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J.D. Salinger Letters Discovered, Reveal Social Life, Unpublished Work

January 31, 2011  |  11:32am
J.D. Salinger Letters Discovered, Reveal Social Life, Unpublished Work

The celebrated author of teen angst and alienation novel The Catcher in the Rye was known for his reclusive behavior in his latter years. However, recently discovered letters reveal that J.D. Salinger may not have been the hermit he was thought to be. In correspondence to a friend from his teen years, Salinger is depicted as a man who enjoyed watching tennis, trips to the theater, and fast-food burgers—specifically from Burger King.

The 50 letters and four postcards sent to Salinger’s friend Donal Hartog were discovered by Hartog’s daughter in 2007 shortly after her father’s death. The family donated the letters to the University of East Anglia in Norwich, eastern England where they were displayed last Thursday on the first anniversary of the writer’s death at the age of 91.

Other than revealing interesting aspects of Salinger’s not-so-secluded life, the most important discovery from the letters is that the Catcher author claimed to be constantly working on new material despite the fact that he hadn’t published anything since his short story “Hapworth 16, 1924,” appeared in The New Yorker in 1965. If this is true, a treasure trove of unpublished work could eventually be released. However, a year has passed since Salinger’s death, and his publisher and literary representatives remain silent.

“It’s clear from the letters that Salinger was writing all the time,” said Chris Bigsby, professor of American studies at the University of East Anglia. “He says how he’s been working all these years and it’s such a relief not to have to worry about publication because publication is a distraction.”

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