The J.D. Salinger bonanza: Movie, bio and five unpublished books

JD Salinger posed for a portrait on November 20, 1952 in Brooklyn.
JD Salinger posed for a portrait on November 20, 1952 in Brooklyn.
(San Diego Historical Society / Getty Images)

It’s almost dizzying: J.D. Salinger, the most famous yet reclusive author of the 20th century, is now being propelled into the spotlight with a documentary, a mammoth, deeply researched biography and, reportedly, five never-before-published books.

He couldn’t have planned a better publicity juggernaut if he tried.

“He’s going to have a second act unlike any writer in history,” biography co-author Shane Salerno told the New York Times. “There’s no precedent for this.”


The book “Salinger,” written by Salerno and David Shields, will be published by Simon & Schuster on Sept. 3. It’s a 720-page hardcover that includes recollections of friends and associates that haven’t previously been shared as well as quotations from letters that haven’t previously been published.

And then there’s the sensational revelation that Salinger wrote five books that will be published in the future.

Unpublished works by Salinger are big news; he published only four books in his lifetime. More than four decades have passed since his last book hit shelves before his death in 2010 at age 91. Some assumed he was writing all along; others weren’t convinced.

While the Salinger estate has not commented publicly on the five books, the New York Times describes them with a fair measure of detail.

“One collection, to be called ‘The Family Glass,’ would add five new stories to an assembly of previously published stories about the fictional Glass family, which figured in Mr. Salinger’s ‘Franny and Zooey’ and elsewhere, according to the claims, which surfaced in interviews and previews of the documentary and book last week.

“Another would include a retooled version of a publicly known but unpublished tale, ‘The Last and Best of the Peter Pans,’ which is to be collected with new stories and existing work about the fictional Caulfields, including ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ The new works are said to include a story-filled “manual” of the Vedanta religious philosophy, with which Mr. Salinger was deeply involved; a novel set during World War II and based on his first marriage; and a novella modeled on his own war experiences.”

In the trailer for the film, which debuts in 200 theaters Sept. 6, writer Joyce Maynard talks about seeing manuscripts at his home in Cornish, N.H. Maynard was one of a number of young women whom Salinger befriended via mail before their relationships developed into romantic ones.

With Salinger, there is likely to be as much interest in his long-veiled personal life as there is in his work. What did he not say to the press in all those years he denied interviews? What exactly did he see when serving in World War II that affected him so negatively? How did his past inform his writing?

Readers will know more next week -- and they’re beginning to line up for the privilege. The book, with presales, is the 130th top seller on Amazon.

Choire Sicha talks ‘Very Recent History,’ a recession chronicle

Paul Yoon’s ‘Snow Hunters’: a meditation on solitude and memory

Edwidge Danticat’s ‘Claire of the Sea Light’ brims with enchantments

Carolyn Kellogg: Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+