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Kenneth Slawenski

J. D. Salinger : A Life

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Examines the life of the reclusive author of "Catcher in the Rye," including his encounters with celebrities, his love life, his devotion to Eastern religion, and his conflicted relationship with his success.

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Examines the life of the reclusive author of "Catcher in the Rye," including his encounters with celebrities, his love life, his devotion to Eastern religion, and his conflicted relationship with his success.One of the most popular and mysterious figures in American literary history, author of the classic "Catcher in the Rye, " J. D. Salinger eluded fans and journalists for most of his life. Now comes a new biography that Peter Ackroyd in "The Times" of London calls "energetic and magnificently researched"--a book from which "a true picture of Salinger emerges." Filled with new information and revelations--garnered from countless interviews, letters, and public records--"J. D. Salinger" presents an extraordinary life that spanned nearly the entire twentieth century.
Kenneth Slawenski explores Salinger's privileged youth, long obscured by misrepresentation and rumor, revealing the brilliant, sarcastic, vulnerable son of a disapproving father and doting mother and his entrance into a social world where Gloria Vanderbilt dismissively referred to him as "a Jewish boy from New York." Here too are accounts of Salinger's first broken heart--Eugene O'Neill's daughter, Oona, left him for the much older Charlie Chaplin--and the devastating World War II service ("a living hell") of which he never spoke and which haunted him forever.
"J. D. Salinger" features all the dazzle of this author's early writing successes, his dramatic encounters with luminaries from Ernest Hemingway to Laurence Olivier to Elia Kazan, his surprising office intrigues with famous "New Yorker "editors and writers, and the stunning triumph of "The Catcher in the Rye," which would both make him world-famous and hasten his retreat into the hills of New Hampshire.
Whether it's revealing the facts of his hasty, short-lived first marriage or his lifelong commitment to Eastern religion, which would dictate his attitudes toward sex, nutrition, solitude, and creativity, "J. D. Salinger" is this unique author's unforgettable story in full--one that no lover of literature can afford to miss.

Specifications

Publisher
Random House Publishing Group
Book Format
Hardcover
Original Languages
ENG
Number of Pages
450
Author
Kenneth Slawenski
Title
J. D. Salinger
ISBN-13
9781400069514
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
9.24 x 6.46 x 1.29 Inches
ISBN-10
1400069513

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Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Kenneth Slawenski pres...

Kenneth Slawenski presents life events and artistic productions in a way that is consistent with J. D. Salinger's idea that the writer should not get between the work and the reader's experience. Slawenski does not attempt to reduce the creativity of the short stories, novellas, and novel by making amateur psychiatric interpretation of the relationship between the author's personality and his publications. Slawenski makes connections in time: what Salinger was doing in school, in the Army, and in his social interactions and what he wrote during those times. The biography clearly separates Salinger's experiences and memories from his imagination. For example, a short story about war is very different from Salinger's specific memories of the battles in Hurtgen Forest, more emotionally powerful and less susceptible to rationality. The increasing spirituality of Salinger described in the book as he developed as a person and an artist is embedded in his stories not explained by them. It is interesting that spirituality and creativity actually increased Salinger's reclusiveness leaving what he considered to be almost perfect art as the communication between his readers and himself. Readers could be greatly affected by the art but not the man, his imagination not his personal thoughts and behaviors. When fans and journalists attempted to break through the lines of his work seeking the mystical man behind them, Salinger deliberately disillusioned them about himself and his characters with his final published work, Hapworth 16, 1924. World War II greatly affected Salinger. He came ashore at Normandy on D-Day and served in the deadly battles in Hurtgen Forest embedded with the 4th Infantry Division. Most men in the division died, but Salinger managed to walk out of the combat area with the survivors. The important information here is that Salinger was protected because of his role in the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). His job was to find, arrest, and interrogate soldiers in his unit who were subversive to the war effort. Also, he was valuable as a CIC sergeant because of his language skills and training in interrogating suspected Nazis living secretly in Division captured areas. He certainly saw mayhem and experienced the constant fear of impending death in the 4th Division, but without the same level of fighting risk as his fellow combat infantrymen. He had the opportunity to observe the emotions and motives of people who were experiencing extreme stress. Slawenski's excellent biography indicates that there are personal letters and many pages of personal writing produced after Hapworth that were never meant for publication. As with his acquaintance Ernest Hemingway, perhaps such personal writing will be published and ultimately read by many a suitable period after his death. I read such letters and work of EH and I probably will do the same with the secret writing of JDS.

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Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Kenneth Slawenski pres...

Kenneth Slawenski presents life events and artistic productions in a way that is consistent with J. D. Salinger's idea that the writer should not get between the work and the reader's experience. Slawenski does not attempt to reduce the creativity of the short stories, novellas, and novel by making amateur psychiatric interpretation of the relationship between the author's personality and his publications. Slawenski makes connections in time: what Salinger was doing in school, in the Army, and in his social interactions and what he wrote during those times. The biography clearly separates Salinger's experiences and memories from his imagination. For example, a short story about war is very different from Salinger's specific memories of the battles in Hurtgen Forest, more emotionally powerful and less susceptible to rationality. The increasing spirituality of Salinger described in the book as he developed as a person and an artist is embedded in his stories not explained by them. It is interesting that spirituality and creativity actually increased Salinger's reclusiveness leaving what he considered to be almost perfect art as the communication between his readers and himself. Readers could be greatly affected by the art but not the man, his imagination not his personal thoughts and behaviors. When fans and journalists attempted to break through the lines of his work seeking the mystical man behind them, Salinger deliberately disillusioned them about himself and his characters with his final published work, Hapworth 16, 1924. World War II greatly affected Salinger. He came ashore at Normandy on D-Day and served in the deadly battles in Hurtgen Forest embedded with the 4th Infantry Division. Most men in the division died, but Salinger managed to walk out of the combat area with the survivors. The important information here is that Salinger was protected because of his role in the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). His job was to find, arrest, and interrogate soldiers in his unit who were subversive to the war effort. Also, he was valuable as a CIC sergeant because of his language skills and training in interrogating suspected Nazis living secretly in Division captured areas. He certainly saw mayhem and experienced the constant fear of impending death in the 4th Division, but without the same level of fighting risk as his fellow combat infantrymen. He had the opportunity to observe the emotions and motives of people who were experiencing extreme stress. Slawenski's excellent biography indicates that there are personal letters and many pages of personal writing produced after Hapworth that were never meant for publication. As with his acquaintance Ernest Hemingway, perhaps such personal writing will be published and ultimately read by many a suitable period after his death. I read such letters and work of EH and I probably will do the same with the secret writing of JDS.

Helpful?
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Wow! This bio really g...

Wow! This bio really grabbed me. I wasn't sure if I'd like it, because I generally prefer memoirs, which are so much more personal. Biographies are often too much the opposite - impersonal, scholarly, cold. But in the absence of a memoir from the always reclusive and now departed Salinger, I found Slawenski's biography to be the next best thing. Because Slawenski made it personal, warm, empathetic. There is certainly no doubt that he has been an avid fan of Salinger for most of his life. And fan-dom runs the obvious risk of getting in the way of effective biography-writing. And I'm not sure even Slawenski himself would argue that his treatment of Salinger is completely objective. Because it's not. The NY Times review of the book called it "reverent," which may be a bit too strong. I'd call it respectful. I know there have been quite a few other biographies and critical studies written on Salinger and his work. Slawenski has probably read all of them, and cites several in his own book. But this is the first real bio of Salinger I've read, and I absolutely loved it, probably because the book comes across as a real labor of love. Whenever a writer is truly passionate about his subject, I think it adds something. I know others have called J.D. SALINGER: A LIFE "hagiography." But Salinger was no saint. I know that. (I've read the Maynard memoir, as well as Peggy Salinger's DREAM CATCHER, a memoir with plenty of unflattering dirt about her famous father.) And so does Slawenski. But his respect for the man and his work come through clearly. Slawenski has said he worked on the book for nearly eight years - while Salinger was still very much alive. Perhaps he was hoping, even if only subconsciously, for some sign of tacit approval from the famous recluse. Considering Salinger's litiginous reactions to previous biographies and books about him, it seems highly unlikely. In any case, Salinger died about the same time Slawenski's book was published. Here are some of the things I really liked about the Slawenski bio. (1) The blow-by-blow accounts of Salinger's early attempts at fiction, as well as the detailed summaries of a couple dozen of the early uncollected stories, as well as mentions of other stories that were apparently lost. (2) The detailed tracing of Salinger's wartime experiences. (3) The astute and careful analyses of the books. CATCHER IN THE RYE I didn't need too much on, but those later ones about the oh-so-precocious Glass children were another matter entirely. I did read those books, but I never claimed to actually "get" what they were all about. Slawenski etrapolates them all and also gives an in-depth look at Salinger's nearly life-long fascination with Easter mysticism and philosophies. Stuff that made him, in the eyes of many, well, weird. I remember a grad school assignment back in 1970 of finding and reading "Hapworth 16, 1924." Well, I really did read the whole thing, but I can't say I liked it, or understood what Salinger was driving at. And I kinda got the impression even Slawenski - devoted fan that he is - was a bit flummoxed by that last work. He commented that even the critics pretty much ignored it when it was first published in The New Yorker. The thing is, I appreciated the way Slawenski did do the research and did explain what Salinger seemed to be saying in all those less-understandable pieces. And (4) he brought me back to Holden Caulfield again. Yes, I reread CATCHER yet again, while I was reading the bio. The two books make great bedfellows. Like millions of other people, I've always loved Holden Caulfield, and I've learned a little more about him - and about myself - every time I read the book, which has been around now, continuously in print, for an amazing sixty years! Liked Slawenski, I first read the book at the age of 14. I'm 67 now and have probably read it at least a half a dozen times since then. It keeps getting better. And that is Salinger's genius. If he had never written another book, his place in American literature would have been just as secure. There are plenty of reasons to love this biography, but I'll let other people find their own reasons. Hagiography? Maybe. But so what? Kenneth Slawenski has done his homework, and has given us perhaps one of the most comprehensive looks at the life and work of J.D. Salinger yet written. I for one am grateful. Long live Holden Caulfield!

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Average Rating:(3.0)out of 5 stars

Average biography of a...

Average biography of a very reclusive figure. Has to really stretch in order to get some details.

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