At a glance:
- Author: Ian Hamilton
- First Published: 1988
- Type of Work: Biography
- Genres: Nonfiction, Biography
- Subjects: 1950's, 1960's, Twentieth century, Authors or writers, 1940's, 1930's, Novelists
- Locales: Europe, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire
Hamilton’s original project, completed in May, 1986, was entitled J.D. SALINGER: A WRITING LIFE. After reading a prepublication copy, Salinger initiated litigation in protest of what he believed were excessively long direct quotations from his personal letters, writings he considered his literary property. Hamilton was eventually obliged to paraphrase these letters in their entirety. The result was a new and different book, published on June 1, 1988.
In the two years Hamilton spent redoing his book, his own attitude toward Salinger changed. In 1983, when he began researching Salinger’s life, genuine curiosity was fed by an early “infatuation.” As an adolescent, Hamilton, like so many readers, had fallen in love with Holden Caulfield and the novel, THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, that had given him such vivid life. The deeper Hamilton delved into both Salinger’s life and fiction, however, the more disenchanted he became. The legal battle brought to the surface a hostility that Hamilton felt toward Salinger’s personality and intellect but had not confronted as directly in the original version.
IN SEARCH OF J.D. SALINGER tells of Salinger’s apprenticeship with the “slick” magazines, his move to THE NEW YORKER, and finally the great success of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, which still enjoys large printings throughout the world. Hamilton also provides new information on Salinger’s school days, his army service, his two marriages, and his perennial interest in young people. Even after he had become a recluse in the small New England town of Cornish, the creator of the brilliant Glass children would befriend adolescents when he talked to almost no one else. After these young people made the error of betraying his passion for privacy, he rejected them as well.
Hamilton’s legal problems may have provided a landmark case in copyright law, but the book itself cannot be considered a landmark biographical study. Critics are already disputing some of Hamilton’s interpretations, and it may be that a substantive biography of J.D. Salinger will be long in coming.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. LXXXIV, May 15, 1988, p. 1554.
Boston Globe. May 29, 1988, p. B15.
Kirkus Reviews. LVI, April 15, 1988, p. 593.
Library Journal. CXIII, July, 1988, p. 81.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 12, 1988, p. 3.
National Review. XL, August 5, 1988, p. 48.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIII, June 5, 1988, p. 7.
Newsweek. CXI, May 23, 1988, p. 73.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIII, May 20, 1988, p. 80.
Time. CXXXI, May 23, 1988, p. 74.
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