J.D. Salinger May Be Gone, But His Legacy Lives On

Experience history at the public library

By Katelyn Cody

Copy Chief

On February 1st, 2019 the Guardian published an interview with Matt Salinger, son of “Catcher in the Rye” author J.D. Salinger, announcing that his father’s unreleased works would finally be published. Despite continuing to write between the publication of his last short story, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” which was published in the New Yorker in 1965, and his death in 2010, the author did not publish any new works, and often refused to comment on his writing and declined interviews. The younger Salinger stated that the first of the unreleased works should start to roll out in 2020 and that readers need to be patient because going through all that his father had written in the 45 years prior to his death is a big undertaking.

In August, Salinger’s U.S. publisher Little, Brown. And Company released all of Salinger’s current works in the form of eBooks. The publishing house even created an Instagram page for the famed author, fully bringing him and his works into the 21st Century. The hesitancy that the Salinger estate showed in releasing the eBooks and in preparing the unreleased works for publication demonstrates the care the author’s loved ones are taking to preserve his legacy and proceed with publication as he would have wanted.

Also teased in February’s article was an upcoming exhibition of Salinger’s personal archives at the New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 5th Avenue. The exhibit opened on October 18th and will run until January 19th, 2020. Last Saturday I had the opportunity to visit the exhibit and appease my moody-” Catcher in the Rye”-loving higher schooler soul. The exhibit is free to enter and housed in a small room on the library’s first floor. There’s a strict no bags policy and I had to check my bag, coat, and even my phone. The “no photography” rule was taken up a notch by not allowing any phones at all inside and I was told at coat check that for security reasons, guests were not allowed to have anything on them that had large pockets. The exhibition room is incredibly tiny, not much larger than the average Martyr’s Court dorm room, yet it was jam-packed with photographs of the author’s childhood and days in the military during World War II and letters he wrote to various book agents, publishers, family members, and friends. And of course, right at the entrance was the typewriter Salinger used to write most of his works, including “Catcher in the Rye,” along with the original typescript of the novel. One of the most interesting aspects of the exhibit to me was the amount of memorabilia from his military service during WWII; the author was present at the D-Day landing and at the Battle of the Bulge. It was at military school in Pennsylvania that Salinger began to write and was also the literary editor of his school’s yearbook. Much of the works on display were Salinger’s correspondence with his colleagues in the literary world. One work that struck me was a set of letters and drawings in which he meticulously outlined what the cover of “Catcher in the Rye” should look like. The author’s attention to detail was so apparent throughout the exhibit that I can’t help but think that is the reason as to why we have had to wait so long to read his unreleased works, Matt Salinger wants to do his father justice and take as much care as he would have had he published while still alive.

There was so much on display that there is no way it could be described in just one article, you’ll just have to see for yourself. I wish I could have provided pictures, but honestly, I liked the no-phone policy, it made me actually spend more time contemplating what I was looking at. And one thing is for sure, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of new Salinger fiction in the coming years.


Image Source: NBCNews.com.

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