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John Sturrock: The Evil List

25 April 2002
... to wow the class with might do worse than choose the world’s most photogenic mailbox: that which sits beside what looks like a suitably unmade-up road somewhere in New England with the name ‘Salinger’ stencilled on its scored and rusty flank. For close on forty years now, this weathered receptacle has been asked to stand in for the man whose mailbox it is, who has himself passed definitively ...

Where are the grown-ups?

Zoë Heller: J.D. Salinger’s ex-lover and daughter

4 January 2001
At Home in the World 
by Joyce Maynard.
Anchor, 345 pp., £7.99, August 1999, 1 86230 067 4
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Dream Catcher 
by Margaret Salinger.
Scribner, 436 pp., £20, November 2000, 0 671 04281 5
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... J.D.Salinger, who is now in his early eighties, has spent the greater part of his life hiding out from the world on a hilltop in New Hampshire. Over the last half century, he has continued to write steadily, it ...

After-Lives

John Sutherland

5 November 1992
Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography 
by Ian Hamilton.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 09 174263 3
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Testamentary Acts: Browning, Tennyson, James, Hardy 
by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 273 pp., £27.50, June 1992, 0 19 811276 9
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The Last Laugh 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 131 pp., £10.99, December 1991, 0 7011 4583 8
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Trollope 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Hutchinson, 551 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 09 173896 2
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... Hamilton came to biography late and triumphantly with his life of the dead but still warm Robert Lowell. Riding high, he went on to attempt an unauthorised life of the aged but very much alive J.D.Salinger and was comprehensively outfoxed by the second most reclusive man in American letters. Hamilton wrote up his experience as a rueful memoir, In Search of J.D.Salinger. Keepers of the Flame is a ...
27 October 1988
In Search of J.D.​ Salinger 
by Ian Hamilton.
Heinemann, 222 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 434 31331 9
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... crude, pushy and – let’s use the word for a change – wrong. Now consider a more sophisticated version of the Robinson technique. Ian Hamilton, noted biographer of Robert Lowell, writes to J.D.Salinger and informs him that he has become Hamilton’s latest subject: would the notoriously reclusive novelist mind answering some questions, could he take a visit? Hamilton doesn’t expect an answer; nor ...

Redeemable Bad Guy

Ian Hamilton: Rabbit and Zooey

2 April 1998
Toward the End of Time 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 334 pp., £16.99, February 1998, 0 241 13862 0
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Golf Dreams 
by John Updike.
Penguin, 224 pp., £6.99, February 1998, 0 14 026156 7
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... His fiction, in its rather grim bravado, its humour, its morbidity, its wry but persistent hopefulness, matches the shape and tint of present America.’ This was John Updike in 1961, saying of J.D.Salinger what critics since have been saying of John Updike: that here is a novelist uncannily responsive to the ‘personality’, if we can use the word, of his own culture. Updike, it has often been ...

At the End of a Dirt Road

Thomas Powers: The Salinger​ File

24 October 2019
The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour – an Introduction 
by J.D. Salinger.
Little, Brown, 1072 pp., $100, November 2018, 978 0 316 45071 3
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... When​ I think of J.D.Salinger now – not the books but the man – the thing I find hardest to understand is the moment when, in his early thirties, he began to hide his face. In 1952 he hired the photographer Antony Di Gesu to ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: The Great Refusers

19 October 2016
... text and walk away. It’s a fantasy not so much of anonymity as of refusing the publishing process. There are writers who do that. The first great refuser in contemporary literary culture was J.D.Salinger. The gigantic success he encountered turned the worldly figure who’d grown up on Park Avenue into a tormented recluse living behind a crocodile-infested moat in New Hampshire. (There were ...

Shakers

Denis Donoghue

6 November 1986
Write on: Occasional Essays ’65-’85 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 211 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 436 25665 7
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... and his account of going to a Shakin’ Stevens concert in Birmingham. The second part is mostly reviews: of Norman Mailer’s The Prisoner of Sex, The Complete Uncollected Short Stories of J.D.Salinger, a book about the ‘Catholic sensibility’ of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Blake Morrison’s The Movement, Martin Amis’s Success, Tony Tanner’s Adultery in the Novel, Graham Greene’s Ways of Escape ...
8 February 1990
Vineland 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Secker, 385 pp., £14.95, February 1990, 0 436 39866 4
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... time exegesis has continued more or less unabated. It is accompanied by tireless speculation as to what the author could be up to next, where he was, indeed who he was. Compared with Pynchon, J.D.Salinger is a publicity-hunter. One daring scholarly conjecture, that these authors are one and the same person, is a paranoid fantasy that might well have been induced by prolonged exposure to Pynchon’s ...

At the V&A

Peter Campbell: Penguin’s 70th birthday

2 June 2005
... will recognise a remarkable number of them as books they knew, or books they have on their shelves, mellowing into crisp, brown-edged age. Novelists are notoriously sensitive about covers. J.D.Salinger won’t allow anything but type – the memory of one vilely inappropriate cover (a third-rate Saturday Evening Post illustration on For Esmé with Love and Squalor) gives a notion of why. The ...

Caretaker/Pallbearer

James Wolcott: Updike should stay at home

1 January 2009
The Widows of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2008, 978 0 241 14427 5
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... Updike wrote as if he were doing fine draftsmanship under a cone of light, honouring creation and the American plenty. He was the ideal son of a platonic union between John Cheever and J.D.Salinger, with Nabokov attending the christening as fairy godfather. Apparent lack of inner struggle and purring efficiency made it possible to take him for granted. ‘No one has ever sat around worrying ...

An American Genius

Patrick Parrinder

21 November 1991
The Runaway Soul 
by Harold Brodkey.
Cape, 835 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 224 03001 9
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... American Novel, it was believed, had still to be written. Neither Melville, Twain, Faulkner nor Hemingway had quite managed it, and Henry James had defected to England. From Henry Miller to J.D.Salinger, any aspiring genius who did not have a shot at it was not doing his duty by Uncle Sam. The truth is, of course, that the GAN had long been written – for what is Moby Dick if not the Great White ...

Enisled

John Sutherland: Matthew Arnold

19 March 1998
A Gift Imprisoned: The Poetic Life of Matthew Arnold 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 241 pp., £17.99, March 1998, 0 7475 3671 6
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... of elementary schools?’ Ian Hamilton, the author of a fine biography of Robert Lowell, has made himself a connoisseur of the pitfalls of biography since the frustrations of his search for J.D.Salinger. In Keepers of the Flame (1992) he surveyed the legal and practical impediments: the prophylactic bonfire, the deathbed prohibition, the vigilant widow, the lies artfully sown in life to spring up as ...

Problem Parent

Michael Wood

17 August 1989
Memories of Amnesia 
by Laurence Shainberg.
Collins Harvill, 190 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 00 272024 8
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We find ourselves in Moontown 
by Jay Gummerman.
Cape, 174 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 0 224 02662 3
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The Russia House 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 344 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 0 340 50573 7
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My Secret History 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 468 pp., £13.95, June 1989, 0 241 12369 0
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... sound they made themselves.’ This is a first book, and it is full of intelligence and unforced talent. The writing isn’t like anyone’s I can think of, but the names of Raymond Carver and J.D.Salinger may point us roughly in the right direction. The prose is oblique and uninsistent, the stories are seemingly inconsequential: but you find yourself laughing and wanting to go back to see why. The ...

V-2 into Space

Adam Mars-Jones: Michael Chabon

2 March 2017
Moonglow 
by Michael Chabon.
HarperCollins, 448 pp., £18.99, January 2017, 978 0 00 754891 0
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... sworn those kidneys were unmock.’ ‘Well, they use real urine,’ my grandfather said. ‘Gives it that tang.’ The effect of such passages is eerily like Gravity’s Rainbow rewritten by J.D.Salinger, and Pynchon and Salinger both haunt Moonglow. The strange prominence in a novel of pretended self-revelation of the two postwar writers who most insisted on keeping their lives private doesn’t ...

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