J.D. Salinger gave the world The Catcher in the Rye and then, basically, disappeared. The man rarely granted interviews and spent much of his life as a recluse, up to his death in 2010. Now, though, the world gets a tiny glimpse into Salinger's life, thanks to a series of letters recently acquired by the Morgan Library & Museum.
The letters are part of a correspondence between a 22-year-old Salinger and a young Toronto woman, Marjorie Sheard, back in the1940s. Sheard is now 95 and her family sold the letters to help pay for her care.
Salinger writes about his short stories in The New Yorker, recommends The Great Gatsby and other works, and exaggerates his own romantic endeavors. He also discusses his early Holden Caulfield stories and flirted with Sheard.
Over the next two years, Salinger sent Ms. Sheard a total of nine letters that were often humorous and occasionally flirty. “What do you look like?” he wrote to her on Oct. 9, 1941, asking that she send him a large photograph. One month later he apologized for his brazen request: “I wrote from a mood — and not a nice one.”
But when Ms. Sheard complied nonetheless and sent along a picture, Salinger replied: “Sneaky girl. You’re pretty.”
He comes across as incredibly confident, but offers just enough self-deprecating humor to keep you rooting for him. Really, it's exactly what you'd want from private Salinger letters.
But at the start of 1942, Salinger’s correspondence takes a sardonic turn, and he asks Ms. Sheard not to bring up his as-yet-unpublished Holden Caulfield story. “God and Harold Ross alone know what that bunch of pixies on the staff are doing with my poor script,” he writes, referring to the founding editor of The New Yorker. [The New York Times]