We thought he was the tight-lipped, pap-menacing boffin who wrote The Catcher in the Rye, but it turns out that he was a media popsy who was desperate to make contact with people and write books apart from The Catcher in the Rye.
The news from East Anglia is that a collection of letters JD Salinger wrote to a British friend, Donald Hartog, have now been given to archivists at the University of East Anglia. Journalists in Britain are agog at the idea that the great writer was giving off vital signs as late as 1989.
Far from secluding himself and eating lentils between bouts of yoga, it turns out that he was passionately engaged with the world. The proof is -- he wrote letters. To a friend. As far away as Britain.
More alarmingly, there are hints from the letters that he was working on something. For copyright reasons, we're not sure he was working on yet. A titanium shield for his barn, probably, but still, it's a start.
To be fair to the Salinger-seeking desperadoes, it seems that he travelled, too. He made it further than Niagara Falls; he actually came to Britain.
He chose his time wisely. It was a time when Margaret Thatcher was going ever crazier, and Europe was thinking about the Berlin Wall collapsing rather than novellas about Zen Buddhists. And he was careful to avoid Planet Hollywood on Piccadilly, Madame Tussauds and Buckingham Palace. It's unlikely that he even saw Cats.
One touching detail has slipped from the correspondence, though. He rather admired the tennis player Tim Henman. Remember Tim Henman? He was a tennis player from Britain before Andy Murray eclipsed him. We were all excited about him in the UK for a while, but he didn't catch on globally.
Salinger picked his celebrity with reliable brilliance: famous for a bit, then you never hear of him again. For all we know, Tim Henman is working on something as we speak.
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