Perhaps the greatest literary mystery of the past half-century was the famously guarded life of J.D. Salinger, the author who redefined high school syllabuses forever, then 14 years later disappeared to his compound in Cornish, N.H. “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing,” he told the New York Times in 1974. After his death in 2010, the burning question remained: When he wasn’t flashing displeasure at probing photographers and curious fans, what did Salinger do during the last 45 years of his life?
According to Salinger, a new documentary produced by the Weinstein Co., and a corresponding 700-page book of the same title by the film’s director, Shane Salerno, and co-author David Shields, he spent at least some of that time at a typewriter. The new investigation into the author’s life claims that Salinger left behind explicit instructions to his estate to publish five books beginning in 2015. The New York Times reported that Salinger’s new works include: a “story-filled ‘manual’ of the Vedanta religious philosophy”; a book called The Family Glass, with five never-before-seen stories; another collection of stories called The Last and Best of the Peter Pans, which will revisit the Caulfield family from The Catcher in the Rye; a novella based on Salinger’s years as a soldier in World War II; and a new novel set during the same period about the author’s first marriage.
If the unwavering interest in Salinger’s most indelible work is any indication, Salinger’s new publisher—who isn’t yet named, according to the Times—is looking at healthy profits. According to the Washington Post, The Catcher in the Rye routinely sells 250,000 copies a year; in 2009, the Times reported that the book had sold 35 million copies worldwide. After Salinger died in January 2010, the book went on to sell 578,141 copies that year. (The agent for Salinger’s estate won’t confirm sales figures—or comment on anything else.) The book, which has been published by Little, Brown during its entire run, currently ranks No. 23 on Amazon. (Amazon also sells an original copy of the New Yorker containing Salinger’s final published short story, titled “Hapworth 16, 1924,” for $600.)
Simon & Schuster (CBS) will release the new Salinger biography, which it says details new findings and observations about the author’s life, mined from diaries, letters, and previously unseen photographs, in September. In pre-sales, the book is currently ranked No. 126 on Amazon. “I would expect it to be one of the biggest publishing events of the year, if not the decade,” Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp told the Times.
Well, as far as the decade goes, it sounds like Mr. Salinger hopes to have something to say about that.