Kenneth Slawenski founded a website devoted to the life and works of J D Salinger. This book took seven years of research and the hard work is evidentas you turn the pages of this wonderful volume on Salinger.Difficult for me to say who intrigued me more,the author of this book or the subject ! An excellent story teller,Kenneth Slawensky takes you effortlessly through the various stages in the life and times of Salinger. Born to middle class Jewish parents, Salinger was a reclusive writer who devoted his life to Zen Buddhism,Catholic mysticism and Sri Ramakrishna's teachings and of course ,writing.
The far from ordinary life of J D Salinger has been depicted with great sensitivity and respect by Slawensky. Salinger had abundant self confidence but on those occasions when his confidence ran dry,his ambition kept him going. He had amazing tenacity to drive him through lean periods before he tasted success and achieved literary recognition.
Not many would know about Salinger's romance with Oona O'Neill who later married Charlie Chaplin.Similarly,his association with World War II,the deep impact that the war had on his life and on his writings has been vividly described .
The Catcher in the Rye,published in 1951 was a phenomenal success after Salinger's earlier work For Esme-With love and squalorwhich was also well received .John Updike had remarked that J D Salinger wrote a masterpiece in that book.By virtue of Holden;s character being so absorbing and because the novel allowed the readers to interpret the novel in many ways,it created sensation of sorts and that is how Holden became a legendary character.It was said that many Holdens can be created but no two Holdens can ever be the same.
With great respect,Slawensky describes Salinger's need to be alone as he penned his thoughts on paper.He mentions about Salinger's den,a bunker which was built only so he could create characters which became as real to the author and his readers as flesh and blood people.
Slawensky talks about the death of the reclusive author at the age of ninety one and the impact it had on ordinary people,his readers. The internet was flooded with increasing frequency,with readers talking about how,Salinger and Holden had touched their lives.Two interesting facts come to the fore through this book;
Mark David Chapman,who shot the legendary singer Lennon was arrested from the side walk where he sat reading The catcher in the Rye immediately after pumping bullets into Lennon
A copy of the same book was recovered from the room of John Hinkley Jr.who shot Ronald Reagan.This finding created a media uproar of sorts in those days.
Slawensky talks about the death of Salinger at the age of ninety one .The internet was increasingly flooded by readers and fans who spoke about the great author,his characters and how they were affected by the writings of Salinger.
The story of an extra ordinary writer told brilliantly by another,makes this a treasure trove of information on the shy man .
Highly recommended as a leisurely read.You may not want to rush through this one.
(Dr Sharmila Kulkarni is a Mumbai based Prosthodontist,who is as passionate about reading as she is about bringing smiles to people's faces )