The J.D. Salinger Documentary Might Shock You

Published in 1951, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is now widely regarded as a modern classic—but not everyone was impressed by its excessive vulgarity. The reclusive author released plenty of novellas and short stories in the years that followed, but a second, full-length novel simply never arrived. Salinger was a secretive man, unconcerned with the notion of celebrity or praise. His tendency to disappear from the public eye only made adoring readers all the more curious; they understood very little about his life. A new film aspires to change that. The documentary, naturally titled Salinger, finally sees a release date after nine years of production. Judging by the dramatic trailer, posted below, no topic has been placed off limits.

Many might be surprised to hear about Salinger’s military history. During World War II, he interrogated prisoners of war as a member of the U.S. counter-intelligence division. Director Shane Salerno recently told CNN that Salinger’s mysterious involvement in the war was what ultimately convinced him to finish the project. Having endured ruthless battlefields and a concentration camp, Salinger suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the war ended. Those haunting memories manifest in his short story “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor”.

Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. (Source: Town and Country Magazine)As for silver screen gossip, Salinger’s romantic past is chronicled quite thoroughly. Despite being married three times, his obsession with younger women carried on into older age. At 53 he dated 18-year-old Joyce Maynard, a columnist for Seventeen Magazine, over the course of nine months. Jean Miller, another woman who was seduced by the literary icon as a teenager, has kept quiet about her story for decades. That’s what gives Salinger a competitive edge over other biographies. The idea of betraying Salinger, who passed away of natural causes in 2010, is no longer an issue. Interviewees appear very open and willing to discuss their experiences. It’s suggested that part of the reason why Salinger might have preferred inexperienced, youthful women is due to the embarrassment he felt about having only one testicle—how’s that for your J.D. fact of the day?

Salinger’s last printed piece, a magazine article, was published in 1965. So what was he doing with his time after that? To the delight of many, it appears that he was in fact writing. Salinger supposedly planned for five new novels to be released after his passing, including a short story sequel to Catcher (“The Last and Best of the Peter Pans”). If these are indeed completed manuscripts, do you think they will live up to Salinger’s previous work? Posthumous releases can either give new life to a career, or tarnish its gold. If the latter ends up being true, Holden Caulfield would probably say that’s just plain crummy.