J. D. Salinger created some of American fiction's most popular and beloved characters (Holden Caulfield, for instance, in "Catcher in the Rye"), yet the author, who died last year at 91, was a recluse and enigma. His biographer, Kenneth Slawenski, whose book "Salinger: A Life," was published not long after Salinger's death, visits the Westport Library on Feb. 13 to talk about his elusive subject. Westporter Sybil Steinberg, contributing editor and former book review section editor for Publishers Weekly, leads a conversation with Slawenski, to explore the progression of Salinger's works and other aspects of the author's life.
Slawenski has been a diehard Salinger fan for some time. In 2004, he went public with his fascination, creating a website, deadcaulfields.com. The site is chockfull of copious material on different aspects of Salinger's writing and his life, from his characters to his unpublished works. Although the website is a natural precursor to writing a biography of Salinger,Slawenski describes its purpose as a resource for other students and scholars. "It is my sincere hope that you will enjoy both the academic and interpretive materials which this site contains. It is also my hope that you will come to better know and appreciate the author whose contribution to American Literature and to the American psyche is undeniable," Slawenski wrote.
No surprise then, that in reviewing "Salinger: A Life," John Barron in the Chicago Sun Times singles out Slawenski's skill at gathering Salinger material, including his little known writing. "In tracing Salinger’s rise to fame, he meticulously recounts dozens of the author’s early stories that were rejected by the slick magazines ... and never resurfaced. Many of those that were accepted never saw print again," Barron wrote.
If you've loved J. D. Salinger's work, Kenneth Slawenski and his encyclopedic knowledge of the author should prove fascinating. The Westport Library event is free and begins at 2 p.m. For more information, visit the Library's website.