“There is a marvelous peace in not publishing,” J. D. Salinger confessed to The New York Times in 1974, nine years after his final short story appeared in The New Yorker. “Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”
For decades, Salinger-philes held out hope that the reclusive author, who died in 2010, was still writing stories, perhaps even novels, and that one day he would allow those new works to be published. Now, with the release of a new biography by David Shields and Shane Salerno (and the companion documentary), comes the claim that five new Salinger books will be published between 2015 and 2020—including The Family Glass, an anthology of existing Glass stories as well as new material and a genealogy of the eccentric clan, and a re-worked version of “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans,” an unpublished story about Holden Caulfield’s family that will be packaged with existing Caulfield stories and The Catcher in the Rye.
But for those who can’t wait for the new works—or fear they will never actually be released—there is plenty of “lost” Salinger to discover. From 1940 to 1965, Salinger published 22 stories in various magazines—including The New Yorker, Esquire, and The Saturday Evening Post—that do not appear in his three collections.
And it’s a shame because many of them provide early glimpses of canonical characters. In 1943’s “The Varioni Brothers,” for instance, Salinger created proto-versions of Seymour and Buddy Glass. Joe Varioni is a promising novelist whose genius is tragically undermined by his manipulative brother, Sonny (Salinger’s childhood nickname). Did he not allow the story to be republished because it had failed to sell to Hollywood and he wanted to bury it—or because the narrative revealed too much about the war within himself as a serious artist?
And modern readers would have surely loved to look for literary clues in “A Young Girl in 1941 with No Waist at All.” In that story, published in 1947, the main character, Ray Kinsella, not only shares traits with Seymour, he also has the same name of the character played by Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. W.P. Kinsella, who wrote Shoeless Joe, the book on which the movie is based, named his protagonist after the Salinger character—not his own surname. (And in Kinsella’s novel, Ray goes searching for the reclusive Salinger, not Terence Mann as the character was renamed for the movie.)
Some stories—such as “I’m Crazy” and “Slight Rebellion Off Madison”—are understandably not collected because they were later reworked as scenes in The Catcher in the Rye. While others, written before Catcher, reveal what happened to Holden Caulfield in the years since he was expelled from Pencey Prep. In “The Last Day of the Last Furlough,” Vincent Caulfield reveals that Holden, now a soldier in World War II, has been reported as missing in action. And in “This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise,” published a year later in 1945, Vincent is still haunted by the news. “Missing, missing, missing. Lies!” he wails. “I’m being lied to. He’s never been missing before. He’s one of the least missing boys in the world.”
When an unauthorized edition of the 22 uncollected stories was published without his consent in 1974, Salinger was outraged enough to break his silence and talk to the Times about what he considered stolen property. “I wrote them a long time ago,” he told the paper, “and I never had any intention of publishing them. I wanted them to die a perfectly natural death.” Today, copies of the two-volume collection can still be found in rare bookstores selling for nearly $1,000.
The original magazines containing the stories can also be purchased on eBay or from antiquarian booksellers, including the last story he ever published, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” which is written as a letter from camp by a seven-year-old Seymour Glass.
“Hapworth,” as with all the stories Salinger originally published in The New Yorker, can always be read online by subscribers, but then all of Salinger’s so-called “underpublished” stories can be read on the Web. You just need to know where to look.