A year after his death, America’s most famous literary recluse, J.D. Salinger, is still in the news.
The University of East Anglia in Great Britain announced this evening that it has 50 letters and four postcards written by the author of “The Catcher in the Rye” to a London friend, Donald Hartog. The two met in 1938 in Vienna, sent by their parents to learn German.
According to The Associated Press:
Chris Bigsby, professor of American studies at the letters’ new home, the University of East Anglia, said they challenge Salinger’s image as a near-hermit holed up in his New England home.
“These letters show a completely different man,” Bigbsy said. “This is a man who goes on (bus) parties to Nantucket or Niagara or the Grand Canyon and enjoys chatting to people along the way.
“He goes to art galleries and theater and travels to London to see (Alan) Ayckbourn and (Anton) Chekhov plays. He was out and about.”
No doubt, Kenneth Slawenski would have liked to see those letters. Slawenski spent eight years on his biography “J.D. Salinger: A Life,” which came out in the United States this week. The general consensus among American reviewers so far seems to be that Slawenski’s book is solid, but doesn’t break much new ground.
Salinger died a year ago Thursday. More biographies will no doubt emerge in the next several years, as more discoveries like the Hartog letters are made. There’s a Salinger documentary slated for release this fall. Rumors remain about finished but unpublished works that Salinger may have had in his New Hampshire home, where his widow still lives .
He would, no doubt, hate all of it.