Salinger by David Shields

63%

29 Critic Reviews

...previously published material, and in one case, the story of someone who almost met Salinger, but didn’t. Whatever you think of J.D. Salinger’s writing, his worst literary sin may be that he inspired such a terrible book.
-Blog Critics

Synopsis

Based on eight years of exhaustive research and exclusive interviews with more than 200 people—and published in coordination with the international theatrical release of a major documentary film from the Weinstein Company—Salinger is a global cultural event: the definitive biography of one of the most beloved and mysterious figures of the twentieth century.

For more than fifty years, the ever elusive author of The Catcher in the Rye has been the subject of a relentless stream of newspaper and magazine articles as well as several biographies. Yet all of these attempts have been hampered by a fundamental lack of access and by the persistent recycling of inaccurate information. Salinger remains, astonishingly, an enigma. The complex and contradictory human being behind the myth has never been revealed.

No longer.

In the eight years since Salinger was begun, and especially in the three years since Salinger’s death, the authors interviewed on five continents more than 200 people, many of whom had previously refused to go on the record about their relationship with Salinger. This oral biography offers direct eyewitness accounts from Salinger’s World War II brothers-in-arms, his family members, his close friends, his lovers, his classmates, his neighbors, his editors, his publishers, his New Yorker colleagues, and people with whom he had relationships that were secret even to his own family. Shields and Salerno illuminate most brightly the last fifty-six years of Salinger’s life: a period that, until now, had remained completely dark to biographers. Provided unprecedented access to never-before-published photographs (more than 100 throughout the book), diaries, letters, legal records, and secret documents, readers will feel they have, for the first time, gotten beyond Salinger’s meticulously built-up wall. The result is the definitive portrait of one of the most fascinating figures of the twentieth century.
 

About David Shields

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DAVID SHIELDS is the author of thirteen previous books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead (New York Times best seller), Black Planet (National Book Critics Circle Award finalist), and Remote (winner of the PEN/Revson Award). He has published essays and stories in dozens of periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine, Harper's,The Village Voice, The Yale Review, Salon, Slate, McSweeney's, and The Believer. His work has been translated into fifteen languages.




































































Author Residence: Seattle
 
Published September 3, 2013 by Simon & Schuster. 721 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Sep 22 2013
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Salinger
All: 29 | Positive: 14 | Negative: 15

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Sep 23 2013

...a short story Salinger wrote in Europe that was the first story narrated by Holden Caulfield, and asides...combined with a number of photos will make this a must-read for fans of the celebrated author.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Aug 25 2013

His alienation from the world and his mania for privacy became part of the Salinger myth — a myth that David Shields and Shane Salerno attempt to pierce in their revealing but often slapdash new book, “Salinger.”

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Sam Leith on Sep 20 2013

So tin-eared are the authors that they declare the New York Times "had an almost schizophrenic view" of Catcher on the basis that reviewers...didn't agree – which would be like accusing Guardian Media Group of having a schizophrenic view of Martin Amis if he got a positive notice in the Review and a stinker in the Observer.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Tim Adams on Sep 14 2013

Oddly, the books themselves are hardly examined; there is next to nothing in the way of close reading of any of Salinger's painstaking prose – just gobbets dropped in alongside the anecdote, memoir and hearsay.

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NY Journal of Books

Below average
Reviewed by Vinton Rafe McCabe on Sep 03 2013

An oral history rises or falls by the acceptability and believability of its witnesses. By structuring this book as they did and allowing themselves to intrude...the authors undermine their own work. Which is not to say that the technique fails throughout the book.

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Blog Critics

Below average
Reviewed by Pat Padua on Sep 26 2013

...previously published material, and in one case, the story of someone who almost met Salinger, but didn’t. Whatever you think of J.D. Salinger’s writing, his worst literary sin may be that he inspired such a terrible book.

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WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Carl Rollyson on Sep 02 2013

Biographies are often accused of not explaining enough. Here, however, is an example of one that tells us too much. The raw material in "Salinger" will need to be digested by yet another biographer. But the next book will need to be less thesis-ridden and more generous to the insights that other biographers contributed...

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Financial Times

Below average
Reviewed by Sarah Churchwell on Sep 13 2013

Although they often seem not to understand Salinger’s writing, endlessly, reductively interpreting it as nothing but a symptom of Salinger’s war trauma, Shields and Salerno also hyperbolically overstate its importance.

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Washington Times

Above average
Reviewed by Martin Rubin on Sep 13 2013

In the end, this book by a Salinger fanatic is most likely to be of interest to others who share its author’s preoccupation, to some extent anyway. It’s hard to imagine even the most obsessive Salinger fan equaling it.

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LA Times

Good
Reviewed by David L. Ulin on Sep 03 2013

J.D. Salinger spent almost half a century hiding in plain sight. This is perhaps the most interesting revelation both in David Shields and Shane Salerno’s oral biography “Salinger” and its accompanying documentary...

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by David L. Ulin on Aug 28 2013

Salerno and Shields' book “Salinger,” it turns out, is an exploration of those messages, which Salinger seeded throughout his life and work. At nearly 700 pages, it's a bit of a shaggy monster, yet what may be most astonishing about it is its (largely) even tone.

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Tina Jordan on Aug 28 2013

It's the authors' obsessiveness that led to these finds — and it's that same obsessiveness that probably led them to cram every last one of them into the book. With better organization, Salinger would have worked pretty well; as it is, it's a bit of a shambling, unwieldy mess.

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LA Times

Good
Reviewed by David L. Ulin on Sep 03 2013

...these efforts — including some of Salinger’s correspondence — make up a kind of unseen addition to his oeuvre, tracing his life in language much more broadly than we commonly suppose.

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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Sep 06 2013

To Salinger, fortified by his embrace of Vedanta Hinduism, such publication would have been an ego trip. And there’s only one cure for that affliction. You can’t be on an ego trip when you’re dead.

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The Telegraph

Good
Reviewed by Christopher Taylor on Sep 07 2013

The best parts of the book deal with Salinger only tangentially. These are the testimonies of the snappers, wily hacks and obsessed fans who, over the years, got a few words or images out of him.

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USA Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Scott Bowles on Sep 03 2013

...there's no denying that Shields and Salerno have struck journalistic gold. Salinger is a revelation, and offers the most complete picture of an American icon, a man deified by silence, haunted by war, frustrated in love — and more frail and human than he ever wanted the world to know

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The Daily Beast

Below average
Reviewed by Andrew Romano on Sep 09 2013

So if you are tempted to...read the Salinger book—if you feel that zing—by all means, go ahead. But don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re glimpsing the real J.D. Salinger...or uncovering him in those loosey-goosey pages.

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Forbes

Good
Reviewed by Peter Reilly on Oct 03 2013

The biography by David Shields and Shane Salerno is done in the form of an oral history – brief anecdotes by various people who knew Salinger interspersed with quotes from Salinger’s work and comments by Shields and Salerno. Although it has a poor notice in the New Yorker, I rather liked it.

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The Washington Post

Good
Reviewed by Louis Bayard on Aug 30 2013

Together, they have logged nine years of research, collected more than 200 interviews across five continents, disinterred lost photographs, military records and billets-doux, and even unearthed a secret cache of soon-to-be-published Salinger novels, allegedly coming sometime between 2015 and 2020.

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Salon

Good
Reviewed by Kyle Minor on Sep 12 2013

...their methods have produced a book whose pages turn quickly, an oral biography that is often novelistic in affect and in scope, and, thrillingly, a book as well suited to audiobook narration as any I’ve ever read or heard.

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Chicago Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Mark Guarino on Sep 15 2013

For all the foibles and flaws, the most compelling portrait of Salinger in these pages is the one who pleas for his privacy to those stalking his driveway, hiding in the woods of his home, and biding time among his favorite hometown haunts.

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Paste

Above average
Reviewed by Annlee Ellingson on Sep 09 2013

Salinger covers the same biographical material that can be found on Wikipedia: the author’s privileged upbringing in New York City, his ambition to be published in The New Yorker, his experiences during World War II (including D-Day and the liberation of Dachau), his strained family life and his numerous affairs with young women.

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South China Morning Post

Above average
Reviewed by David Ulin on Sep 08 2013

Salinger argues that it begins and ends with the second world war. This is not a new theory; it was explored in Kenneth Slawenski's disappointing 2011 biography J.D. Salinger: A Life, which relies more on conjecture than reporting to make its case.

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The Spectator

Below average
Reviewed by Philip Hensher on Sep 07 2013

This is a biography that inevitably tries to conceal a paucity of evidence; there is not even an index, and the footnotes are maddeningly incomplete. Whether it was worth writing at all will depend on the quality of what is published between 2015 and 2020.

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The American Book Center Blog

Good
on Sep 16 2013

Provided unprecedented access to never-before-published photographs...diaries, letters, legal records, and secret documents, readers will feel they have, for the first time, gotten beyond Salinger’s meticulously built-up wall. The result is the definitive portrait of one of the most fascinating figures of the twentieth century.

Read Full Review of Salinger

Good E-Reader

Below average
Reviewed by Mercy Pikington on Sep 08 2013

...the book is apparently almost a word-for-word transcript of the documentary film on the life of J.D. Salinger, and the film might be far less difficult to wade through given that it will be presented in video by the people who actually claim to have stories to share about the author.

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The Atlantic Wire

Above average
Reviewed by Alexander Nazaryan on Sep 04 2013

This may seem either revealing psychology or puerile gossip — readers of Salinger and future historians will have to judge for themselves.

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The Atlantic Wire

Above average
Reviewed by Alexander Nazaryan on Aug 26 2013

Of course, just because the book is gossipy, messy and full of speculation does not mean that people won't buy it. In fact, the very opposite may be true.

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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Sep 06 2013

The person whose life is recorded by this 700 page compendium was indeed remarkable...Near the end of this painstaking and fair-minded book, we hear the self-pitying cry of the author.

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Reader Rating for Salinger
66%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 197 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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