Salinger would have hated “Salinger”
I. What Salinger Would Have Thought
THE MOST UNEQUIVOCAL THING you can say about both the film documentary Salinger, directed by Shane Salerno, and the “official book of the acclaimed documentary film” Salinger, compiled and edited by Salerno and David Shields, is that J.D. Salinger would have hated every single word and frame in both of them. Hated them, felt enraged, betrayed, flayed by them. That will either matter to you or it won’t. It’ll matter if you believe, as Salinger did, that people — even a writer whose most famous novel has sold over 65,000,000 copies — have the right to their privacy, and that stitching together a biography of a man who strenuously guarded that privacy once The Catcher in the Rye made him a household name — who instructed those close to him to keep absolutely mum about him to reporters, paparazzi, academic moochers, obsessed fans; who in a myriad of direct ways pleaded with those who invaded his life to leave him alone — necessarily results in a distorted and unjust portrait, painted disproportionately by those who, for whatever reason, have axes to grind and scores to settle. It won’t matter if you believe, as Salerno, Shields, and most of American culture appears to believe, that this is the fucking 2010s, that privacy is a quaint throwback, that public figures are deluded to think they can evade media scrutiny, and that — to give you just one instance — the discovery that Jerome David Salinger lived his life with one descended testicle gives one carte blanche to speculate wildly, irresponsibly, without evidence, and with no credible medical or psychological expertise, on how the undescended testicle must have affected his life and work.