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J. D. Salinger : a life
J. D. Slawenski
Adult Nonfiction PS3537.A426 Z883 2010

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From Publishers' Weekly:

After nearly a decade's research and Slawenski's obvious empathy with his reclusive subject's search for emotional and philosophical equilibrium, this exemplary biography will be released on the first anniversary of J.D. Salinger's death. It's a highly informative effort to assess the arc of Salinger's career, the themes of his fiction, and his influence on 20th-century American literature. Born in 1919, indulged by his mother while growing up on Park Avenue, Salinger was a bored and indifferent student. He eventually found a mentor in legendary Columbia professor Whit Burnett, who encouraged him to work on the pieces that became The Catcher in the Rye even while Salinger was serving in WWII Europe. Slawenski emphasizes that Salinger's wartime experience, from D-Day to the liberation of Dachau, "was the traumatic turning point in his life," influencing the sense of futility that permeates his early work. Salinger's salvation, Slawenski demonstrates, came through his acceptance of Vedatic Buddhism, and he argues persuasively that Salinger came to consider writing an aspect of meditation, a task that demanded solitude and perfect control over the presentation of his fiction. The celebrity surrounding the publication of Catcher in the Rye in 1951 activated the split between his striving for asceticism and the demands of the outside world. Slawenski describes Salinger's three marriages, records his contentious relationships with his publishers, his special relationship with the New Yorker, and Slawenski's assiduous research allows him to identify and assess many obscure and unpublished stories. In total, an invaluable work that sheds fascinating light on the willfully elusive author. B&w photos. (Jan. 25) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

Slawenski, creator of, a site devoted to J.D. Salinger, has blended a critical mass of Salinger fact and fable in this tendentious biography. Previous biographies, e.g., Paul Alexander's Salinger and Ian Hamilton's In Search of J.D. Salinger, are descriptive chronicles of Salinger's "writing life" rather than full-flesh biographies. The reclusive, uncooperative Salinger had legally prohibited direct quotation from archival letters and impeded biographers' access to close friends and family. Slawenski, comparably hindered, concentrates here on Salinger's early years-his education at Valley Forge Military Academy, Ursinus College, and Columbia University; war service (Counter Intelligence Corps); first marriage; and youthful short stories. Commendably, Slawenski discloses and describes several short stories that are now lost. Since Salinger's reclusive years (1965-2010) offer scant biographical detail, the latter part of Slawenski's book contains long summaries of the author's stories, accounts of his litigations, and media reactions to Salinger's death. VERDICT The text lacks grammatical and stylistic polish, many factual statements are without source, and letters are cited without reference to a collection or archive. In spite of these flaws, Salinger enthusiasts will want to read this, so libraries should certainly purchase.-Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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