"J.D. Salinger: A Life" by Kenneth Slawenski , published by Random House is a critical biography of J.D. Salinger’s Life."/>


"J.D. Salinger: A Life" by Kenneth Slawenski , published by Random House is a critical biography of J.D. Salinger’s Life."/> The Next Chapter: Biographies explore lives of Salinger, Child | News, Sports, Jobs - SANIBEL-CAPTIVA - Island Reporter, Islander and Current
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The Next Chapter: Biographies explore lives of Salinger, Child

By Staff | Mar 9, 2011

This review is of two books that show sides of the personalities of two icons of the 20th century — both are authors and both are “household” names today. In reading these books, I found that there was a lot I didn’t know about them, despite the hype their names have seemingly always generated.

“J.D. Salinger: A Life” by Kenneth Slawenski , published by Random House is a critical biography of J.D. Salinger’s Life.

The author spends at least as much time analyzing each of Salinger’s stories as they were written or published as he does to what happened to Salinger leading up to the story’s publication. This is not a bad thing — as it turns out, most of his writing was a reflection of what was going on in his own life. Thus, it is no surprise that Salinger grew up in a famous apartment in New York with a mother who doted on him, that he went to military school, that he wasn’t a great student and wasn’t really inspired until college when he met an influential professor who shaped his writing.

What did surprise me was his military career — he was in the thick of WWII, landing at Normandy and slogging his way to the Battle of the Bulge, ending up at the liberation of Dachau and writing about all of it as he went, often typing under a table or in a foxhole with fellow soldiers dying around him.

His writing became something of meditation, and perhaps a medication for what he saw around him. After the war, he came home with a German bride who was perhaps too much of an equal to him and then later married a much younger woman and settled into seclusion in Cornish, N.H., where he stayed until his death at the age of 91. The second marriage brought a daughter who later published a biography of her father, much to his chagrin. That marriage also ended in divorce.

Meanwhile, his stories — which had originally been published in Story magazine — began appearing elsewhere, especially in the New Yorker and then finally “Catcher in the Rye” was published, then “Franny and Zooey” and “Nine Stories.” All created a stir in their own ways. The more fame he received, the more problems he had with his publishers and the press. In the end, he married a local woman many years his junior and died in his beloved home in Cornish a year ago.

And then, there is the much more loveable, Julia Child — irascible, witty, thwarted by publishers herself. “As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto,” edited by Joan Reardon and published by Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt will make you feel like you knew Julia Child personally. When Julia wrote a fan letter to Bernard DeVoto who wrote a column about knives, his wife Avis answered her letter and a lifetime friendship began. Avis helped Julia navigate the waters of American publishing and encouraged her to submit a proposal to Houghton Mifflin and then worked with her for years on her book. When the book was finally rejected because it was too long and too detailed after years of work, Julia proposed to shorten it and then that version was rejected too. Eventually, Avis found her a place at Alfred A. Knopf and the rest is history.

And speaking of history, this book is full of Julia’s observations of 1950s history from her perch in Paris and Germany and Avis’ from Boston, where she and her husband know many of the important players. Both are adamantly anti-McCarthy and reading their uncensored opinions can only be summed up as “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose,” as the similarities between their time and ours are astonishing. There is a lot of personal information in the book, as both encounter professional success and defeats within their families and the unfortunate early death of Bernard DeVoto. Avis DeVoto holds her own as a character as interesting as Julia Child — which is saying a lot — and Julia’s co-author Simca is also given her due. You don’t have to be a foodie to love this book.

Of these two icons, there’s no question whom I would rather go to dinner with, but they both made a huge impact on our culture and have inspired writers, readers, cooks and eaters for decades.

The Next Chapter – Two Icons – Nola Theiss

This review is of two books that show sides of the personalities of two icons of the 20th century. Both are authors and both are “household” names today. In reading these books, I found that there was a lot I didn’t know about them, despite the hype their names have seemingly always generated.

“J.D. Salinger: A Life” by Kenneth Slawenski , published by Random House is a critical biography of J.D. Salinger’s Life. The author spends at least as much time analyzing each of Salinger’s stories as they were written or published as he does to what happened to Salinger leading up to the story’s publication. This is not a bad thing as it turns out that most of his writing was a reflection of what was going on in his own life. Thus, it is no surprise that Salinger grew up in a famous apartment in New York with a mother who doted on him, that he went to military school, that he wasn’t a great student and wasn’t really inspired until college when he met an influential professor who shaped his writing.

What did surprise me was his military career. He was in the thick of WWII, landing at Normandy and slogging his way to the Battle of the Bulge, ending up at the liberation of Dachau and writing about all of it as he went, often typing under a table or in a foxhole with fellow soldiers dying around him. His writing became something of meditation and perhaps a medication for what he saw around him. After the war, he came home with a German bride who was perhaps too much of an equal to him and then married a much younger woman and settled into seclusion in Cornish, NH where he stayed until his death at the age of 91. The second marriage brought a daughter who later published a biography of her father, much to his chagrin. That marriage also ended in divorce. Meanwhile, his stories which had originally been published in Story magazine began appearing elsewhere, especially in the New Yorker and then finally “Catcher in the Rye” was published, then “Franny and Zooey” and “Nine Stories”. All created a stir in their own ways. The more fame he received, the more problems he had with his publishers and the press. In the end, he married a local woman many years his junior and died in his beloved home in Cornish a year ago.

And then, there is the much more loveable, Julia Child – irascible, witty, thwarted by publishers herself. “As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto”, edited by Joan Reardon and published by Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt will make you feel like you knew Julia Child personally. When Julia wrote a fan letter to Bernard DeVoto who wrote a column about knives, his wife Avis answered her letter and a lifetime friendship began. Avis helped Julia navigate the waters of American publishing and encouraged her to submit a proposal to Houghton Mifflin and then worked with her for years on her book. When the book is finally rejected because it is too long and too detailed after years of work, Julia proposed to shorten it and that version is rejected too. Eventually Avis found her a place at Alfred A. Knopf and the rest is history.

And speaking of history, this book is full of Julia’s observations of 1950’s history from her perch in Paris and Germany and Avis’ from Boston where she and her husband know many of the important players. Both are adamantly anti-McCarthy and reading their uncensored opinions can only be summed up as “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” as the similarities between their time and ours are astonishing. There is much personal information in the book as both encounter professional success and defeats within their families and the unfortunate early death of Bernard DeVoto. Avis DeVoto holds her own as a character as interesting as Julia Child which is saying a lot and Julia’s co-author Simca is also given her due. You don’t have to be a foodie to love this book.

Of these two icons, there’s no question whom I would rather go to dinner with, but they both made a huge impact on our culture and have inspired writers, readers, cooks and eaters for decades.