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Reclusive author J.D. Salinger to be focus of major biography

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Reclusive author J.D. Salinger will be given the full biography treatment, thanks to Shane Salerno, David Shields and Simon & Schuster. Shields and Salerno's "The Private War of J.D. Salinger" will be published by Simon & Schuster in September of this year.

The author of "The Catcher in the Rye" famously withdrew from public life in 1953 and for more than 50 years closely guarded his privacy, including suing to prevent one biographer from using material from his unpublished letters. He once turned down a biographer's request by writing he had "borne all the exploitation and loss of privacy I can possibly bear in a single lifetime.”

Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp said in a statement, “We are honored to be the publisher of what we believe will be the foundational book on one of the most beloved and most puzzling figures of the 20th century.” He added, “Many of us who read 'The Catcher in the Rye' have, at some point in our lives, wished we could know the author better. Now, we finally can.”

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In addition to the book, a new documentary by Salerno, "Salinger," will appear as part of PBS' "American Masters" series. A 2010 Newsweek article about the project indicated that something was in the works but details were not known until today.

The biography includes interviews with 150 friends, colleagues and scholars of Salinger. As the Newsweek magazine article indicated, it brings a new focus to his experience as a soldier in World War II.

Salinger published just four books: "The Catcher in the Rye" (1951), "Nine Stories" (1953), "Franny and Zooey" (1961), and "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, and Seymour, an Introduction" (1963), along with a few additional stories. Many have speculated that he may have been writing -- but not publishing -- during his years away from the public eye.

This biography may not shed any light on that, but co-author Salerno promises, “The myth that people have read about and believed for 60  years about J.D. Salinger is one of someone too pure to publish, too sensitive to be touched. We replace the myth of Salinger with an extraordinarily complex, deeply contradictory human being. Our book offers a complete revaluation and reinterpretation of the work and the life.”

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