Salinger (2013) Movie Script

So it's 1979.
I'm 20 years old.
I get an assignment
from 'Newsweek' magazine
to photograph this author.
I'm like, "Great."
And they were like, "it's not
quite that easy this time, Mike,
"because he doesn't like
to be photographed.
"We don't have an address or
a telephone number to give you,
"but we do know he picks up
his mail in Windsor, Vermont."
So the first day, after
sitting here for four hours,
drinking Pepsi and eating
Cheetos, making myself sick...
...didn't happen.
I decided, "it's 5:30.
The post office is closed.
"Nobody's gonna come
get their mail that day."
Then I just walked the streets
of Hanover late at night.
Started to wonder
if somebody tipped him off.
So the next day, I came back.
One man came out
of the post office.
I photographed him, wrote down
the license plate number,
but it wasn't him.
So I waited.
And then this Jeep pulls up,
but I don't see his face.
He gets out and he goes into
the post office really quickly,
and as he came back out...
McDERMOTT: I got it.
I got Salinger.
Thinking back on the guys
who sat around the poker table,
what distinguished Jerry
out of that pack was that
there was in him no doubt
he was going to be published,
no doubt that he had
an enormous talent
and no doubt that everybody else
at the poker table
was inferior to him.
His work was ordained by God.
His work was his way
to enlightenment.
He was put on this earth
to work, to write.
'Catcher in the Rye'
caught my attention
when it first came out.
There had not been
a voice like that-
so personal, so revealing.
It seemed like somebody
stripping the layers
away from his soul.
It said on the cover, "This
book will change your life."
And I bought the book,
but I was afraid to read it
because I didn't
want my life changed.
It's magical - you're a little
like, "How'd he do that?
"How did he put it
all together that way?"
And lead me through it
in such a way
that I would just land like
that in that final statement,
where you're just
so grateful to him
and you wanna go find him -
like you're doing now.
It is
an extraordinary phenomenon
how many millions and millions
and millions of people
came to that book.
'Catcher in the Rye' has
sold 60 million copies.
That's an unprecedented figure.
And continues to sell, by
the way, 250,000 copies a year.
It's defined who we are
as an American culture.
A long-lost sibling had arrived,
and it was Holden Caulfield,
and he became
part of our conversation.
Like a whole generation,
I thought he was
writing about me.
To be on the cover
of 'Time' magazine in 1961
was something that went to
statesmen and Nobel Laureates.
"You owe us another book.
"I mean, after all,
we rewarded you
"with fame, with money.
"We said you're one of
"the important writers
of the century.
"Now, come on,
let's have some more."
And then he doesn't give it.
"How dare you
turn your back on us?
"We're your fans. You've
gotten inside our heads."
The great mystery is
why he stopped.
Jerry had
scaled heights, big success.
At the height of that success,
he disappears.
I've heard that
he has a huge bunker.
There has been a rumour
for many years
that Salinger
continues to write.
And there would be
long stretches of time
where he wouldn't come out
of the bunker at all.
He sort of became
the Howard Hughes of his day.
- Mr A.E.
- Oh, there he is!
- How the hell did you get here?
- How are you? My God.
It was the year
after the war ended,
and the only person I knew
who had a job
was a man named Don Congdon,
who was the fiction editor
of 'Collier's magazine.
And we used to play poker,
maybe twice a week -
nickels and dimes,
not much of a game.
And one of the players was
a tall, lanky, dark gentleman
named Jerry Salinger.
Do you remember down here with
Jerry? After the poker games?
Yeah? We". Of course. Yeah.
The end of the evening,
we would go over
to Chumley's bar and grill,
which is an old, old
hangout for writers.
So everybody in here
was convinced that
they were the next Hemingway
or whatever,
except for Salinger, who didn't
wanna be the next Hemingway.
Jerry himself said,
"There's been no great writers
from Melville until me."
He dismissed everybody -
Theodore Dreiser,
Hemingway, Steinbeck - they were
all second-rate talents.
And then it dawned on me -
of all those writers,
Herman Melville was
the only one that was dead,
so it was alright.
He was the only writer
I ever knew
who talked about his characters
as if they were real people.
And it was very strange,
this thing,
because he made them
real in his stories,
they became real for him.
And because they were
so real for him,
I began to think of them
as real,
I began to see them as real.
His attitude,
and he lived as if
he was really one of us -
scrabbling and trying to
get along best as we could.
And I was pretty shocked
to discover that
he literally lived
with his parents
in a very posh apartment
on Park Avenue,
that he had been to a succession
of posh eastern schools -
kicked out of most of them -
that he really came from
a country club society.
But it didn't seem to make
any difference with him.
He wasn't impressed at all
with the life that he had lived.
And I think that all
becomes very apparent
when eventually he writes
the one book that he writes,
and that's 'Catcher in the Rye'.
Salinger's father, Solomon,
was the son of a rabbi,
an importer of cheese
and meats - very unkosher.
His mother was Catholic -
her name was Marie,
which she changed to Miriam
to be accepted by
her husband's Jewish family.
He was very down on education.
"Don't believe everything
your professors say.
"They're just giving you
"Get your own information
on your own terms."
I think
that Salinger understood
something about the culture
long before the culture
understood it about itself.
He saw fakes everywhere.
A woman asked Salinger,
"Mr Salinger, what does
the 'J.D.' stand for?"
And he smiled sheepishly and
said, "Juvenile delinquent."
After getting
kicked out of prep school,
his father decided
he needed discipline,
he needed structure,
and he shipped him off
to a military academy.
Valley Forge is important
for two real reasons.
Number one - that's where
Salinger really
got his act together.
And number two - that's where
Salinger first began to write.
Salinger wrote at night
by flashlight under the covers.
He was always writing.
What I have here
is J.D. Salinger's yearbook
from the Valley Forge
Military Academy.
It's an extraordinary item.
He signed it not only
in his own name
but he signed the names of
the characters that he played
in the various plays
in which he performed,
because he wanted
to be an actor.
When he was in high school,
he announced that his ambition
was to succeed Robert Benchley
as the theatre critic
for the 'New Yorker'.
His father thought
it was ridiculous
that he was going to write,
'cause his father
very much wanted him
to join him
in the cheese business,
which he had
no intention to do,
and I think that caused
a lot of friction.
His mother, on the other hand,
approved of everything he did.
Salinger enrolled in
Whit Burnett's
short story class at Columbia.
It was a very important move
for Salinger.
Whit Burnett was also editor
of 'Story' magazine.
'Story' magazine
published the very first work
of an extraordinary number
of American writers -
John Cheever, Carson McCullers,
Tennessee Williams,
Erskine Caldwell,
Jean Stafford, Peter de Vries.
Whit Burnett
ended up being a father-figure.
And based on
Burnett's encouragement,
Salinger went home and wrote a
story called 'The Young Folks'.
And much to
Salinger's surprise,
Burnett accepted the story
for 'Story' magazine
and paid him $25.
It was the first money J.D.
Salinger ever made as a writer.
Salinger always had
one goal in mind -
he wanted to be
in the 'New Yorker'.
The 'New Yorker'
was considered the best place
for a writer to be published
in terms of prestige
for the simple reason that
it was hard to
get published there.
J.D. Salinger's entrance
into 'New Yorker' was not easy.
The response to
Salinger's early stuff
was one word - no.
- No.
- No.
You can go to the
'New Yorker' archives
in the New York Public Library
and read rejection
after rejection.
"It would have worked out
better for us
"if Mr Salinger had not
strained so for cleverness."
"We think Mr Salinger
is a very talented young man
"and wish to God you could
"get him to write
simply and naturally."
"If Mr Salinger is around town,
perhaps he'd like to come in
"and talk to us about
'New Yorker' stories."
His reaction
was, "They want me to write
"an O. Henry type
of short story,
"but I have to find
my own voice, and this is it,
"and they'll catch up to me."
He wrote a letter
to Wolcott Gibbs, the editor,
where he took
the 'New Yorker' to task
for not really publishing
major, big short stories.
He said they were too tiny.
I mean,
this was a kid lecturing
the editors of the 'New Yorker'
on what they should publish.
He was published
in other magazines.
It wasn't good enough.
He was determined -
"The 'New Yorker'
was going to publish me."
And, by George, they did.
He had a story accepted
in 1941, towards the end,
'Slight Rebellion Off Madison',
about a kid named
Holden Caulfield.
December 7, 1941.
A date which
will live in infamy.
Before they could get it
into the magazine,
World War II broke out,
and suddenly
this wonderful story
about a young man
named Holden Caulfield
and this personal rebellion
he was going through
seemed trivial
and beside the point
and, you know, it just
didn't seem appropriate
to put in the magazine,
and so they put it on the shelf.
And Jerry
was infuriated at this.
That was
his whole thrust in life,
was to be published
by the 'New Yorker'.
"A man is in Cornish.
"Amateur, perhaps,
but sentimentally connected.
"The saddest - a tragic figure
without a background.
"Needing a future
as much as your past.
"Let me."
I wrote this note
to J.D. Salinger
which I thought that
only he could understand,
practically begging him
for an audience.
Do I go left here?
'Cause I don't go left.
There's been
countless fans now for decades
who have done this.
They leave notes for him, they
go up to his house unannounced,
they knock on his front door.
They're showing up to try
to find out from Salinger
some answer
to something in their lives.
1978, I remember driving
on this road alone
feeling very lonely,
next to the Connecticut River,
hoping that J.D. Salinger,
my hero,
would give me
a few minutes of his time.
One day, I said to my wife,
"I've gotta try it.
"I've gotta go,"
and I kissed her goodbye
and drove 450 miles to the
Vermont/New Hampshire border
and tried to find him.
I knew this was a hard thing
because I found
the neighbourhood people
protected him,
and they wouldn't exactly
tell me where he lived.
He may be the only writer
in American history
who's created
such a story around himself
that just catching
a glimpse of him
becomes an important experience
in your own life.
I drove about six miles to where
I thought Salinger lived.
I wasn't 100% sure.
I knew that he lived
on top of this mountain,
this wise man living in this
cabin in the White Mountains.
So I waited below this long,
winding gravel driveway
where I thought he lived.
Sure enough,
probably in the midmorning,
two cars
came down the driveway.
One was his son,
Matt Salinger, a teenager.
And J.D. Salinger
stopped his car, his BMW,
got out, walked over
to the driver's side.
I said,
"Are you J.D. Salinger?"
Because I did not recognise him
from the photographs.
He says, "Yes.
What can I do for you?"
I said to him very dramatically,
"I was hoping
you could tell me."
And he said, "Oh, come on.
Don't start that kind of thing.
"Are you under
psychiatric care?"
And he got out of that BMW
in the middle of the forest -
to me, it was almost like
he stepped out of a dream.
He talked about my life as if
it was as important as his life.
He asked me
why I left my family,
why I drove 450 miles,
why I left my job,
and I said to him
it was his writing.
I thought he felt like I did
and I wanted to talk to him
about deep things.
Then he kind of got
very frustrated.
And then he stepped back
from my car.
It was almost like
he grew six inches.
"I'm a fiction writer.
"For all you know,
I'm just a father.
"You saw my son
go down the road.
"I'm not a teacher or seer.
"There's people come and see me
like you every year,
"from all over North America,
from Canada, from Europe.
"I've had to run
from people on the street.
"There's nothing
I can tell these people
"to help them
with their problems.
"I may present questions
in my writing in a certain way,
"but I don't pretend
to know the answers."
He was sick of it.
He'd had 25 years of this.
He said, "Do you have any other
income besides your writing?"
Because I told him I wanted
to become a published author.
I told him I was a reporter.
He got a little bit angry,
got into his car and drove off.
And as I sat there,
I felt that I blew it,
my chance to talk intimately
with J.D. Salinger.
I sat in my own car, writing him
another note, telling him
that I was
a little disappointed -
I'd driven all this way and he'd
only given me a few minutes.
And as I was finishing the note,
he came back in his car.
And he says,
"Haven't you left yet?"
And I said, "No,
I was just gonna actually
"pin this note up
by your door."
He says, "Well, come over here
and give it to me."
I gave him the note.
His face became long and drawn.
"Jerry, I'm sorry.
"It was probably a mistake
coming to Cornish.
"You're not as deep,
as sentimental as I had hoped,
"the person who wrote
those books I love."
And then that seemed to defuse
his frustration from earlier,
and he says, "Well, I understand
it, but I'm not a counsellor.
"I'm a fiction writer."
In 1941,
J.D. Salinger was 21 years old,
living with his parents
in New York City,
when he met Oona O'Neill,
who was then 16 years old.
Salinger was absolutely floored
with her beauty.
Say something!
It's a silent film.
Is it silent?
What'll I say?
Shall I turn over here?
No, turn around there now.
Oona O'Neill was the daughter
of Eugene O'Neill,
still America's only
Nobel Prize-winning dramatist.
He was a dedicated genius
and a really rotten father.
And he always said
his real children
were his characters
in his plays.
Oona O'Neill was someone
who was clearly
attracted to genius.
Between the ages of 16 and 18,
Oona dated Peter Arno,
Orson Welles
and then J.D. Salinger.
It's interesting
to think of a 16-year-old girl
holding such fascination
for such
an illustrious group of men,
but remember, we're talking
about a young woman
who was intellectually astute,
beautiful, shy, loving,
quite an extraordinary
young woman.
She was original.
She wasn't like everyone else.
I think this is why
Salinger liked her so much,
because the one thing
that she was never guilty of
was any clichs
or any banalities.
She was totally original.
He had a lot of things
going for him.
He was handsome, he was
intelligent, he was published -
he was everything.
After school,
Oona would do her homework
and then get dressed up,
and she'd go to the Stork Club.
"Oh, my! Look at Oona O'Neill -
debutante of the year."
They always photographed her
with a glass of milk,
because, of course,
she was under-age.
It was a tremendous love story.
They truly loved each other.
In 1941, 22-year-old
Jerry Salinger
wanted to join the army.
But when he went to enlist,
the military doctors
rejected him.
This distressed him terribly.
He got very angry about this.
Salinger was
determined to serve.
He wrote letters
arguing to be accepted,
and then,
in the spring of 1942,
he was finally
allowed to enlist.
What a mindset-
to come from an existence
of absolute ease and luxury.
And what do you aspire to?
To being in the trenches.
Oona loved hearing from Jerry.
He wrote wonderfully seductive,
totally delightful,
wonderful letters.
Salinger bragged to
all his army buddies,
"This is my girlfriend,"
and he showed them pictures
of Oona O'Neill.
But when Oona moved
to California,
she never answered his letters.
He had to know
something was up.
In Hollywood, Charlie
Chaplin was working on a film
that called for
a very young girl.
And he walked into a room
and Oona was sitting
on the floor by the fireplace
and the light was playing on her
and she looked up,
and he just...
When I went to Austin
to look at the Salinger
collection there...
...I read a number of letters.
...I have to say that...
...reading them,
I felt like a voyeur.
And I was reading
Salinger's letters.
A number of them
were about Oona O'Neill.
Some of them were about Oona
O'Neill and Charlie Chaplin.
...there were some
distasteful bits.
Imagine you're J.D.
Salinger, you're in the army,
getting ready to fight
in the great war in Europe,
you've professed your total
and complete love to this woman
and she goes off and marries,
on her 18th birthday,
the most famous movie star
in the world.
Chaplin was 53 going on 54.
The headlines -
all over the world.
Salinger found out
that he lost her
by reading about it
in the newspaper.
He was humiliated
in front of everyone.
He was very upset about this.
He did speak about this.
You could feel his anger.
You could feel
his terrible anger about...
...his rejection,
her rejection of him.
For the rest of
his life, Salinger was haunted
by the love affair that he could
have had that didn't happen.
The Second World War
created J.D. Salinger.
It's the ghost in the machine
of all the stories.
Well, I think in the beginning,
Jerry felt very patriotic.
I remember he said
it was extraordinary... know, to feel that
he was part of something
doing good in the world.
Of all the days
for someone to be
initiated to combat...
...Salinger's was D-day.
On D-day,
Salinger was carrying
six chapters of
'Catcher in the Rye'.
He told Whit Burnett
that he needed those pages
to help him survive.
Salinger was in a landing craft
coming in towards Utah Beach.
Shells were flying.
The artillery shells
were coming in.
I lost my first man
by a sniper.
Shot right between the eyes.
You take a quick look, you know
that's it, and you're off.
At the end of the day,
you can sit back and...
.. "Man. Hoagie's gone."
The Americans thought that
landing would be
the hardest thing.
The day after D-day,
that's when the fighting
really started,
when the 4th Division,
that Salinger belonged to,
went into the ancient
fields and hedgerows.
They learned basically that
everything that they'd learnt
in basic training didn't apply.
Every field was gonna
cost them 20, 30 guys.
One field,
100 yards by 100 yards,
would sometimes cost
a whole platoon.
Killing ground, absolutely,
for us, like a meat grinder.
That's where our casualty rate
began to climb tremendously.
Salinger was a part of
the Counter Intelligence Corps
whose job it was to interview
enemy prisoners and civilians.
Salinger played
a very important role.
Gls, young guys, in squads,
being asked
to attack a village,
they wanted to know
every single thing
they could possibly know
about that village -
where the machine gun nests
were, where the alleyways were,
where the avenues of fire were.
Men like Salinger, their job
was to provide information
that would have kept
more of those guys alive.
He had a lot of latitude
to move behind and near
the enemy lines,
to understand the culture,
to understand the people,
to understand what
war did to the local people.
It was a more intellectual,
probing war for him
than the average grunt.
My dad was actually 21
when he met Mr Salinger,
and Mr Salinger was 25,
so he's four years his senior.
And they were in
the Counter Intelligence Corps.
The four gentlemen
you see here,
Mr Salinger, Mr Altaras,
Mr Keenan,
and my father, Paul Fitzgerald,
they refer to each other
as the Four Musketeers.
They corresponded
for nearly 65 years,
and there's really a bond.
My dad used to comment that
Altaras and Keenan would say,
"There was really no time
for us to do anything,
"because we always had to stop
"for Salinger
to sit by the roadside,
"working on short stories
or his novel."
And my father took the only
photo that anybody's ever seen
of Salinger writing
'The Catcher in the Rye'.
I took five students
to Princeton.
They wanted to see
what they could find,
what they could discover of
Salinger at Princeton Library.
After we got into
the reading room,
we turned the last page
of something and came across
a 3-by-5-inch light green
spiral-notebook-bound paper.
And I remember, at that moment,
everybody's pulse sort of jumped
because it was handwritten.
it was written by Salinger,
about the Allies
coming into Paris.
He talked about
driving in the jeeps into Paris
and the Parisians
holding their babies up
for the Americans to kiss.
And he said that you could
stand on the hood of your jeep
and take a leak on it, and it
wouldn't matter, it would be OK.
Anything you did would be fine.
I think one of the great
stories of literary history
is the meeting of Ernest
Hemingway and J.D. Salinger
in Paris during the liberation.
Ernest Hemingway was his icon.
He loved the way
Ernest Hemingway wrote.
At the time that Salinger met my
grandfather, Ernest Hemingway,
in World War II,
he was the most famous writer
of the 20th century,
and so you can see why Salinger
would seek him out.
And I think that would have been
a kind of romantic vision
for my grandfather
to see in Salinger
a talented young writer
in the Infantry division
fighting during World War II.
And Jerry actually
gave him a manuscript
and asked Hemingway
to look at it.
Which took a great deal
of derring-do
on his part, really.
But Hemingway saw what
he'd written and loved it.
Jerry was thrilled that
Hemingway appreciated
his writing.
This was like getting
the greatest accolade
he could possibly have.
I didn't think that Jerry would
ever push up to see anybody...
...'cause he seemed
rather shy and reclusive.
J.D. Salinger is a recluse who
likes to flirt with the public
to remind them
that he's a recluse.
He's not a recluse. He appears
whenever he feels like it.
The Cornish Fair would start,
and we'd see all our friends
and all our neighbours,
and Jerry Salinger
was one of 'em.
He came to all the fairs
and enjoyed them immensely.
A friend of mine said, "Oh,
I met J.D. Salinger tonight,
"popped in backstage
to meet the cast.
"And he was very jovial
and very cheery."
He's not reclusive
in the total sense of the word.
He's in touch with people.
He travels to Europe.
He comes to New York.
We were just
hanging around the house
when the phone rings.
I answered it. This male voice
asked for Lacey Fosburgh.
Salinger has to do everything
exactly on his own terms.
The true recluse
would never pick up the phone
and call a reporter
from the 'New York Times'.
Lacey was the first woman
to ever cover the police beat
for the 'New York Times',
and now working out of
the San Francisco bureau.
She picked up the phone,
and his first line was,
"This is a man
called Salinger."
He enjoys the game.
Reclusivity is a great
public relations device,
among other things.
By being out of the picture,
he's in the picture.
I think that is probably an
intentional paradox on his part.
She goes...
.. "Salinger! It's Salinger!"
This was the first interview
that Salinger had granted
since 1953.
"Give me some paper!
Give me some paper!"
He says, right off the bat,
"I can only talk for a minute."
So I'm scurrying around,
grabbing some paper,
she's furiously writing notes
on anything that's around.
Then, of course,
the conversation ends up
being a half an hour long.
He sets the scene - it was
a cold, windswept, rainy night
in New Hampshire
as he was talking to her.
And the point of the call was
he was concerned that
pirated editions of
his uncollected shod stories
were being sold
across the country.
J.D. Salinger
Two little volumes.
He referred to them as
"the gaucheries of his youth".
The stories that he never
wanted published at all,
that he had written
in the 1940s.
He called her because
he was clearly upset
about this pirate publication.
These were stories that
he did not want in circulation.
He didn't have to do that.
He just had to file a lawsuit.
One of the great coups
of the story was that
she was able to get Salinger
to talk about
what he was up to as a writer
and that he was
writing every day,
which was one of the great
mysteries of the literary world
for a decade or so.
He paints
this portrait of someone
who is completely devoted
still to his craft,
still turning out
story after story,
novel after novel, perhaps.
And she got him
to talk about his own feelings
about publishing and being
published and being private.
Salinger said, "I don't have
any intention of publishing.
"There's a stillness that comes
from not publishing."
Lacey immediately
got on the phone
with the national desk
of the 'New York Times'
to say, "Hey," you know,
"I just talked to Salinger."
He knew if he called
a 'New York Times' reporter,
that story would be on the front
page of the 'New York Times',
which is exactly what happened.
Which was
extraordinary at the time -
this was before the 'Times'
format had changed,
and so running soft news on
the front page was a big deal.
I didn't have
a lot of money then,
and I didn't know
quite what was going on,
so I bought volume one,
and when I went back
to buy the second one,
not only was the book gone,
both volumes were missing.
The store owners declined
to admit they'd ever sold it.
Salinger had pulled them
from all the bookstores.
I mean, this was a second-hand
bookstore on Telegraph Avenue.
I couldn't even believe
he could reach that far.
It was incredibly eerie,
almost sort of medieval...
...primal fears came out of
the Hilrtgen Forest.
Salinger experienced that
It was basically described
as a meat grinder.
Soldiers described
that battle as one where
they wished they could
crawl inside their helmets.
Whole companies of 200 men
would be down to 20 or 30
after four or five hours.
Guys would literally
have their arms blown off,
half a leg missing,
and they'd be laughing as they
were taken off on a stretcher
because they knew
they were going home.
The only way Salinger could have
survived an intense shelling
would have been
to literally hug a tree.
To get close enough
to that thing and pray to God
that somebody else gets it.
"November 10, 1944.
"Dear M, This poor young man
"has been bombarding me
with poems for a week or so.
"It appears that
he's serving overseas,
"so everything becomes
more touching."
J.D. Salinger and Louise Bogan
first crossed paths
when he wrote to her
in November of 1944.
He may have thought
that she was the poetry editor
of the 'New Yorker'.
She wasn't.
She was simply their reviewer.
And she passed the poems along
to her friend at the magazine,
William Maxwell.
"Dear M, I send you another
of Sergeant Salinger's letters.
"I've written him, but it is
better if you write him too.
"Perhaps this would help
stem the tide. Love, Louise."
We don't really know
what she thought about
the poems themselves,
but she was deeply touched
that he had written to her
and his life was in danger.
For a soldier like
Salinger, walking into a camp...
...there was a stillness to it
and a craziness to it.
They were caught off-guard.
These weren't liberations
in the sense of
busting down the gates
or anything like that.
These soldiers were
walking into a place... open.
This was like
falling into a graveyard.
In the case of the camp
that Salinger saw,
that was the Krankenlager,
the camp for the sick.
Naked bodies stacked up,
bodies that looked like
they were dead people,
but sometimes discovering
sounds coming from the bodies.
Salinger was an experienced
fighter by this time,
but nothing prepared him
for this kind of sight.
This kind of
desecration of humanity.
The Germans had locked
prisoners into flimsy barracks
and set them on fire.
They were burned alive.
The sentence that Salinger says
is that you never really
get the smell of burning flesh
out of your nostrils,
no matter how long you live.
The National
Broadcasting Company
delays the start
of all its programs
to bring you a special bulletin.
It was announced in
San Francisco half an hour ago
by a high American official
not identified
as saying that Germany
has surrendered unconditionally
to the Allies,
no strings attached.
There would be
no more firing, no more death,
no more killing,
no more destruction.
It was over.
They could
look forward to life.
The sacrifices
that had been made,
the horrors they'd seen
were over.
V-E Day meant that they were
on their way home.
On behalf of the commanding
officer and his staff,
I wanna extend a hearty welcome
to all of you.
There's no need to be alarmed
at the presence of these cameras
as they're making
a photographic record
of your progress
at this hospital
from the date of admission
to the date of discharge.
As a result of the horrors that
he witnessed in World War II,
J.D. Salinger suffered
a nervous breakdown.
Salinger's stuff is
all about innocence, somehow,
and the damage done to
innocence in the world.
J.D. Salinger went from D-day
all the way through to V-E Day -
299 days in combat.
What Salinger experienced
was basically a continual
assault on his senses,
mentally, spiritually,
He would have been under
immense, unimaginable stress.
The probability
of not making it,
either by being
killed or wounded,
is really... was really there
from day to day,
and that makes
people snap later.
The statistic is that anybody -
doesn't matter
how you were raised,
how tough you are mentally -
anybody after 200 days
goes nuts.
After 200 days of combat,
you are insane.
Shortly after he was
released from the hospital,
Salinger wrote
the first short story
narrated by Holden Caulfield.
It was called 'I'm Crazy'.
After his nervous breakdown,
Salinger signed up for
a longer tour of duty
so that he could be part of
the denazification program.
Salinger got to be a
detective, detective in uniform.
His basic job was
to chase down the bad guys,
whether they be Nazis that
were pretending to be civilians,
whether it was collaborators,
black market operators.
He actually got to look into
the dark heart of Nazi Germany
and interrogate the people
who committed
the greatest crimes
in human history
and bring them to justice.
There has been a rumour
for many years
that one of the people Salinger
arrested and interviewed
was a woman
by the name of Sylvia.
She was reported to have been
a member of the Nazi Party.
Salinger and Sylvia supposedly
fell in love and married.
This has led me
to travel in Germany,
following the footsteps
of Salinger,
the various places
where they could have lived,
the hospital in Nuremberg
where Salinger was treated
for his nervous breakdown,
but we drew blanks.
So then we hit upon the idea
of looking at
the passenger arrival forms
of ships arriving in the United
States in May and June of 1946.
Eureka! When I first saw it,
I couldn't believe it.
I actually jumped up
and people had to shush me.
But there it is. We have
the passenger arrival form.
Sylvia Louise Salinger.
Age - 27.
Place of birth -
Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Now we know that woman
really was married to Salinger.
American soldiers
were not allowed
to marry German nationals
during 1945 and 1946.
Salinger took an enormous risk.
He could have been
It's absolutely
fascinating that
he would actually
do the opposite
of what any so-called
decent American would do,
which was to go
and marry a Nazi.
It suggests that he
really got to a place
intellectually and emotionally,
importantly - emotionally -
whereby he could
identify and sympathise
with the victim and perpetrator.
He told me his first wife
was extraordinary,
that they had
a telepathic communication
and they met in dreams.
When Salinger
brought Sylvia home
to his parents' house,
she walked into
this Jewish household
with a Nazi Party affiliation.
How he ever thought
this would work is beyond me.
My father was best man
at J.D. Salinger's
first wedding,
and my father later on received
a letter from Salinger.
"Sylvia and I separated
"less than a month after
we returned to the States.
"If I gave you all the reasons
for the separation,
"I would have to go
straight back to the beginning,
"as most of the details
would probably depress you.
"Almost from the beginning,
"we were desperately unsuited to
and unhappy with each other."
Within months, Salinger filed
to have the marriage annulled
on the grounds of deception,
which may indicate that
he found something troubling
about Sylvia's past in Germany.
The very next story that
he submitted to the magazine
was one called 'The Bananafish'.
Salinger comes back
from the war aware that
the devastated and
shell-shocked tone is his tone.
Just as the Civil War could
give us Mark Twain and Whitman,
World War II gave us Salinger.
Jerry always said,
"You have to get away
from fantasy.
"Write about something you know.
"There is no passion
I remember his words.
"There's no fire
between the words."
'A Perfect Day for Bananafish'
is very much about
a man who's suffering from
having gone through
the Second World War.
Seymour Glass on the beach
talking with
a charming little girl.
Goes to his room,
lies down on the bed
beside his sleeping wife
and shoots himself
through the head.
You've got to
accentuate the positive...
The story made a huge splash,
and it signalled
a success streak,
a winning streak, for Salinger.
Everyone was
totally captivated
by his writing.
We'd call each other
on the telephone about it
when the 'New Yorker' came,
and, "Have you read this?"
"Have you seen this?
Isn't it wonderful?"
People whom I didn't even know
were talking about,
"Did you read that story?"
"That little girl -
isn't that remarkable?"
It caused a great buzz.
1948 was really a turning point
for Salinger
and the 'New Yorker'.
He published
'A Perfect Day for Bananafish'
and two other stories.
And from then on,
he was known and identified
as a 'New Yorker' writer.
And Jerry was thrilled -
he told me how much
it had meant to him to be
published by the 'New Yorker'.
Salinger was considered
really a shooting star.
A 'New Yorker'
contributor in Hollywood said,
"Everybody out here
talks about Salinger.
"My God, that guy is good.
"Evenings are spent,
and this is on the level,
"discussing the guy
and his work."
I would ask people
who worked with him,
"Did he have a reclusive
personality back then?
"Did you ever see him?"
They said, "Oh, you know,
we saw him all the time."
"We talked to him. He was
very warm. He was Jerry."
He would call up and say,
"I'm going to the Blue Angel
tonight. Wanna come along?"
So we would go to the Blue
Angel, which was a nightspot
where young talent
would try out.
When we were at
the Blue Angel together,
he was very sociable.
He talked to people. He even
talked to the performers.
Jerry was
a different person there.
Jerry had a wonderful time,
because he'd identified
with these types
who were trying
to make their mark,
just as he was trying to make
his mark with his writing.
And he was very charitable.
He was very encouraging.
But he wouldn't encourage
a young writer.
That was different.
That was competition.
He was pretty suave
with the women.
He used to lie to them
and tell them
he was a goalie
for a Montreal soccer team.
But it was
a very platonic going out.
I mean, he didn't try to kiss
me or hug me or squeeze me
or anything
the way other people did.
Maybe I was too old for him.
I think he liked younger girls.
I was only seven years younger.
I think maybe he preferred them
12 years younger.
Or younger than that.
Don't mess
with Mr In-between.
We were in Daytona Beach,
and I was sitting at
this rather crowded pool
reading 'Wuthering Heights'.
And this man
sitting next to me said,
"How is Heathcliff?
How is Heathcliff?"
And I turned to him, and I said,
"Heathcliff is troubled."
He was in this
terrycloth bathrobe.
He was very white,
and his legs were white.
He didn't look like
he belonged at this pool.
It's the classic
veteran's syndrome.
You come back from a war
and see all around you
people that don't understand,
don't have a clue
about the first thing
that you did
when you were over there,
rather than here.
His mind seemed to skitter
over various topics.
He told me he was a writer,
that he had published stories
in the 'New Yorker',
and he felt that was
his finest accomplishment.
We sat there for quite a while,
and finally he asked me,
"How old are you?"
And I said, "14."
And I do remember very clearly
his grimace.
He said he was 30.
He made a point of saying
that he was 30 on January 1,
so that, in a way,
he was just 30.
I finally left,
and as I was going away,
he told me his name was Jerry.
I saw him the next day,
and we began these walks.
We would walk down the beach
to this old rickety pier.
We did this every afternoon
for, say, about 10 days.
We'd walk very slowly
down to the pier.
It was though
he was escorting me,
and he would always have
his left shoulder behind me
and lean down to hear
what I had to say.
He was very deaf
in his right ear.
I think something to do
with the war.
But Jerry Salinger
listened like you were the most
important person in the world,
and he wanted
to know about my family.
He wanted to know
about my school.
He wanted to know about
what games I played.
He wanted to know who I was
reading, what I was studying.
He wanted to know whether
I believed in God.
Did I want to be an actress?
He wanted to know
everything about me.
We would end up at the pier,
and we'd sit.
We'd buy popcorn
and we'd buy ice-cream
and we'd feed popcorn
to the seagulls.
He was having a wonderful time.
There's an image
from 'Esm' which haunts me,
and it's that image
late in the story where
Sergeant X feels his mind
dislodge itself
and begin to teeter,
and he compares that to luggage
on an overhead rack
that's unstable.
Think of 'For Esm -
with Love and Squalor'.
Surely, there is no better
story in the half-century
on either side of that novel.
You're in a tea shop
in England,
and an American soldier
is on his way to war.
And he finds himself explaining
himself to a 12-year-old girl,
whose manners are too good,
and this wish
that she expresses
that he should return
from the battle
with all his, as she says,
F-A-C-U-L-T-I-E-S intact-
with all his faculties intact.
And then he makes this abrupt
kind of shattering
cinematic cut
to this soldier
after he's been to battle
writing a letter to Esm.
And he has barely clung to
his F-A-C-U-L-T-I-E-S-
He's barely hung onto his
intelligence and his powers,
and he's gonna return
to America
and he's gonna
be J.D. Salinger
and he's gonna write.
I would do cartwheels
on the beach,
and then I would
flip off into the ocean.
And he would love that.
I was fresh and new,
like a breath of spring,
and I knew I brought him joy.
I think he felt it was
as close to a perfect,
maybe even direct, moment
that he'd had...
...ever... maybe ever had.
These perfect moments,
they got him away
from his melancholy,
his angst about the war.
On his very last day,
he asked me would it be alright
for him to write me?
And I said, "Of course."
He also said,
"I'd like to kiss you goodbye,
"but you know I can't."
And then Jerry
went up to my mother
and said very seriously,
"I am going to marry
your daughter."
Years later,
he told me that he could not
have written 'Esm'...
...had he not met me.
Well, I remember talking once
to William Maxwell
about what it was like
to work with Salinger.
He said Salinger
was very specific,
he was a very careful writer.
He knew what he wanted,
even down to his punctuation.
And Maxwell told me the story
of a piece
that Salinger had written
that had been edited,
it had gone all through
the process,
down to the final page proof,
when they were getting ready
to publish the magazine,
and a final proofreader
found a spot that he felt like
needed a comma.
And he went to Maxwell,
Maxwell looked at it,
and he said,
"it looked like it needed
a comma to me."
They couldn't find Salinger,
so they went ahead
and put the comma in.
And when the story came out,
Maxwell said Salinger was
melancholy about that comma.
Salinger's idea
of perfection... really perfection
and shouldn't be tampered with.
Samuel Goldwyn was one of
the original Hollywood moguls.
He was one of that group of
a half-dozen Jewish immigrants
who realised early on
that there was not only
a lot of money to be made
in the movie industry
but that there was
a budding art form there.
And he became famous
for being the most literary
of the Hollywood producers.
And it's a great irony
because he was probably
the most illiterate
of the Hollywood producers.
The Epstein brothers,
who had written Casablanca',
they came to Goldwyn
with an idea for a movie
based on a short story
they had recently read
in the 'New Yorker'.
And the story was
'Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut',
and the author
was a young J.D. Salinger,
who was just being talked about
a great deal.
So this appealed to Goldwyn,
who bought the rights
and turned it into a movie
called 'My Foolish Heart'.
I think every time an author
sells something to Hollywood,
part of him says to himself,
"Well, my work is so special.
Mine won't get changed."
You know, "And certainly,
they're not gonna rape it,"
as I think Hollywood did to
'Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut'.
Gosh, what about
the rest of YOUR life, El?
Please, darling, don't you
be crazy. You just go...
Mary Jane, I'll never tell.
The beauty of the short story
is how much Salinger left out.
And the great delight
for the Epsteins
was how much they could put in.
That's a very aristocratic ear.
Salinger's response
was extremely violent,
and he vowed never to sell
another work to Hollywood again.
It's that protectiveness
that actually led to
the end of our friendship.
I got a job as an editor
at 'Cosmopolitan' magazine,
which then was
a literary magazine
before Helen Gurley Brown
got hold of it
for 'Sex and the Single Girl'.
And in the course
of our poker game,
Jerry handed me a story
and said,
"Here. I think this is a good
story for 'Cosmopolitan'."
it was called 'Scratchy Needle
on a Phonograph Record'.
And he said, "But one thing -
"you tell your editor,
not one word can be changed,
"and that's up to you.
"You gotta watch it,
because they like to cut
"and they like to
make it fit a space.
"If they do that,
then there's no go."
He attached a note to it.
"Either as is or not at all."
And it was all fine,
but I forgot to check on
the title that they gave it.
Instead of 'Scratchy Needle
on a Phonograph Record',
they changed it to
'Blue Melody'.
I thought, well,
the best thing I can do
is meet this head-on.
So I called him and I said,
"Can we have a beer
at Chumley's tonight,"
or whatever.
And I met him,
and I had the magazine.
And I had a tough time sort of
getting around to the topic.
And after hemming and hawing,
he even said,
"Would you get to the point?
What's bothering you?"
And I said, "Jerry,
I have to explain this to you.
"I really very carefully
attended to
"the prose that you wrote
"so that nothing was changed.
"But unbeknownst to me, and
I have no control over this,
"because I am not
the fiction editor,
"they put
a different title on."
So he grabbed the magazine
out of my hand,
and he looked at it.
And his face turned...
...apoplectic red.
And he just spewed... angry denunciation at me.
What kind of a friend was I?
How did I let this happen?
And I tried to
get a word in to say,
"You know, I have no control
"over what's done
in the final edit."
He said,
"You had to have control.
"I told you
you're in charge of it
"and I trusted you with it,
"and I'll never trust you again
in anything."
And he walked out. That's it.
Left me with my beer
sitting at the table.
And he took the magazine
with him.
When we next met, after
Daytona, was in the spring,
when I was in New York
with my family.
I was 14, and I can remember
exactly what I had on.
I had a little tan suit on,
with little white gloves
and a little straw hat.
And we were walking
down a street
and the straw hat blew off.
And I thought,
"Oh, how embarrassing."
And... he went
tearing down that street
laughing and chortling.
He came back
and formally gave me my hat,
which was a little bit bashed,
and I put it back on my head.
And he laughed about it
for about 15 minutes.
This is one of the letters
that Jerry sent me.
He was at the time writing
'The Catcher in the Rye'.
He felt nervous
about Holden's language.
He was worried about how it was
going to be received by people,
particularly people he loved.
He wanted people
to know absolutely
that he was trying to write
a good book.
Not just a bestseller -
a good book.
Along came the gentleman about
six years younger than I was.
And he had a big black dog.
He told me that all
he would be doing was writing.
No parties, no visitors.
He was a loner.
The perfect tenant for me.
And that's how I met
a man called J.D. Salinger.
And if his typewriter
was going,
I knew enough
not to intrude into him.
This was his own world.
George Orwell once said
that "Writing a book
"is a horrible,
exhausting struggle.
"One would never undertake
such a thing
"if one were not driven
by some demon."
And it looks to me that he had
demons that he was exorcising.
He came home and wrote about
this adolescent
at war with society.
That's when he found
the real Jerry Salinger voice,
so that he was
Holden Caulfield.
And he was able to
transmit that onto the page
so that you get
a real feel of the frustration
of every kid that age.
Jerry said there was
a great deal of Holden in him.
Holden was rejecting
the whole world of his parents.
He hated these prep
schools that he had gone to.
He had disdain
for all these people.
Wealth, fame, career,
possessions, possessions.
Salinger saw America
as this shopping centre
that has lost its mind,
it's lost its soul.
He hated phoniness.
He just hated it.
Is it possible
to grow up and not sell out?
They're all there,
all of the Salinger diatribes
and all of his prejudices -
they're all in that book.
He didn't spend
just 10 years writing that book.
He spent 30 years writing
'Catcher in the Rye',
'cause everything in his life
up to that point
was funnelled into that book.
A book takes
the time that it needs,
and you don't
have a choice about it.
But don't worry.
Novels grow in the dark.
It was a channelling.
It's some kind
of miracle of ink
making flesh and blood.
You see the artist
at the peak of his powers.
Holden always imagined
millions of little kids
running to the field of rye
and having to save them
from going over the cliff.
The cliff of what?
The cliff towards adulthood.
It was an accumulation
of everything he had to say.
The great subversive,
anti-establishment book
of all time.
Salinger met with
an important editor,
Robert Giroux,
at Harcourt, Brace.
Giroux wanted him to publish
a collection of short stories.
He didn't hear anything
from Salinger for quite a while.
One morning,
Salinger walks in and said,
"You know, I don't think
we should publish
"that collection
of short stories.
"What we need to do
is publish my novel
"about this kid
who goes to New York
"and has an interesting time."
Salinger did deliver
'The Catcher in the Rye'
in manuscript
to Bob Giroux.
Giroux read the novel.
He loved it.
He was impressed by it.
And he said that he'd be proud
to publish it.
But then Giroux showed it
to his boss.
Eugene Reynal,
who looked at the novel
and said, "This guy's crazy.
We need to have this rewritten."
Bob Giroux got Salinger
into his office,
spent a lot of time
looking out of his window
and down into Madison Avenue
and then turned to Salinger
and had said,
"But of course
Holden Caulfield is crazy."
And there was no response
from Salinger.
But then, on closer inspection,
Giroux saw
that Salinger was weeping.
He rose, went down
into the ground floor
of the office building
and called his agent and said,
"Get me out of
this publishing house!
"They think
my Holden Caulfield is crazy!"
Holden was, in fact,
Jerry Salinger.
So, to be told
that he was crazy...
...meant that he had to
take offence.
Salinger came
to William Maxwell
at the 'New Yorker' magazine
to read him the manuscript
in its entirety.
Salinger hoped to have
segments of the novel
published in the 'New Yorker'.
"Dear Jerry, The vote here
"went, sadly,
against your novel.
"To us, the notion that in one
family, the Caulfield family,
"there are four such
extraordinary children
"is not quite tenable.
"Another point - this story
is too ingenious and ingrown.
"Prejudice here against what
we call writer-consciousness."
If he thought
everything was phoney,
he thought the 'New Yorker'
was anything but phoney.
They had the greatest status.
If you're published there,
you are a real literary person.
So when that was rejected,
he wondered if he was
a middle-brow writer.
Salinger began to lose hope.
How could you pass up
on 'Catcher'?
Pages of
'The Catcher in the Rye'
stormed the beaches on D-day.
They witnessed the atrocities
of the concentration camps.
There was no way
that J.D. Salinger
was going to rewrite
'The Catcher in the Rye'.
A short time after that,
he placed the novel
with Little, Brown,
and I guess we might say
the rest is publishing history.
The publication of
'Catcher in the Rye' in 1951
was something of a revolution.
He really wanted to be up there,
beyond Hemingway.
A figure of such
brilliance and wisdom...
...that we can only
think of people
like Shakespeare and Beethoven,
and that novel was so popular,
it meant he was middle-brow.
Here he was
thinking he's saying
the most original things
that nobody's ever thought of,
and the entire world's like,
"Yes! That's exactly
what we feel."
How many people actually
read 'The Catcher in the Rye'
in this class?
That's pretty amazing.
There's only one person,
who hasn't read it out of 18.
When you're a kid and
you read 'Catcher in the Rye',
you're just like,
"Oh, my God, somebody gets it."
You suddenly realise that
you are part of a larger world
and that that larger world
is no longer reliable.
I remember that being
the first book
you take with you
when you walked around.
Just wanted
to have it with you.
I think we all thought,
"Ooh, here's this cool guy.
"He's such a badass.
He's such a rebel.
"I wanna date him."
I think 'Catcher in the Rye'
is one of the funniest novels
ever written.
I re-read it
and I started highlighting
lines that I thought were great,
and almost the entire book
was yellow.
It just crossed
all the lines, on every level,
between old and young,
rich and poor,
black and white,
male and female, everywhere.
Millions and millions
and millions of people.
'The Catcher in the Rye'.
The enormous impact
of 'Catcher in the Rye'
overnight transported him into
a major writer and personality.
I don't think
he was prepared for
the instant celebrity
of 'Catcher in the Rye'
when it became
a Book of the Month Club,
and there was a fantastic,
very soulful picture
on the back of it.
And he asked that that picture
be removed from the book.
It was unheard of
that an author
would not want his picture
on the back of the book
or on the back flap of the book
and as big and beautiful
as you could possibly get it.
As I walk
down the street...
I understand why anyone who was
becoming famous would stop it.
You're born with
the right of anonymity.
You're just anonymous.
You walk the streets,
you do whatever,
and you can actually
have private thoughts
while you're amongst
other people.
People who never had
that change in their life
don't think about it.
They don't even question it.
It just is.
He wouldn't
go on a book tour or sign books
or go on television shows.
He didn't ever want to be
He always, always, felt
that what people should know
about an author
was nothing personal.
They should know the author
through his work,
and that's all
that he was willing
to give people -
his work.
So I was rather surprised
to go to a cocktail party,
as we did in the time,
someplace on the East Side,
where... the prominent
young publishers were there,
some publicity people
and some editors.
I remember Joe Fox
of Random House was there.
He and his wife, Jill,
who were the ones that said,
"Salinger's here!"
And this was terribly exciting.
And I thought,
"Is it that guy over there?"
And then they said,
"He's coming to dinner."
And I remember
we went to this restaurant,
they'd shoved tables together,
and, sure enough, he was there.
And I remember
that he sat down at the table.
We were all excited
about being in his presence.
He was really there,
the real Salinger,
and presently he got up and
muttered something to someone
that he had to
make a phone call.
Disappeared and never came back.
When there was this
sudden onslaught,
he suddenly realised,
"I don't really need this,
and I don't want this."
And I think that's the moment
he just turned on his heels
and disappeared into
the mountains of New Hampshire.
When you read
'Catcher in the Rye',
you just know
some day, some way,
Salinger's gonna end up
in a spot
that he considers
his seclusion.
In letters, he said to me
that his friends thought
that he was like Holden
moving west
to run a gas station
and just bailing out
of the world.
It didn't mean that he was
a hermit, you know.
He just didn't want to be
with writers,
and he certainly didn't want
to be the toast of New York.
He was protecting himself.
His motives
were really very pure.
He wanted the peace and quiet
to do his work.
And Cornish
is where he found it.
I think the world was...
The world!
The buzz-status group.
...was waiting for a big novel.
And I'm not sure
that's the way Salinger
really ever wanted to write.
Everybody wanted him to
write a sequel to 'Catcher'.
He was the guy that
wrote 'The Catcher in the Rye',
and he was the only one that
really knew what that took,
how much that cost him,
personally, and its true value.
Never mind what the society
thought or the literary world.
To him, it was finished,
and he had to move on.
'Nine Stories' begins and ends
with a sudden suicide
following a conversation
in which something
couldn't get said.
They are characters
who wanna get out of the world,
and the stories end when they're
given permission to leave.
It's amazing.
It's a strange effect.
One doesn't bring the
degree of obsession
that creates perfection
unless there is just
unappeasable hunger,
unappeasable sadness
and what I would call a wound.
You don't get
that kind of perfection
unless you're trying
to heal something
that's incredibly badly hurt.
In 1954, I was in college,
and Jerry would take me
for an evening in New York.
He would
take me to the Palm Room
or we'd go to the theatre,
we'd go to the Blue Angel.
I remember once driving back
on that east-side highway
and seeing
the George Washington Bridge
and thinking
how absolutely beautiful it was,
insane how beautiful it was,
and he laughed.
He said, "Jean, you've got to
learn not to say the obvious."
And I felt,
"Well, you know, he's right."
I was still young,
but here was this fascinating
man who seemed to like me.
But in all those letters,
it says,
"My work has to come first."
And he's sorry to be
such an unromantic man
and I'd have every right to
tell him to go jump in the lake
and go off with some
less neurotic person.
But once in a while,
he would come and fetch me...
...and we'd drive up to Cornish.
We would take a walk
in the afternoon and talk
and then dinner.
And then we'd look at
television by the fire -
Lawrence Welk or Liberace
or something like that-
and we'd dance.
I remember one night,
I said, "Let's dance."
It was fun.
We would look at the people
on the television, dancing,
and we just would waltz or...
laughing all the time.
He seemed filled with joy to me
a great deal of the time.
But there was never a inkling
of anything physical
between us.
Jerry Salinger
remembered me always
on that pier in Daytona Beach.
I am the one who changed it.
We were in
the back seat of a taxi
and I turned and kissed him.
Not soon after the taxi,
we went to Montreal
for the weekend.
We went up to our room
and... we went to bed.
And I told him I was a virgin.
And he didn't like that.
He didn't want the
responsibility of that, I guess.
He just didn't like it.
And then the next day,
we were flying to Boston,
with me on to New York
and he on to West Lebanon,
and somehow in the airplane,
he was told that
his plane was cancelled.
And I began laughing,
because I was delighted
that we could
spend the afternoon together,
particularly after what had
just happened the night before.
And I saw this veil
come down on his face.
Just like this.
This look of horror and hurt.
It was a terrible look.
It was a look
that conveyed everything.
I think all of a sudden,
he saw me
in an entirely different light.
He hustled me
right onto a plane.
I didn't have a plane
till later in the day.
He went right to the desk,
got the ticket changed,
hustled me right on the plane.
I knew I had come
between him and his work.
And it was over.
Wow. How do you describe
Claire Douglas?
In many ways, Claire Douglas
will be the widow Salinger.
You know, there were women
after Claire,
but she's... she's the wife.
attended a party one night
where he met this
captivating, attractive,
personable young woman
who was 19 years old.
And Salinger, who was 34,
was instantly attracted to her.
She's just the kind of a lady
you think with a long dress
and a neat hairdo... and with
a glass of wine in her hands
talking with lots of
New York people.
Her role... just
didn't seem right.
Her childhood was not one
that set her up with
any kind of foundation.
She was sent off
to convent boarding school
at age five,
in and out of
eight different foster homes,
off to another boarding school,
and the summer between
her junior and senior year,
met my father.
Many critics
contend that Claire
was the inspiration for Franny.
And on February 17, 1955,
J.D. Salinger married
Claire Douglas in Vermont.
Salinger gave a copy
of the story to Claire
as their wedding present.
'Franny' became
a national cultural event.
It had this kind of
cliffhanger ending
where the main character,
Franny, fainted.
And people were wondering
what happened - was she...
pregnant or what?
On December 10, 1955,
J.D. Salinger became a father.
His daughter, Margaret,
was born.
The way he viewed Claire
changed after that.
Before that, she had been
the late-teen/early 20s woman
that he was fascinated with.
Now she was a woman.
She was a mother.
And I think
the birth of that child
had a permanent effect
on their relationship.
When I started
taking care of his kids,
Claire was due to have Matthew.
And Jerry knew me.
Back in the early '50s,
when I was in high school,
there was a soda fountain
right in town
that most of us gathered.
And Jerry Salinger used to come
right in and be part of that.
So I knew him from then.
He was just one of the guys.
So Jerry asked me
to help Claire with Margaret.
We called her Peggy.
Jerry built a small building
down over the hill
from the house.
It was just
a little square house.
And that's where he would go
down, any time, day or night,
go in and shut the door,
and you wouldn't see him
for a week or longer,
'cause he got into
a writing mode
and had to be left
totally alone.
Claire was not allowed
to bother him.
Nobody could enter the bunker.
It was the safe place
and a sacred place for him.
Salinger installed cup hooks
upon which he would place scenes
he had written.
There were notes tacked up
all over the walls.
It was the place in which
Salinger became the characters.
It was the place that was his
and his Glass family's.
No-one else's.
So in 1955, Salinger
gave birth to two families -
his own...
and the Glass family.
McGOWAN: The Glass family were
seven children, all geniuses,
who each appeared on a show
called 'It's a Wise Child',
the sons and daughters
of two vaudevillians.
Seymour, the oldest, was the
greatest genius of them all,
the most spiritual,
the most artistic,
and he commits suicide.
And that informs their
entire lives from then on.
'Franny' was quickly followed
by a wonderful long story
called 'Raise High
the Roof Beam, Carpenters'
about characters
of that same family.
The Glass family
and Salinger's real family
would actually compete with
each other for his attention
and his affection.
How weird is it
when your father is gone
but you can actually
see where he is,
but you can't go disturb him?
What does that do to a child
when that's your childhood,
that's your youth?
No-one said,
"Don't talk about this.
"Don't think that."
I mean, you don't
have to to a kid.
Kids pick up what
the elephants are in the room
that the family's
not talking about.
By the time Matthew was born,
you'd think Claire
was a single parent.
And I think that
had to hurt Claire a lot.
I don't think she thought
that was gonna be
part of her life with Jerry.
And she was left to do
all the things for the children
and to make all the decisions
for weeks... weeks at a time.
He put a cot in
so that he literally
never had to leave the bunker.
You think about it daily.
You have flashbacks.
There are times in which I can
be sitting in the living room
and... have artillery
land in my yard
or in my living room.
So you do get
those kinds of flashbacks.
I've never told my wife that.
Sid Perelman, a humorist
and writer for the 'New Yorker',
did go up to see him
in New Hampshire.
Sid said, "He's got this
concrete bunker where he works,
"but he's got a great big statue
of Buddha in the garden
"and he's got a lot of
Buddhist priests around him,
"and they do
a lot of chanting."
And Sid thought
this was very strange.
Salinger's religion
was the central concern
in his writing.
His championing the ideas
of Vedanta Hinduism
in his Glass stories.
The so-called
karma yoga concept
that comes from
the Bhagavad Gita,
that you should do your work
as perfectly
as you possibly can,
with no thought of rewards,
and only that way can you be
a really happy person.
When Salinger submitted
the sequel to 'Franny'
to the 'New Yorker',
this novella called
'Zooey', in 1957,
the fiction editors unanimously
agreed to reject the story.
William Shawn intervened.
He was the editor-in-chief,
and he decreed that the magazine
would, in fact, publish 'Zooey'.
And since he was the one
who championed it,
he would edit it himself.
The 'New Yorker' was Mr Shawn.
There was no other
'New Yorker'.
He was it.
Salinger is
the perfect author for him.
Shawn is the perfect editor
for Salinger,
because they're both
strange, brilliant creatures.
William Shawn was a very shy
and introverted person.
He was a man who was
riddled with phobias.
Devoted to ideas.
He wouldn't sit
in the front of a theatre
because he was
afraid of a fire.
Has had more books
dedicated to him
than anyone, probably,
in the history of publishing.
He carried a hatchet around,
reportedly, in his briefcase.
He was always afraid
he'd be caught in an elevator
and have to hack his way out.
His whole life was really
wrapped up in the 'New Yorker'
and his writers.
He wouldn't travel if he
had to go through a tunnel.
Salinger truly was grateful
to him for the work he'd done,
and he felt that he had found
a kind of soul mate in Shawn.
'Zooey' was so successful
that after that,
all his work was handled
by William Shawn.
He didn't work with
the other fiction editors
in the 'New Yorker' anymore.
In the 1960s, 'The Catcher
in the Rye' takes off,
becoming a cultural phenomenon.
It literally is
a rite of passage.
It suggested that you had
lost your literary virginity
in a way.
Everybody loved him -
kids, adults.
He was an idol, a teen idol.
Salinger was
the national story.
In 1961, the big media
really pulled out the big guns.
'Time', 'Newsweek' and 'LIFE'
sent out some of
their best reporters.
Newspaper people
came and did interviews.
They all started coming,
and Jerry, he couldn't stop
for a cup of coffee.
They wouldn't allow it.
'Time' magazine tracked down
Salinger's sister Doris
at her job at Bloomingdale's,
and in no uncertain terms,
she basically told them,
"I would never do anything my
brother wouldn't approve of."
There was so much attention,
so much heat, so much light
being focused on J.D. Salinger.
Billy Wilder wanted to make
a movie of 'The Catcher
in the Rye' so badly
that he had his agents
hound Salinger.
I remember the whole talk
in New York at that time
was that Elia Kazan
was desperate
to make a film of
'The Catcher in the Rye'.
Jerry Lewis, who was,
like, a huge movie star,
publicly declared
that he was gonna
make a film of
'Catcher in the Rye'.
And on a fairly regular basis,
he would call J.D. Salinger,
who would hang up on him.
Salinger showed up unexpectedly
at Billy Wilder's
agent's office in New York,
and he starts screaming, "Tell
Billy Wilder to leave me alone!
"He's very, very insensitive!"
Elia Kazan going on his
search for 'Catcher in the Rye',
knocking on the door and saying,
"Mr Salinger, I'm Elia Kazan."
And Salinger saying, "That's
nice," and closing the door.
I hope it's true.
If they'd made a movie,
Holden wouldn't like it.
Enough said.
'Franny and Zooey'
instantly took off.
It was on the bestseller list
in no time.
It remained on
the bestseller list
for weeks and weeks and weeks.
When J.D. Salinger appears
on the cover of 'Time' magazine,
it's not a photograph.
It's an imaginary portrait.
It conveys the sense that
the author has enough integrity
not to be part
of the publicity machine.
I was assigned
by 'LIFE' magazine
to go up and get a picture
of this man
who was very reclusive
and had refused
to be photographed,
I guess, for many years.
The challenge was
to be unobtrusive,
to not be noticed
and to take advantage
of the terrain,
hiding in the bushes,
much in the way that one would
if you were photographing
You don't walk up there
with six cameras
hanging round your neck.
So I put my cameras
in a shopping bag.
I would find my little
hiding place in the bushes
and stay there all day
Very cold and rainy.
I had a horrible cold,
bordering on the flu.
The editor had said,
"If it's more than three days,
forget about it."
Then lo and behold,
on the third day,
he made an appearance,
to walk his dog, very briefly.
He just emerged
just for a few seconds,
just enough time for me
to get off a half-dozen frames.
In fact, I was afraid
that I was close enough
that he might be able to hear
the clicking of the shutter.
I remember reading
about him in 'LIFE' magazine.
I remember reading about
this man who lived in this house
who didn't want visitors,
didn't want to discuss himself.
And I remember sort of
being puzzled by that,
because, again, you know,
you're at that age
where you're suddenly realising
there are famous people
and then there's
the rest of us.
There are people
who have extraordinary lives
and then there's
the rest of us.
And here was a man who had
an opportunity to have what,
at that young age, you thought
was an extraordinary life,
and he was saying, "I'd
rather not. Please go away."
When 'Franny and Zooey',
'Raise High the Roof Beam,
'and Seymour, an Introduction'
were published as books,
the literary knives came out.
Joan Didion wrote
that he had a fondness
for giving instructions
to people on how to live life.
John Updike wrote,
"Salinger loved his characters
"more than God loved them."
Lionel Trilling, Alfred Kazin,
Mary McCarthy.
She wrote an essay
in 'Harper's Magazine'
called 'J.D. Salinger's
Closed Circuit',
saying the Glass family was an
amoeba that kept splitting off,
each one lovable
and wise and simple,
and they're all
really one face,
and they reflect each other
back and forth.
There's no-one else who
enters this world of theirs.
She saw the entire work he had
done as being narcissistic.
It is one person reflecting
on his own image.
You can't get so engrossed
in your own image
without it being
a dangerous thing.
The fiction went over the edge
with 'Hapworth' in 1965.
It's long on tone
and absolutely devoid of plot.
It was just
the brilliant Seymour
writing as a brilliant
7-year-old from camp,
and it was just too much.
It was impossible to believe.
They were kind of saying,
"What happened with
J.D. Salinger?
"I think he's kind of done.
He's kind of a crackpot."
That was just a little bit too
much theology for most people.
In the very last piece
of published writing,
Seymour is telling us
that Buddy is gonna have
the perfect room to write in.
But we also notice that it's
sort of like
a solitary confinement.
That's what it takes
to focus that much -
that's what he needs.
Ultimately, Claire
couldn't stand it anymore.
The isolation, the emotional
distress that she felt
because her husband was
obsessively writing
in the bunker.
And Claire filed for divorce.
Claire was a lady,
and she deserved
to be treated like one.
But Jerry didn't
treat her like one.
So I was glad to hear
that she was free.
When I was 18,
I wrote a magazine article
that changed my life.
It was published in
the 'New York Times Magazine'
with a photograph of me
on the cover.
Within three days of
the publication of that article,
there were
three enormous sacks of mail
in front of my dormitory room.
And in among them
was this one letter
that... eclipsed all the rest.
It began, "Dear Miss Maynard,
"I bet you're sitting in
your college dormitory room
"surrounded by letters
from magazine editors
"and book editors
and TV people and radio people."
All of which was true.
And then he went on to say that
he knew a thing or two himself
about the dangers, the perils,
of early success.
He said, "People will
try to exploit you,
"and I urge you to be cautious."
And it was only when I got
to the bottom of the letter -
and by that time, you know,
I was already completely
connected to this person -
that I saw the signature
'J.D. Salinger'.
He knows
exactly what he's doing.
He knows exactly how powerful
the name J.D. Salinger is.
It's a name that
with the right girl
creates a spell
that they fall under.
Getting a letter
from J.D. Salinger
was like getting a letter
from Holden Caulfield
but written just to me.
Within three days,
there was a second letter
and then a third and a fourth.
There was never any question
that we would meet.
And for my mother,
it was as if J.D. Salinger
had recognised her,
because I was her product.
It was as if she had gotten
a letter from J.D. Salinger.
Both of my parents
were brilliant, gifted artists,
both of them sidelined
in this small New Hampshire town
with no acknowledgement
of their work.
I had been raised to believe
that I was going to do
big, important things
and that... this was a sign
that I was going to -
I was going to spend time
with this wonderful man.
My mother was a little unclear
of the boundaries.
She sewed me a dress
for our meeting.
It was an A-line dress with
very bright primary colours.
Very short dress.
My English teacher
from high school
drove me to the Hanover Inn
where we met.
Jerry was standing
out on the porch.
This tall, lanky person,
and he raised his hand,
and he was waving as if he was
somebody coming in off a boat.
He actually jumped
over the banister.
There was something
very boyish about him.
I threw my arms around him.
I hugged him.
He hugged me back.
And the very first thing he said
when he saw me was,
"You're wearing the watch."
Clearly, he'd really studied
my photograph.
In the story 'For Esm -
with Love and Squalor',
the character of Esm is wearing
a very large man's watch.
I jumped in the front seat
of his little BMW.
He liked to drive fast
along these
New Hampshire/Vermont roads.
Covered bridge...
...winding, winding, winding
up the hill.
His house.
It was just this very quiet,
simple place.
There were no personal items -
photographs, letters.
The living room had piles and
piles of 'New Yorker' magazines.
Books stacked everywhere.
Movies stacked everywhere.
Peggy's room - there were stacks
and stacks of movie reels.
'Maltese Falcon',
'Casablanca', 'The 39 Steps',
'The Lady vanishes' -
all these old movies.
He'd make a bowl of popcorn,
which he'd sprinkle with
brewer's yeast, as I recall,
and we snuggled up
on this really comfy couch
and he threaded the films
through the projector
and turned out the lights
and it was movie time.
He loved 'Lost Horizon'.
It's a movie about this place
where you never grow old.
And he said that the only person
who ever could have played
Holden Caulfield was himself.
The women in his lives
are really projections
of his own wishes
or characters he creates.
It's a series
of very young women,
because when you're young,
and particularly if you're
a rather lost and insecure
and ungrounded young person,
it's much easier to become
who somebody wishes you to be.
I was looking for a sage.
I was looking for
some sense of meaning to life.
And I found it with Salinger.
But from the moment I moved in,
I could do very little right.
We had a very set routine.
The first thing we did
was have a bowl
of Birds Eye
frozen tender tiny peas,
not cooked, but with warm water
poured over them.
So they defrost a little bit.
So they were just cool.
Then we'd meditate.
Or at least, he would meditate
and I would try to meditate.
But my mind kept on wandering
to things of the world,
which was a big problem.
And then we would
get to work writing.
He would put on
a canvas jumpsuit to write.
And he would put it on
like a uniform.
It was kind of like he was,
you know, a soldier,
only he was going off to
wage his war at the typewriter.
He sat on a high chair
at his high desk
in his writing room
and worked on his typewriter.
A very old typewriter
that clicked.
He cut himself off
from a great deal of the world
but maintained a huge interest
in observing it.
I drew Jerry a lot
back when I lived with him.
This is a picture of me
sitting on Jerry's lap,
listening to very old recordings
of the Andrews Sisters
and Glenn Miller
and an obscure German singer
whose name I don't remember
who was a singer
from World War II.
This is a picture of Jerry and
me dancing, television set on.
Lawrence Welk, no doubt.
The bubbles would come up
and we'd watch the show
and we would dance.
While all of my contemporaries
were off, you know,
in New Haven doing drugs
and listening to Led Zeppelin.
Every day, I heard typing.
A lot of typing-
And there was one space
that was off the bedroom
that was a safe.
I saw two thick manuscripts.
I've written nine books now.
I know what the size
of a book manuscript looks like.
And this... these were thick.
I never read them,
was never shown them
and knew better than to ask.
He did show me one thing,
although it wasn't like
I got to sit down and read it,
and that was a kind of
an archive of the Glass family,
who were, in his world,
as real as any relatives.
He was protective
of those characters
as if they were his children.
Only one time
did I meet friends of his,
and that was this memorable
and, I guess, disastrous lunch.
We drove into New York,
and we went to the Algonquin.
And there was this man,
William Shawn.
I think Jerry Salinger
really loved William Shawn.
And a writer whose work I did
know, because I had read it
and studied it and admired it-
Lillian Ross.
But I knew from Jerry that
Lillian Ross and William Shawn
had been lovers for years,
although William Shawn
was married to somebody else.
They were known
as Ross and Shawn to Jerry.
So she asked me
what sorts of things I wrote,
and I prattled on
about my little career
writing for 'Seventeen' magazine
and judging the
Miss Teenage America Pageant,
and Ross shoots
William Shawn a look.
And I could well imagine
the 'Talk of the Town' piece
that Lillian Ross would have
written about that lunch.
This lunch must have
deeply embarrassed Jerry,
because we left the restaurant,
rather hastily,
and we went directly
to Bonwit Teller,
and he bought me a very
expensive black cashmere coat
of the sort that
Lillian Ross might have worn.
I think he was indulging
in a fantasy
of innocence that... that...
...that neither one of us
could hold onto very long.
One day,
I heard the telephone ring
and I heard him speaking
very briefly and then a click.
And then he emerged
from his office...
...with a look on his face
I had never seen.
And he said,
"'Time' magazine
"has got my number.
"You have ruined my life."
For years, I avoided any
information about J.D. Salinger.
Ask me about him, I said nothing
and I wrote nothing about him.
And I was at a party
in New York City,
pregnant with my third child,
and there was a woman
who came over to me.
And she said, "So...
"You're the one
that lived with J.D. Salinger.
"He wrote you letters,
didn't he?"
And then she said,
"I had an au pair girl
"who got lots of letters
from him too."
And I remember
feeling my stomach drop.
And that was the first
of what ultimately were
a surprising number
of stories about girls,
always girls,
getting letters from Salinger.
J.D. Salinger's love letters
come back
and kick him in the ass.
14 highly personal letters by
reclusive author J.D. Salinger
to then 18-year-old writer
Joyce Maynard in the early '70s
are to be auctioned
at Sotheby's.
Joyce Maynard wrote
a sort of kiss-and-tell memoir,
but when she put up at auction
the letters that Salinger
had written her,
Peter Norton,
the software developer,
thought it was such
a terrible act of disloyalty
that he bought the letters
and returned them to Salinger.
When I made
the decision to write that book,
I needed
to go see Jerry Salinger.
And I didn't do
what the worshippers did,
which was to stand
at the end of the driveway.
A woman called out to me,
"What do you want?"
"I've come to see Jerry.
"Would you tell him
Joyce Maynard's here?"
And then she sort of
turned to me
and looked at me through
the window and smiled, actually,
and I realised that that was
the au pair girl, Colleen.
And then the door opened,
and there he stood.
And he was
shaking his hand at me,
and he said,
"What are you doing here?!"
I said, "I've come to ask you
a question, Jerry.
"What... what was my purpose
in your life?"
"That question, that question...
"You don't deserve an answer
to that question."
And then he let loose
this torrent.
"I hear
you're writing something,
"some kind of reminiscence."
And he said it
as if that was an obscene act.
He watches very much
what's going on in the world.
He said, "I always knew this is
what you'd amount to - nothing.
"You have spent your life
writing meaningless garbage.
"And now you mean
to exploit me."
And he said, "The problem
with you, Joyce, is...
"..the world."
Margaret Salinger
is back with us this morning
to talk some more
about her controversial memoir,
'Dream Catcher'.
The book is an intensely
private look at her famous,
yet very reclusive, father,
J.D. Salinger.
Do you think, Peggy,
he ultimately went into writing
so he could create characters
or create his own universe
where people
met his expectations?
I personally think
that that is certainly,
um, what's going on.
I sat and cried
reading that book.
And I don't know how much
of her book is really true
and how much isn't.
But I think it's
the saddest thing I ever read.
Guess we shouldn't
have got on that. Sorry.
Matthew Salinger told me
that the picture
that his sister painted
of growing up
in the Salinger household
was nothing like
his memories of childhood.
And he was quite adamant
about that.
How would you characterise
the relationship
you have
with your father today?
None? Oh, that's easy. Nona
As a police officer
in the 20th Precinct,
we got a report of shots fired
at 1 West 72nd Street-
that's the Dakota.
I just couldn't wait
till those police got there.
I didn't know what to do.
I took 'The Catcher in the Rye'
out of my pocket.
There was a man standing
in the street saying,
"That's the man
doing the shooting."
So I drew my gun,
grabbed Chapman,
and I put him up
against the wall.
And here is John Lennon
being carried out
by two police officers
from my precinct.
And at eye-level, I see
John Lennon's face
with his eyes closed
and blood coming out
of his mouth.
They decided to put him
in the radio car and take him
to the hospital immediately,
try to save his life.
So I handcuffed Chapman.
I look down on the ground, I
said, "Are these your clothes?"
He says,
"Yes, and the book too."
I look at the book. You know,
it's 'Catcher in the Rye'.
I was literally living inside
of a paperback novel,
J.D. Salinger's
'The Catcher in the Rye'.
We have to remember,
the things we produce,
and in language,
we have no control
over what happens to them
once we let them go.
Salinger put
his depression into Holden.
It's almost like black magic.
Some of his depression may go
away, but the character lives,
and there are some readers
who will take the depression
out of the character
into themselves.
The conversation
Salinger creates
between himself and the reader
is so close
that if you misread it,
you read Holden's antipathy
to the culture
as license to kill.
To have the book with him,
he was right there
with J.D. Salinger,
right there with Holden.
Holden wasn't violent,
but he had a violent thought
of shooting someone.
The word 'kill' is used
a lot in the book.
"This is my people-shooting hat.
I kill people in this hat."
The word 'phoney' is used
over 30 times in the book.
Chapman read an article
in 'Esquire' magazine.
The theme of the article was
John Lennon was a sell-out,
John Lennon was a phoney.
I say to myself,
"That phoney. That bastard."
If you are reading the
book through a distorted lens,
you feel so acutely
Holden's powerlessness,
and you say,
"Yeah. I feel powerless too."
John Lennon
was talking to a nobody
to sign an album for a nobody.
"Look at this guy.
He's a big rock star.
"He comes in a limousine."
Look, he's a phoney.
"You want me to teach you
what reality is?" Bang!
Mark David Chapman
wrote me a letter
that I should read
'Catcher in the Rye'
to understand
why he committed this murder.
He reads that novel in open
court when he is sentenced.
This is my statement,
underlining the word 'this'.
If one... person used something
I had written
as their justification
for killing somebody,
I'd say,
"God, people are crazy."
It didn't end
with the death of John Lennon.
You keep paying for this
over and over
when you hear
of a death of a celebrity,
and maybe they've got
'The Catcher in the Rye',
as John Hinckley did.
Young Hinckley,
the whiz-kid who shot Reagan,
and his press secretary said,
"if you want my defence,
"all you have to do is read
'Catcher in the Rye'."
Rebecca Schaeffer
was expecting a script
to be delivered to her
for 'Godfather III'.
Rebecca Schaeffer
came to the door.
Like this.
Among the pieces of evidence
was a copy of
'Catcher in the Rye'.
But if three people
use something I had written
as justification,
I would really be
very, very troubled by it.
It's not the one.
It's the series of three.
I would see him downtown
and I'd say hi
and he'd walk right by
and not even say hi.
And I knew him well.
I was talking to
a friend who owned a bookstore,
and I told him, I said, "I'm
really thinking I'll just go
"up to New Hampshire
and find J.D. Salinger."
And he says, "Yeah, well,
I think you oughta call up NASA
"and, you know, bum a ride
on the next space shuttle too."
Well, the minute
you go into town
and you say "J.D. Salinger",
everybody becomes your enemy.
This one lady in the shop would
not sell me an ice-cream cone.
So I thought, "Ooh!
Not my friendliest place."
The owner of the market
suggested that I write a note,
that I didn't need
a mailing address,
just leave it
at the post office.
I bought a notebook,
went outside, sat on the kerb,
wrote a note - I was determined
not to go to his property.
I wasn't gonna
cross that river.
I thought if he came in
voluntarily to where I was
that no-one could ever say
with any truth
that I had sabotaged the man,
that I had waylaid him
or any of those things.
So I was ready.
Sat down where I said
I would be and waited.
He doesn't have to go down
and meet her in her Pinto.
If he really wants to protect
his seclusion that much,
he doesn't go.
And so here he came.
He walked across the bridge.
I didn't know what to expect.
We've all seen that photograph
on the back of the book.
You expect people
to age, but...
it's not the same as seeing it.
There he was,
and I was shocked.
He was as tall
as I thought he would be,
but he had snow-white hair,
and I was not prepared for that.
We shook hands, and he said,
"if you're a writer, you need
to quit that newspaper.
"Newspapers serve no purpose."
And he said publishing was the
worst thing a person could do.
He insisted that he was
working, working for himself,
and that's what
writing should be -
that every writer should write
for their own reasons,
but it should be
for themselves alone.
The only important thing
was the writing.
According to J.D. Salinger.
What is he writing about?
He said, "I will say this.
"It is of far more significance
"than anything
I ever wrote about Holden."
He said, "I have
really serious issues
"that I'm trying to tackle with
these new writing projects."
And he always said 'writing'.
I persisted - I wanted to know
if he was writing a sequel
to 'The Catcher in the Rye'.
And he became
rather annoyed, agitated.
And so I finally just put the
notebook down, put my pen down
and looked up at him and said,
"Why did you come here?"
He lost some of his intensity,
uncrossed his arms
and he said that he thought
writing Holden was a mistake.
It meant he couldn't live
a normal life.
His children suffered.
Why couldn't his life
be his own?
Then he turned around
and stalked off.
And so I watched him walk away
and I took the photo of him
walking back toward the bridge.
It was just the personification
of his attitude.
"Just leave me alone."
J.D. Salinger
is very much a Howard Hughes.
He is still a man in control
of his domain there.
And it remains to be seen
what, actually,
he is sitting upon.
I think the guy's
earned the right
to do it his way,
and you know what,
whether he's earned it or not,
he's doing it his way anyway.
I guess what I'd like to ask
him is what he's written for
the last 40 years - isn't that
what everybody wants to know?
the great literary mystery.
I want to believe.
I want to see more of the work.
He promised in the back flaps
of 'Franny and Zooey'
and 'Seymour, an Introduction'
that he's writing other stories.
I just wanna see that stuff.
If he published
a book tomorrow,
it would be a number one
bestseller the next day.
He very proudly showed me
a set of files
where a red dot meant "This is
ready to go upon my death,"
a green dot meant
"This needs editing."
Someone cracks that code, man,
it's gonna be
the story of the century.
If he does publish and
the writing is actually good,
it will be a second act
unlike almost
any American writer has had.
I wanted you to ask me
if I ever met J.D. Salinger.
Mr Berg, have you
ever met J.D. Salinger?
I've never met J.D. Salinger.
But I came close.
When I was researching my book
on Max Perkins,
I went up to visit
Max Perkins's sister,
and as we're sitting there
at dinner, I said,
"Gosh," you know, "as I was
driving up to see you,
"it occurred to me that
across the covered bridge
"is Cornish, New Hampshire, and
J.D. Salinger lives over there.
"Have you ever seen
J.D. Salinger?"
And she said, "Well,
why do you want to know?"
I said,
"Well, I was just curious."
And she said, "Well,
as a matter of fact,
"he sat in that chair you're
sitting in just last night
"when I served him dinner."
I said, "You're kidding."
She said, "No, no,
he comes over here regularly,
"'cause he comes over
to pick up his mail.
"He'll stop in. Sometimes
I'll ask him to stay to dinner."
I said, "Really? J.D. Salinger?"
She said, "Well, do you have
anything to say to him?"
"I mean, if I had
J.D. Salinger and you to dinner,
"what would you want to know?"
I said, "Well, I think I'd want
to know if he's still writing."
She said, "Well, yes,
he's still writing."
I said, "OK." And...
She said, "Anything else
you'd want to know?"
I said, "No, just
that he's OK, I guess."
She said, "He's fine."
Every moment
was so precious...
"So there's no reason for you
to ever see him, is there?"
Dinner was over.
That was as close as I got
to J.D. Salinger.
It's such a perfect day
I remember we were walking
Up to strawberry swing
I can't wait till the morning
Wouldn't wanna change a thing
People moving all the time
Inside a perfectly
straight line
Don't you wanna curve away?
And it's such
It's such a perfect day
It's such a perfect day
Now the sky could be blue
I don't mind
Without you,
it's a waste of time
Could be blue
I don't mind
Without you,
it's a waste of sky...
It's called
'Catcher in the Rye',
and it has some
very risqu parts.
Strong, vulgar language.
And, in fact...
...many schools across
the country still ban this book
because it's thought to be
so inappropriate.
Oh, man, I can't wait!
Tonight, more coverage of
Washington's Foley Follies,
a tribute to one of America's
most underrated presidents,
and I sit down
with author J.D. Salinger.
J.D. Salinger
is on your show tonight?
Yeah, got a new book out.
He's doing a junket.
Me, 'Hannity & Colmes'
and 'The View'.
Stephen, you're... you're...'re lying, right?
Well, I did invite
Salinger to come on.
Can we please read this
right now?!