Documentary 'Salinger' explores author's life, long hidden from view

Thu Sep 5, 2013 6:19pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After nearly a decade of stalking the man and myth of J.D. Salinger, the reclusive American author director Shane Salerno kept returning to the writer's time amid the unrelenting bloodshed on World War Two's western front.

"The war made him an artist and broke him as a man. The war was really the transformative trauma of his life," Salerno, whose documentary "Salinger" opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, told Reuters.

"World War Two is the ghost in the machine of all of his stories," the director said about the "The Catcher in the Rye" author, best known for his small but mighty oeuvre.

So World War Two is where Salerno starts, lifting the lid on the troubles and traumas of literature's mystery man, who famously quit publishing at his peak in 1965 and lived out of the spotlight in a New Hampshire town until his death in 2010 at age 91.

"It's shocking how many true, devoted Salinger fans have no idea he served in World War Two or landed on D-Day, or lost the love of his life to Charlie Chaplin in a very interesting love triangle, or was in a mental institution," Salerno said.

Indeed, those were some of the devastating events in the ultra-private life of Salinger, who catapulted to literary and pop culture stardom in the 1950s and 1960s following the publication of "The Catcher in the Rye" in 1951.

The novel, which is narrated by teenage protagonist Holden Caulfield over a few days roving around New York following his latest prep school expulsion, has become a cultural touchstone of adolescent alienation, selling some 65 million copies since its publication and more than 250,000 annually.

Salerno's documentary interviews the author's friends, former lovers and those who knew him after he retreated from public view and never published again.   Continued...