Friday, January 31, 2014


The documentary Salinger (2013; dir. Shayne Salerno), was interesting and disturbing.  It was just what Salinger wouldn't have wanted, but then he is dead, and I don't think he should be exempt from this sort of thing more than anyone else.  This film takes an enigmatic subject about whom many have theorized and fantasized and puts together an explanation of his life based on the opinions of 50 or so people, including Philip Seymour Hoffman and Martin Sheen and Judd Apatow (??) and a lot of writers, editors, and scholars, all of whom appeared to know Salinger’s work and a few who knew him personally.  The film offers three related readings of the man’s life: (1) he was a victim of post WWII trauma and spent his entire career trying to write his way through the pain.  (2) He was fixated on innocence and so was attracted to young women who embodied it.  The film offers Joyce Maynard as a main example, but includes interviews with a few former girlfriends and one ex-wife.  Salinger dances around the question of how deviant this behavior might have been.  And finally (3) despite his obsession with privacy and anonymity in the end his own work turned against him when Catcher in the Rye was cited as a primary motive in two assassination/murders and one attempted assassination.  The film ends cheesily by trotting out information about works Salinger completed and approved for publication before his death.  The first will be published in 2015 and other works will follow.  All of this, a message informs us, has been "verified by two independent sources.”  So the film gives us a version of Salinger invented and constructed by people who did and did not know him and who have their own individual perspectives.  Despite all the information here, there is much speculation, and there is prurience.  Salinger was important to me in younger days (the Glass stories made a bigger impression on me than Catcher), but now he is one of many tumbling along in the dust.

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