where the writers are
J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye; Harcourt, Brace and Little Brown
Catcher Cover

A friend gave me Salinger by Shields and Salerno in hardback, all two-plus inches thick of it, and I’m committed to read it cover to cover.  The center of the book is the unique personality of Jerome Salinger, who experienced WWII by landing in Normandy, participating the Battle of the Bulge, and being among the first to free a concentration camp.  The effect of the war on him and his fiction seems to be very deep.  Some people refer to The Catcher In The Rye as a late WWII novel; he carried pages of Holden Caulfield's description with him on the battlefields.  Salinger's relationship with women, after losing Oona O'Neill to Charlie Chaplin, is most interesting as well.

A more gossipy portion of Salinger concerns the rejections and eventual publication of The Catcher In The Rye in 1951.  A Senior Editor at Harcourt, Brace, Robert Giroux, had agreed to publish it even before it was finished, but that didn’t happen, as is described on page 251.  Shields and Salerno got the story from nonagenarian Gerald Gross, who worked for Giroux. 

“‘Bob Giroux instructed me to get the manuscript back from the printer . . . The word was: 'we must make some changes.’  It’s now easy to forget what a radical book Catcher was for America at that time—how revolutionary it was in everything from the use of “fuck” to its fuck-you attitude toward the status quo.

 “According to Gross, at that point Salinger made the decision to pull the book and take it to Little, Brown, [who published it expeditiously and extremely successfully.]  As Louis Menand pointed out more than fifty years later in, of all places, the New Yorker [who, although they'd supported Salinger early, at that time had gone out of their way to not support the book], the editor at Little, Brown, John Woodburn ‘was evidently prudent enough not to ask such questions.’  . . . (And in an eerie echo, Giroux soon after rejected On the Road when Jack Kerouac refused to revise it.  In a brief span, Harcourt passed on two of the most beloved American books of the twentieth century.)”