J.D. SALINGER: A Writing Life by Ian Hamilton

J.D. SALINGER: A Writing Life

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Literati kill me. They really do. Ian Hamilton, an Englishman who lives in london, for chrissake, has written what his litcrit pals will probably call a conjectural biography. It's about this author, Jerome David Salinger. J.D. Salinger he signs himself when he's publishing. Which is never these days. He's a recluse or something who lives up in New Hampshire. Old J.D. is still pretty well-known, I guess, even though he hasn't published anything since the early 1960's and likes to be left strictly alone. What knocks me out is that no other American writer has gotten as much attention by writing so little. His whole reputation, I swear to God, is based on just four books--three collections of short stories, mainly about weird members of the Glass family, and The Catcher in the Rye, a pretty famous novel about an unhappy kid who's been kicked out of prep school. There are some other short stories from Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post. But Salinger didn't think them worthy of his talents or something, and they've never been published in book form. Most of the stuff written about Salinger is phony as hell. It really is. Old Hamilton is terrifically intelligent, but he does a lot of guesswork. That's something that annoys me a helluva lot--I mean when someone's flying blind but drawing kinda wayout conclusions about a supposedly hotshot author from his work without very many details on the guy's family, marriages, war record, or life style. Old Hamilton sort of protests a little bit too much about digging up this iffy information from long-lost friends and letters. He also has some show-offy things to say about Zen and the deeper meanings he reads into Salinger's work. If you want to know the truth, I think Salinger's prose can speak for itself. Some authors, as Holden Caulfield would say, you practically never find out what's the matter. Old Hamilton tries hard, though, and his book could be a very big deal. It really could. Because of the mystique and all.

Pub Date: Aug. 29th, 1986
Publisher: Random House