I was J.D. Salinger’s target audience when I was 14: angsty, bookish, and looking for something that spoke to my general dislike of most people and things. Not that Salinger cared; he was somewhere on the East Coast hiding out from the public. But similar to what I’m guessing are a few thousand kids like me, reading The Catcher in the Rye had a profound impact on my life at a time when I was desperately looking for something to associate with, and eventually I read everything by him that I could.
To echo another person whose work would have a similar impact on me around that same time, Poly Styrene of the band X-Ray Spex, I know “I’m a cliche.” The whole “Salinger changed my life,” mantra has been chanted for decades, and even though some suspected that it is dying out, I’m willing to bet that the news of five of his previously unreleased books will be on bookshelves sometime in the foreseeable future will probably unleash a whole new wave of Salingermania, and excite more than a few literary cynics out there as the unreleased works of any major author — let alone one as famous for his reclusiveness as he was his books — end up always being a big event.
So with that in mind, and with the little information we have to go on, let’s speculate on the five books Salinger supposedly instructed to be published in a sequence that he intended to begin as early as 2015.
The Glass family stories.
Franny, Zooey, Buddy, Boo Boo, Seymour, and the rest of the Glass clan dominate Salinger’s published works in books like Nine Stories, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, and Franny and Zooey, but one of the new books being talked about would add five new stories to the Glass saga. Will the stories include new Glass characters? Will we finally read something like the supposedly lost “Ivanoff The Terrible”? Salinger worked on the story with New Yorker editor William Shawn, and there is speculation that it might be a lost part of Zooey novella, but seeing these pieces that were supposedly lost to time could be included just to keep people excited that more stories like it have just been sitting around all these years.
“The Last and Best of the Peter Pans” and other stories.
This one could generate the most interest as it includes the unpublished story about Holden Caulfield’s brother Vincent having a conversation with his mother, Mary Moriarity, about whether or not Vincent should join the army and fight in the Second World War. The story predates Catcher in the Rye, being told following the death of the Caulfield sibling Kenneth, otherwise known as Allie, whose name pops up throughout Salinger’s most popular novel a few times. This book would supposedly have “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans,” which is available for the public to read at Princeton University’s Firestone Library, as well as other unspecified Caulfield stories.
The swami Vivekananda
The story-filled “manual” of the Vedanta religious philosophy book.
Definitely the wild card of the five books that might come out. Salinger began following the spiritual teacher, Swami Nikhilananda, the founder of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, sometime in the 1950s, and this manual of stories could be both the most un-Salingeresque works ever published.
The novel set during Second World War and a novella based on his own experiences during the war.
These are the two books that I’m the most interested in. Salinger’s time during the war shaped him in ways that biographers and armchair Salinger historians have long pondered, and these two works could open up a window into understanding him a little better.