Vedanta Manual Among Five New Salinger Books

New Delhi
Vedanta Manual Among Five New Salinger Books

The Catcher in the Rye author Jerome David Salinger published his last story in 1965 but kept writing continuously until his death in 2010 and five of his new books, including a manual on Vedanta, are on the way, say his biographers.

"Based on private interviews conducted over nine years, we have learned that J D Salinger approved works for publication. We were able to obtain information about a number of those books and stories...These works will begin to be published in irregular instalments starting between 2015 and 2020," write David Shields and Shane Salerno in "Salinger".

 Raised in Park Avenue privilege, Salinger sought out combat, surviving five bloody battles of World War II, and out of that crucible he created The Catcher in the Rye, which journeyed deep into his own despair and redefined post-war America.

For more than 50 years, he has been one of the most elusive figures in American history. In the course of a nine-year investigation, and especially in the three years since Salinger's death, Shields and Salerno have interviewed more than 200 people in their bid to solve the mystery of what happened to him.

Among the unpublished books is The Family Glass, a collection of existing stories about the fictional Glass family along with five new tales.

The authors say that Salinger has also written a "manual" of Vedanta – with short stories, almost fables, woven into text; this is precisely the form of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, which Salinger called, in 1952, "the religious book of the century". He was an adherent of Sri Ramakrishna's Advaita Vedanta Hinduism.

"Salinger's 'manual' is the explicit fulfilment of his stated desire to 'circulate', through his writing, the ideas of Vedanta. Further evidence of Salinger's devotion over more than half a century to Vedanta is that he donated a substantial and continuing portion of his estate to the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York and to other organisations that share similar religious beliefs," they write.

The third book is a novel – a World War II love story based on Salinger's complex relationship with his first wife Sylvia Welter. Then there is a novella that takes the form of a counter-intelligence agent's diary entries during World War II, culminating in the Holocaust. Finally there is a complete retooling of Salinger's unpublished 12-page 1942 story The Last and Best of the Peter Pans.

According to the authors, Salinger continued to write but simply chose not to publish.

"Numerous eyewitnesses report that Salinger was writing every day, had a vault in which he stored completed manuscripts, and had a detailed, colour-coded filing system for the condition of each story," the biography, published by Simon and Schuster, says.

The authors describe Salinger as an extraordinarily complex, deeply contradictory human being.

"He was not – as we've been told – a recluse for the final 55 years of his life; he travelled extensively, had many affairs and lifelong friendships, consumed copious amounts of popular culture, and often embodied many of the things he criticised in his fiction.

"Far from being a recluse, he was constantly in conversation with the world in order to reinforce its notion of his reclusion. What he wanted was privacy, but the literary silence that reclusion brought became as closely associated with him as The Catcher in the Rye'."

They also say that Salinger was born with only one testicle.

"Throughout Salinger’s life, he was drawn to very young, sexually inexperienced girls whom he knew he was unlikely to become intimate with, or if they did become sexual partners, they were unlikely to have enough experience with the male anatomy to judge him. He almost always backed away from his lover immediately after the consummation of the relationship, thereby avoiding rejection.

"One of his lovers told us that he was 'incredibly embarrassed and frustrated' by his undescended testicle. Surely one of the many reasons he stayed out of the media glare was to reduce the likelihood that this information about his anatomy would emerge."

Constructed like a thriller, the oral biography takes the reader into Salinger's private world, through the voices of those closest to him: his World War II brothers-in-arms, his family, his friends, his lovers, his classmates, his editors, his New Yorker colleagues, his spiritual advisors, and people with whom he had relationships that were secret even to his own family. Their intimate recollections are supported by more than 175 rare photos, diaries, legal records, and private documents that are woven throughout.

There are also Salinger's "lost letters" - ranging from the 1940s to 2008, revealing his intimate views on love, literature, fame, religion, war, and death, and providing a raw and revelatory self-portrait.

 Shields and Salerno’s investigation into Salinger's epic life transports the reader from the bloody beaches of Normandy, where Salinger landed under fire, carrying the first six chapters of The Catcher in the Rye to the hottest nightclub in the world, the Stork Club, where he romanced the beautiful 16-year-old Oona O'Neill until she met Charlie Chaplin.

It also says about his top-secret counterintelligence duties, which took him to a subcamp of Dachau, besides his love affair with a likely Gestapo agent whom he married and brought home to his Jewish parents' Park Avenue apartment.

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