When J.D. Salinger passed away on January 27, 2010, he left behind specific instructions that detailed release dates for his unpublished work. Since then, fans of the author (who is often described as hermetic, mysterious, curmudgeonly, and brilliant, sometimes all in the same sentence) have eagerly awaited the release of his first new works in over 50 years. In anticipation for the new stories, and in tandem with the Salinger biopic that's being released tomorrow, here are five predictions about Salinger’s five new books, which will be published from 2015 through 2020.
J.D.Salinger is known for casting young people as protagonists in his work. Holden Caulfield and the Glass siblings are burning emblems of youth that inspired generations of readers over the past 50 years. In a 1946 issue of Harper's magazine, Salinger stated that, “I almost always write about young people.” This focus ensured Salinger's enduring connection with the insight and precocity of kids who felt they didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the world. We can expect a large portion of Salinger's new work to feature youthful characters in the midst of self-discovery and social scrutiny.
J.D. Salinger famously delved into Sri Ramakrishna’s Advaita Vedanta Hinduism during the 1950s. He considered his discovery of The Gospels of Sri Ramakrishna a turning point in his life, and quickly adopted its practices. The theme of religion, and, in particular, his Hindu beliefs, became apparent in his work from then on. In the short story “Teddy,” a precocious 10-year-old child shares Vedantic beliefs about the nature of the universe with another boy, covering topics such as reincarnation and meditation. In Franny and Zooey, Salinger includes various religious quotations in the second part of the book, which details the spiritual growth of young Franny Glass over the course of its pages. Salinger was an avid practitioner of Hinduism, and it is likely to remain a focus in his later writing.
The Glass family is probably the most enduring cast of characters created by J.D. Salinger. Its members are featured in his post-Catcher in the Rye period, including the books Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction, and short stories like "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut," "Down at the Dinghy," and "A Perfect Day for Bananafish." While these stories have largely focused on children Seymour, Buddy, Franny, and Zooey, we may glean insights into the remaining members of the Glass family, especially the Glass parents, Les and Bessie. There are also three remaining children, not to mention characters outside the immediate family. Could we start to get a glimpse of Glass cousins, in-laws, and grandparents, as well?
According to the documentary Salinger, one of J.D. Salinger's new books will be a novella detailing the work of a counterintelligence officer during the World War II, told in the form of diary entries. Another will be a novel inspired by Salinger’s relationship with his first wife, Sylvia Welter, a German woman he met shortly after the war ended. Both works will touch on a subject Salinger was reluctant to speak about in any real measure: his experience of war. Salinger's time in the military has long been the subject of speculation. As part of the 12th Infantry Regiment, he participated in the liberation of Dachau, through which likely saw all manner of horrors. These two new titles may paint a more extensive picture of the author’s wartime experiences, and how they shaped him.
The story "The Last and Best of the Peter Pans," written in 1962, will feature an older version of Holden Caulfield, Salinger’s best-known protagonist. The new work could provide a fresh perspective on the disillusioned youth. What’s happened with him since we left him in Catcher in the Rye? Perhaps Caulfield's life changes and interests will parallel the author's. He might even adopt Hinduism, or adopt a hermetic life in New Hampshire.