Friday, September 20, 2013

Salinger: Hunting for Holden

Writer/director/producer Shane Salerno has given us an in-depth look at J.D. Salinger's life.

The most enlightening part of the story, for those unfamiliar with his history, involves Salinger's war experiences, which included the D-Day landing and a holocaust death camp. Apparently he had six chapters of Catcher in the Rye with him at the Normandy landing so his literary direction and themes were probably well charted before these horrors.

Doubtless his war service had a lasting effect on his views on public life. However, his reputation as a recluse seems exaggerated as he seems to have had a circle of loyal friends, including in his local community. His wives, children and partners have a different slant as he locked himself in his writing shack for weeks at a time.

He shared a deep rejection of the celebrity culture with To Kill a Mocking Bird's Harper Lee. The same cannot be said for the long list of Arts celebs who give their insights into Salinger's life and character. They range from Gore Vidal to Martin Sheen. The interviews with his writing and publishing colleagues, and friends from the early days shed much more light. Thank goodness, Truman Capote and Norman Mailer weren't around for the making of the documantary.

His fascination seemed to be not only with young women but with youth itself, as his iconic character Holden Caulfield attests. His self-deprecating J.D. is for juvenile delinquent gives a clue. His early romance with teenager Oona O'Neill, who married Charlie Chaplin, is presented as part of a pattern that continued in future relationships.

At 2 hours, it's at least half an hour too long. Some of the episodes of admirers tracking down their elusive idol do not warrant the treatment given them. Many of the reenactments and cinema scenes of Salinger writing also add little to our understanding. Lost count of the number of times Cornish–Windsor Covered Bridge appears as a filler to a minor diversion in the narrative.

For fans of his writing, there is the promise of lots of fiction publications of his post-1960s works commencing in a couple of years time.

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