I recently watched a documentary about J.D. Salinger, the author of Catcher in the Rye. The movie was called Salinger and is on Netflix.
Despite the immediate success and critical acclaim of Catcher in the Rye, published in 1951, the author never published another story after that. Salinger faded into self-imposed obscurity and reclusiveness, despite Catcher in the Rye selling hundreds of thousands of copies a year, year after year.
Interviews with those who were close to the author indicate that he continued writing up until his death in January, 2010 at age 91. That’s 45 years of unpublished backlog. During his lifetime, Salinger fiercely guarded his writing, and this reclusiveness has fueled strong speculation about his life work. He has turned down numerous offers to make a move adaptation of Catcher.
Five unpublished novels have surfaced with Salinger’s instructions, stating they are to be released posthumously between 2015 and 2020, and though pieces of this work has surfaced prematurely, I choose to wait until the author’s intended time before I read them. I want to respect J. D. Salinger’s wishes.
Regardless of how you feel about Catcher in the Rye, published in 1965, the mystery around Salinger is intriguing.
As for the Salinger documentary I watched on Netflix, I was troubled by the exploitative tact it took, and when I came across this anonymous review (also on Netflix) which so eloquently said what I was feeling, I saw no need to write or paraphrase it. I simply reprint it here, and it says what I think needs to be said.
Found it as I heard it to be–superficial, loud (the soundtrack is excruciating) and ultimately mean-spirited. That latter quality emerges full-bloom about 5/8s in, with the scurrilous whining of the dishonorable Joyce Maynard, and carries on to suggest that because three psychotics have claimed “Catcher” to be the inspiration for their homicidal tendencies, then there must be something wrong with the book and its author. Very flimsy psychoanalysis peppers the doc throughout, and all you’re left with, finally, is that there really are some people who believe J. D. Salinger owes them a favor. Philip Seymour Hoffman does give fair and cogent insights into the relationship of the audience to the artist, but they’re not enough to redeem this David Shields/Shane Salerno hate mail to a very great writer (who is) no longer here to defend himself against people as insignificant as they are.
Watch the documentary if you wish or do not. I felt the need for a shower afterwards, but your experience may be different.