Salinger

Simon & Shuster, 2013, Coauthor with Shane Salerno

Excerpt

Salinger’s best work isn’t good. It’s not very good. It’s not great. It’s perfect. “Perfect,” though, isn’t necessarily the highest praise. “Bananafish,” “Esmé,” Catcher, “Franny,” “Raise High”–they’re airless; they’re claustrophobic; they leave the reader no room to breathe. The work was perfect because it had to be: Salinger was in such agony that he needed to build an exquisitely beautiful place in which to bury himself.

 

Reviews

“Revealing . . . [A] sharp-edged portrait.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“A stupendous work . . . I predict with the utmost confidence that, after this, the world will not need another Salinger biography. ”—John Walsh Sunday Times (London)

Salinger gets the goods on an author’s reclusive life. . . . It strips away the sheen of his exceptionalism, trading in his genius for something much more real. ”—Los Angeles Times

“Engrossing . . . There are fascinating and unique accounts that get to the heart of Salinger. . . . The freshest material comes from Salinger’s letters, which bring his own voice, often adolescent-sounding, into the commentary. Previous biographers didn’t have access to much of this material.”—Carl Rollyson, The Wall Street Journal

“The reminiscences are layered with a stunning array of primary material. Taken as a whole—the memories, the documents, the pictures—the book feels as close as we’ll ever get to being inside Salinger’s head.”—Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly

 

“Unprecedented . . . Nine years in the making and thoroughly documented . . . Providing by far the most detailed report of previously unreleased material, the book . . . both fleshes out and challenges aspects of the author’s legend. . . . [Salinger] has new information well beyond any possible posthumous fiction. ”—Hillel Italie, The Associated Press

“Eloquently written and exhaustively reported . . . Salinger is an unmitigated success. . . . 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. . . . A startlingly revealing story. ”—USA Today

“Vivid . . . There are riches here . . . [Salinger] presents a decade’s worth of genuinely valuable research . . . Salinger doesn’t excuse its subject’s personal failings, but it helps explain them: in his fiction, Salinger had a chance to be the good, untraumatized man he couldn’t be in real life.”—Lev Grossman, Time

Salinger is the thorny, complicated portrait that its thorny, complicated subject deserves. . . . The book offers the most complete rendering yet of Salinger’s World War II service, the transformative trauma that began with the D-Day invasion and carried through the horrific Battle of Hürtgen Forest and the liberation of a Dachau subcamp. ”— The Washington Post

“Refreshingly frank about [Salinger’s] many shortcomings and how they might have affected his work . . . Salinger amply documents the author’s youthful arrogance and selfishness, his infatuation with his own cleverness and his inability to see the world from the perspective of anyone who wasn’t a lot like himself. ”—Laura Miller, Salon