They want Salinger’s safe opened

Ru­mours abound that late au­thor had a stash of un­pub­lished manuscripts

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

NEW YORK: The death of JD Salinger this week ends one of lit­er­a­ture’s most mys­te­ri­ous lives and in­ten­si­fies one of its great­est mys­ter­ies: Was the au­thor of The Catcher in the Rye keep­ing a stack of fin­ished, un­pub­lished manuscripts in a safe in his house in Cor­nish, New Hamp­shire?

Are they mas­ter­pieces, cu­riosi­ties or ran­dom scrib­bles? And if there are pub­lish­able works, will the au­thor’s es­tate release them? The Salinger camp isn’t talk­ing. No com­ment, says his lit­er­ary agent, Phyl­lis West­berg, of Harold Ober As­so­ci­ates.

No plans for any new Salinger books, re­ports his pub­lisher, Lit­tle, Brown & Co.

Mar­cia Paul, an at­tor ney for Salinger when the au­thor sued last year to stop pub­li­ca­tion of a Catcher se­quel, would not com­ment.

Salinger’s son, Matt Salinger, re­ferred ques­tions to West­berg.

Sto­ries about a pos­si­ble Salinger trove have been around for a long time.

In 1999, New Hamp­shire neigh­bour Jerry Burt said the au­thor had told him years ear­lier that he had writ­ten at least 15 un­pub­lished books, which were kept locked in a safe in his home.

A year ear­lier, au­thor and for­mer Salinger girl­friend Joyce May­nard had writ­ten that Salinger used to write daily and had at least two nov­els stored away.

Salinger, who died on Wed­nes­day at the age of 91, be­gan pub­lish­ing short sto­ries in the 1940s and be­came a sen­sa­tion in the 1950s af­ter the release of Catcher, a novel that helped drive the al­ready wary au­thor into near-to­tal seclu­sion.

His last book, Raise High the Roof Beam, Car­pen­ters and Sey­mour, came out in 1963 and his last pub­lished work of any kind, the short story Hap­worth 16, 1924, ap­peared in The New Yorker in 1965.

Jay McIn­er­ney, a young star in the 1980s thanks to his novel Bright Lights, Big City, is not a fan of Hap­worth and is scep­ti­cal about the con­tents of the safe.

“I think there’s prob­a­bly a lot in there, but I’m not sure if it’s nec­es­sar­ily what we hope it is,” McIn­er­ney said this week. Hap­worth was not a tra­di­tional or ter­ri­bly sat­is­fy­ing work of fic­tion.

“It was an in­sane epis­to­lary mono­logue, vir­tu­ally shape­less and form­less. I have a feel­ing that his later work is in that vein.”

Au­thor-ed­i­tor Gor­don Lish, who in the 1970s wrote an anony­mous story which con­vinced some read­ers it was a Salinger orig­i­nal, said he was “cer­tain” that good work was locked up in Salinger’s New Hamp­shire home.

Nov­el­ist Cur­tis Sit­ten­feld, who has been fre­quently com­pared to Salinger be­cause of her novel Prep, was sim­ply en­joy­ing the ad­ven­ture.

“I can’t wait to find out!” she said. “In our age of shame­less self-pro­mo­tion, it’s ex­traor­di­nary, and kind of great, to think of some­one re­ally and truly writ­ing for writ­ing’s sake.”

Some of the great works of lit­er­a­ture have been pub­lished af­ter the au­thor’s death, and even against the au­thor’s will, in­clud­ing such as Franz Kafka nov­els The Trial and The Cas­tle, which Kafka had re­quested be de­stroyed.

Be­cause so lit­tle is known about what Salinger was do­ing, it’s so easy to guess.

McIn­er­nay said he has an old girl­friend who met Salinger and was told that the au­thor was mostly writ­ing about health and nutri­tion.

Lish said Salinger told him in the 1960s that he was still writ­ing about the Glass fam­ily, fea­tured in much of Salinger’s work.

But the Salinger pa­pers might ex­ist only in our dreams, like the sec­ond vol­ume of Niko­lai Go­gol’s Dead Souls, which the Rus­sian au­thor burned near the end of his life.

The Salinger safe also could turn into a ver­sion of Henry James’s novella The Aspern Pa­pers, in which the nar­ra­tor’s pur­suit of a late poet’s let­ters ends with his be­ing told that they had been de­stroyed.

Mar­garet Salinger, the au­thor’s daugh­ter, wrote in a mem­oir pub­lished in 2000 that JD Salinger had a pre­cise fil­ing sys­tem for his pa­pers – a red mark meant the book could be re­leased “as is”, should the au­thor die. A blue mark meant that the man­u­script had to be edited.

“There is a mar­vel­lous peace in not pub­lish­ing,” JD Salinger told The New York Times in 1974. “Pub­lish­ing is a ter­ri­ble in­va­sion of my pri­vacy.

“I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for my­self and my own plea­sure.” – Sapa-AP

PUB­LIC­ITY SHY: JD Salinger be­came a vir­tual recluse in the 1950s.

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