Shane Salerno on chasing the Salinger mystique

Thu Nov 14, 2013 4:04am EST
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By Luciana Lopez

NEW YORK (Reuters) - J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" is about as well-known as an American novel gets. More than 60 years after its publication, the book is ubiquitous in high schools and bookstores.

The author himself is more of a mystery. That is what drew filmmaker and writer Shane Salerno to trace the biography of an American literary lion.

The research resulted in two works - a documentary, directed and written by Salerno, and a biography, written by Salerno and David Shields. Both are titled "Salinger."

The works focus on Salinger himself, ranging from the idea, which Salerno calls untrue, that the writer was a recluse, to the long-lasting effects of World War Two, the wounds of which echo through Salinger's books.

Salerno spoke to Reuters about following Salinger's life, the author's reclusive reputation and why he took on the project.

Q. Tell me about the genesis of this project.

A. When I was a kid, J.D. Salinger was a very big deal in my house, a very big deal. I would always ask my mom about him because she always talked about him, and I finally got to an age where she felt I could read his stuff.

I think I was a little younger than most kids. And I just really fell in love with the work, and I remember asking her when I'd read everything: 'What's next? Where do we go get the new Salinger book?' And my mother said, 'There are no more books.' And I said, 'Well, did he die?' This was before Google. This was the early 80s. And she said: 'No, he just stopped publishing. He disappeared.'   Continued...