Salinger Hardcover – Sep 3 2013
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“Unprecedented . . . Nine years in the making and thoroughly documented . . . Providing by far the most detailed report of previously unreleased material, the book . . . both fleshes out and challenges aspects of the author’s legend. . . . [Salinger] has new information well beyond any possible posthumous fiction.” (Hillel Italie The Associated Press)
“Eloquently written and exhaustively reported . . . Salinger is an unmitigated success. . . . Shields and Salerno have struck journalistic gold. Salinger is a revelation, and offers the most complete picture of an American icon, a man deified by silence, haunted by war, frustrated in love—and more frail and human than he ever wanted the world to know. . . . A startlingly revealing story.” (USA Today (3.5 out of 4 stars))
“Revealing . . . [A] sharp-edged portrait.” (Michiko Kakutani The New York Times)
“Vivid . . . There are riches here . . . [Salinger] presents a decade’s worth of genuinely valuable research . . . Salinger doesn’t excuse its subject’s personal failings, but it helps explain them: in his fiction, Salinger had a chance to be the good, untraumatized man he couldn’t be in real life.” (Lev Grossman Time)
“A stupendous work . . . I predict with the utmost confidence that, after this, the world will not need another Salinger biography.” (John Walsh Sunday Times (London))
"Salinger gets the goods on an author's reclusive life. . . . It strips away the sheen of his exceptionalism, trading in his genius for something much more real." (Los Angeles Times)
“Salinger is the thorny, complicated portrait that its thorny, complicated subject deserves. . . . The book offers the most complete rendering yet of Salinger’s World War II service, the transformative trauma that began with the D-Day invasion and carried through the horrific Battle of Hürtgen Forest and the liberation of a Dachau subcamp.” (The Washington Post)
“Engrossing . . . There are fascinating and unique accounts that get to the heart of Salinger. . . . The freshest material comes from Salinger’s letters, which bring his own voice, often adolescent-sounding, into the commentary. Previous biographers didn’t have access to much of this material.” (The Wall Street Journal)
"The reminiscences are layered with a stunning array of primary material. . . . Taken as a whole—the memories, the documents, the pictures—the book feels as close as we'll ever get to being inside Salinger's head." (Entertainment Weekly)
“Juicy . . . Salinger is full of fascinating revelations. . . . The most extensive portrait yet of a writer who spent nearly sixty years doing everything in his power to avoid precisely this kind of exposure.” (The Daily Beast)
“Unprecedented . . . A masterwork . . . An exquisitely researched and beautifully engineered piece of storytelling about one of modern history’s most enigmatic personas.” (Maria Popova Brain Pickings)
“Refreshingly frank about [Salinger’s] many shortcomings and how they might have affected his work . . . Salinger amply documents the author’s youthful arrogance and selfishness, his infatuation with his own cleverness and his inability to see the world from the perspective of anyone who wasn’t a lot like himself.” (Laura Miller Salon)
About the Author
David Shields is the author of fifteen books, including the New York Times bestseller The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead; Reality Hunger, named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications; and Black Planet, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His work has been translated into twenty languages.
Shane Salerno is the director, producer, and writer of Salinger, which premiered theatrically in 2013 from the Weinstein Company and will debut as the 200th episode of American Masters on PBS in early 2014. In addition to Salinger, Salerno has written and produced a number of successful films and TV series. He most recently co-wrote and served as executive producer of the critically acclaimed film Savages, directed by three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
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Top Customer Reviews
I liked everything about it. I agree with all the positive comments written here by others. I'll leave it at that.
This book tells us all that can be gathered from pursed lips and sly disclosure of family, friends, foes and lovers, physical and spiritual.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It is, LITERALLY (in the old sense of the word, not the new one, which has no meaning) hundreds of pages of quotes, loosely organized around a general theme. There is no attempt at a through-line to paint a complete picture, no connecting the dots, no thought whatsoever.
This book is not written. It's not even really edited. It could best be described as curated, but only barely.
And honestly, if it is even just a transcript of the movie, I am no longer interested in seeing the movie...... Such a disappointment.
Unless what you want is field notes, in which case, this is a gold mine. You just have to do all the digging.
This book is not, as some reviewers here have implied, a transcript of the "Salinger" documentary film. At over 700 pages, it goes deeper than any movie could. It contains bibliographies of writings by and about J. D. Salinger, brief biographies of the people quoted in the book, and even descriptive sketches of the fictional Glass family. It does not, unfortunately, have an index,
and it is sometimes difficult to tell in what context a statement was made (such as an interview given specifically for this project, or some other source).
Other reviewers have lamented how the book is comprised of quotation after quotation and does not follow a traditional narrative format. But what better way to learn about Salinger's life than to read firsthand accounts directly from the people who knew him? Instead of reading the biographer's description, let Jean Miller, for example, tell how she met Salinger on the beach when she was fourteen (inspiring his stories "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" and "For Esme - With Love and Squalor"). Occasionally, the same stories are told by different voices, although this does not result in monotony, as some reviewers suggest. It only helps to build a more complete account of the man and his experiences, and attentive readers will be intrigued when two eyewitnesses tell slightly different versions of the same event.
This book is not just a repackaging of old Salinger anecdotes, as has been claimed here. It contains new, previously unpublished material that has become available only since Salinger's death, and it concludes with a few tantalizing pages that hint we have not seen the last of the Caulfield and Glass families.
The trailer for the associated documentary film flashed in front of me at a theater. It looked exciting. I had read only "Catcher In The Rye," and knew little about Salinger the man. When I saw the book, I clicked on it right away. I wish I had checked the customer reviews first. As stated, you get hundreds of pages of disconnected drivel.
Person 1: When Jerry came back from the war, he never was the same.
Person 2: Something happened to him over there.
Person 3: The Jerry who went to Europe was not the Jerry who came home.
These are not actual quotes, but the text is that shallow. The same banal thoughts are repeated ENDLESSLY. Twenty, thirty, fifty times, a new person says exactly the same thing. I stuck it out to the end, curious to see if the 'authors' would provide any conclusion whatever. They do. In the final chapter, they bring their psychological examination of Salinger to a bombastic, unsupported conclusion. This was almost fun, like watching an Olympic competition for blowhards.
This publication is a horrible mess. Try any other book on Salinger, or just go read Wikipedia, you'll be much better off.
During this excruciating yawnfest, I reflected on a larger phenomenon. People like Salerno and Shields ask, "What was wrong with Salinger? He must have been deeply wounded. If he were healthy, he would welcome our attention. How can he want to escape our love--we, his readers? We're fascinating people, after all."
I'd like to turn that question around. What's wrong with us, that we can't accept a man who liked to be left alone? Why can't we accept that he was just not that into us? He liked to do his work and live his life in private. It's really, really simple, unless you argue with it and say it can't possibly be true. I own my part; I bought this wretched book to find out more about J.D. Salinger. At least I didn't stalk him while he was alive. This seems to have been a national sport, as well.
My major problem with this book is that it seems to be deliberately deceptive in the information it purports and the haphazard way that information is presented. I found it a cynical insult to readers. Everything is told from the outside looking in, with no consideration that Salinger might have had a point of view. Rumors and innuendo, often supplied by "anonymous sources" void of citation are presented as indisputable facts (Gestapo agents, sexual predilections, and missing testicles to name but a few) and what is passed off as literary analysis of Salinger's writings reads like cheap parody. We are given the deliberate illusion that the authors interviewed all of the people they present, when, in reality, most of the text has been lifted from previous books, interviews, and articles. Some of the speakers have been long dead; still they're allowed to chime in as if they were in the room. If you check the bibliography you discover that only a handful of "contributors" even met Salinger, so the opinions of obscure booksellers and Hollywood fans are given enormous weight. Worse still, this text is presented to give the illusion that the authors actually interviewed Claire Douglas, Colleen, Matthew and Margaret Salinger, when they most certainly did not. The same is true for John Keenan and for most of Salinger's neighbors, whose accounts are clipped from old newspaper articles. It's lazy writing and irresponsible authorship.
So, what are we left with? Snippets of old publications, past information (and disinformation) scotch taped together masking as a reputable biography, with everything weighted to the most negative and sensationalistic narration to ensure sales. It's Yellow Journalism. It's an insult to thoughtful readers and an affront to any future writer who attempts to write a book of history with due integrity. If this is what passes for legitimate biography and sells, why bother?
It never rises above what would instantly make it appeal to people trying to sell it. Surprise, surprise.