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A stream of fiction and stories written by reclusive author J.D. Salinger will be published between 2015 and 2020, according to a new biography about the writer of The Catcher in the Rye, who died in 2010. Some of the books will reportedly revisit beloved Salinger characters such as Holden Caulfield.
The claims come from David Shields and Shane Salerno, co-authors of the biography Salinger, which will be published next week. Days later, Salerno's documentary film of the same name will be released (and in January, it will air on PBS).
In their research on Salinger, Shields and Salerno culled information from new and existing interviews with people who knew the author and with book critics and experts on Salinger, who famously withdrew from public life and stopped publishing in the 1960s — but never stopped writing, according to many accounts.
And some of that work reportedly features familiar characters such as Franny and Zooey Glass, the witty and introspective siblings in the novella Franny and Zooey.
Citing two anonymous sources, the authors say that Salinger "left instructions 'authorizing a specific timetable' (starting between 2015 and 2020) for the release of unpublished work, including five new Glass family stories; a novel based on his relationship with his first wife, Sylvia Welter, a German he married shortly after World War II; a novella in the form of a counterintelligence officer's diary entries during the war; a story-filled "manual" about the Vedanta religious philosophy," according to New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani.
Also rumored to be on tap: "The Last and Best of the Peter Pans," an update on the lives of Holden Caulfield and his family. That's from a separate Times report, which notes that Salinger's literary legacy would be vastly expanded by upcoming releases, if the new claims are true.
"But there is no consensus on what he was writing and no physical evidence of what Salinger had reportedly stashed in a safe in his home in Cornish, N.H. The Salinger estate, run partly by Matt Salinger and Salinger's widow, Colleen O'Neill, has remained silent on the subject since the author's death in January 2010. The two did not cooperate with Salerno and Shields."
The pair have also refused to comment on the early reports of upcoming Salinger fiction, as did representatives of Little, Brown and Company, publishers of Catcher in the Rye.
After Salinger settled into life in a small New Hampshire town, he rarely gave an account of his activities, or his reasons for rejecting a more public life.
One of Salinger's few interviews was conducted in 1980, by reporter Betty Eppes.
"He said, 'I refuse to publish,'" Eppes told NPR in 1997, "'There's a marvelous peace in not publishing,' he said. 'There's a stillness. When you publish, the world thinks you owe something. If you don't publish, they don't know what you're doing. You can keep it for yourself.'"
As for the merits of the new biography, the AP, which acquired an advance copy of Salinger, compares it to an oral history. Writing in The Times, Kakutani calls it "a loosey-goosey, Internet-age narrative with diminished authorial responsibility."
In a final note, we'll remind you that the Two-Way's regular "Book News" feature is on a late-summer holiday. In April, NPR's Annalisa Quinn told us about nine letters Salinger wrote to a woman in the 1940s, in which he mention his recently submitted manuscripts.
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