exact account, we went with it."
Salerno says that while the new
work should thrill fans, it should also stun them. "What was Salinger
going to do? Write all those years, then burn everything?"
didn't want the work published while he was alive "because he wasn't
writing for applause or ego. He was writing for himself. He wasn't
seeking out rewards," Salerno says.
Isaac Gewirtz, curator of the
Berg Collection of English and American Literature at the New York
Public Library, said Monday that any publication of new Salinger works
would be significant. "Certainly it's very exciting when the work of a
very 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.
should the unpublished Salinger works be made available to multiple
publishers, "there certainly would be a spirited bidding war of
feverish proportions," Karp said.
At least one Salinger fan had decidedly mixed feelings about the news on Monday.
David Gilbert, whose July novel & Sons (Random
House) 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, there
must be these great manuscripts out there that we're eventually going to
get to read.' But now that it might happen, I have the exact opposite
reaction," Gilbert says. "I don't want to see them. I don't want
Salinger to be dug up from the grave to be this big media sensation. I
feel bad for the guy all of a sudden. Even in his death I don't want him
to go through this round of publicity that he would obviously run away
And worst of all, Gilbert worries, the posthumous publications "might not be good."