Last Rights for JD Salinger: Genius or Just Average?

Salinger Hounded by Sycophants

Salinger moved from his Manhattan apartment to rural Cornish, N.H., in 1953, after the publication of "Nine Stories." There he lived in self-imposed isolation, persecuted -- at least by his own accounts -- by hounding fans and literary sycophants. . He lived an increasingly odd life, according to Joyce Maynard, who wrote about the year she lived with Salinger in 1973, eating a macrobiotic diet that consisted largely of frozen peas and under-cooked lamb patties.

Maynard, who was 18 at the time, refused to comment on Salinger, then 53, whom she called "Jerry."

"It's all in the book," she told

She described the author as a crotchety and controlling Caulfield who never showed her his writing, but kept numerous manuscripts locked in a safe, away from the eyes of critics.

"Publication is a messy business," Salinger tells Maynard in her 1998 memoir, "At Home in the World." "All those loutish, cocktail-party-going opinion-givers, so ready to pass judgment. Bad enough when they do that to a writer. But when they start on your characters – and they do -- it's murder."

She described an archive he created of the quirky Glass family, who featured in the novella, "Franny and Zooey," and the story, "Perfect Day for Bananafish," in which he chronicled the suicide of the Seymour, the tortured and gifted patriarch who some say was a grown-up Caulfield and Salinger alter ego.

The characters, according to Maynard, "seem as real to him as the family into which he was born and about whom he feels far greater affection."

"He has compiled stacks of notes and notebooks concerning the habits and background of the Glasses -- music they like, places they go, episodes in their history," she wrote. "He fills in the facts as diligently as a parent, keeping up to date with the scrapbooks."

Salinger fiercely defended not only his privacy but control over his letters.

In 1986, he stopped the publication of a biography by British writer Ian Hamilton.

Maynard herself sold her letters in 1999 to software developer Peter Norton, who said he would return them to Salinger. Even today, after his death, a Swedish writer with the pseudonym J.D. California is fighting a court injunction against publication in the U.S. of a so-called sequel to "Catcher in the Rye."

Famous Authors Published from the Grave

But in death, Salinger has less control over his legacy, and a literary executor could release his safe-bound manuscripts. He wouldn't be the first to have his writing published posthumously.

Ralph Ellison saw his follow-up novel to "Invisible Man" go up in flames in a 1967 house fire. He spent decades revising it, but died in 1994 with an unfinished 1000-page unfinished manuscript, which his literary executor published as "Juneteenth" in 1999.

Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Emily Dickinson and Jack Kerouac all had work published from the grave.

As far back as Virgil, authors have left strict instructions for the demise of their writings, only to be overruled by others.

Most recently, the son of Vladmir Nabokov ["Lolita"] ignored his father's instructions to destroy his last novel, publishing "Laura" last year, three decades after the writer's death. Franz Kafka asked that his writing be incinerated but his friend Max Brod published "The Trial" and "The Castle."

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