Library exhibit offers glimpse into Salinger’s life, work

Hillel Italie

NEW YORK (AP) – As he worked on early drafts of The Catcher in the Rye, a novel which proved both scandalous and life-changing, JD Salinger considered adding his generation’s idea of a trigger alert.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of swearing in this book,” warns narrator Holden Caulfield, in a paragraph on page 18 of Salinger’s manuscript, part of an upcoming exhibition at the New York Public Library. “I can’t help it. You’ll probably think I’m a very dirty guy and that I come from a terrible family and all.”

“The trouble is,” Holden adds, “everybody swears all the time. And everybody’s pretty sexy.”

Salinger apparently changed his mind. He drew a large X through the passage and wrote “delete” in the margins. Starting in 1951, when the book was published, millions of readers would discover the truth for themselves.

The library exhibit, titled ‘JD Salinger,’ opened yesterday and runs through January 19 at the historic 5th Avenue branch in Manhattan in the United States (US). It continues a surprisingly eventful centennial for Salinger, who died in 2010 and avoided publicity for much of his writing life.

His literary estate approved new print editions for the first time in decades of the four books he allowed to come out in his lifetime – The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. And for the first time ever, the literary estate authorised e-book editions.

Salinger’s estate is overseen in part by his son, Matt Salinger, who has also said that readers will, at some point, see the books his father worked on after he stopped publishing in the 1960s. In announcing the exhibit last week, the younger Salinger cited the public’s lasting curiosity.

“When my father’s long-time publisher, Little, Brown and Company, first approached me with plans for his centennial year my immediate reaction was that he would not like the attention,” Matt Salinger wrote. “He was a famously private man who shared his work with millions, but his life and non-published thoughts with less than a handful of people, including me. But I’ve learned that while he may have only fathered two children there are a great, great many readers out there who have their own rather profound relationships with him, through his work, and who have long wanted an opportunity to get to know him better.”

ABOVE & BELOW: Exhibitions at the New York Public Library Declan Kiely gives an interview next to childhood photographs of author JD Salinger; and a copy of the 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye is part of a JD Salinger exhibit being installed at the New York Public Library; and Director of special collections. PHOTOS: AP