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In Search of J. D. Salinger, A Biography Hardcover – May 12, 1988


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (May 12, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394534689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394534688
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #672,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This embattled biography has been revised because of the legal suit Salinger instituted to stop publication, and the most valuable part of the book is Hamilton's proud and indignant exposition of those long proceedings, torturous to him and endangering, he feels, to Constitutional freedoms. At issue were Salinger's unpublished letters, and Hamilton is rightly disturbed by the fact that, in covering the case, newspapers and magazines were able to print the very correspondence he was restricted from using. He wonders: "Can we assume that the letters have been released into the public domain, that they are no longer 'unpublished' ? Would the Random House lawyers now let me put them back into my book?" The answer is no, and in its spelling out of Salinger's "writing life" (even in his original version, Hamilton only chronicled that life up to 1965, when Salinger stopped publishing), the biography is a dry, adequate chronology of publication dates and landmark events that lacks passion and driveperhaps the natural result of recounting a life so obsessively removed from engagement with the world. Within the text, Hamilton refers to himself and his biographer "alter ego" as "we," an affectation that distracts the reader.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This work, scheduled for release in August 1986, was abandoned after Salinger successfully sued to enjoin publication on the grounds of copyright violation. This book is an attempt to salvage the biography and, at the same time, to describe the problems Hamilton faced in writing the life of an author who prefers to remain hidden. Ironically, Salinger's suit to crush the biography caused him to relinquish some of his cherished privacy. Moreover, Hamilton's account of Salinger's conduct during the legal battles actually reveals more of Salinger's character than the snippets of letters that appeared in the original work. Essential reading for anyone interested in Salinger. Highly recommended for all literature collections. William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Judith Hubbard on April 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Although my primary motive for reading this book was research for a school paper, I was soon reading it for pleasure. The author's writing style is appealing, intelligent, and humorous. The comprehensive description and analysis of J.D. Salinger's life before he went into seclusion keeps the reader interested, not only in what Salinger did, but in how it was viewed by the world around him. Hamilton peppers the text with well-chosen quotes from both Salinger's works (both the well-known books and short stories as well as the lesser known short stories published by magazines) and from his contemporaries. Although Hamilton could not directly base his biography of Salinger off of an interview, his sources are well documented and believable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Stewart on September 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
After recently beginning Paul Alexander's biography, I was delighted to stumble upon Ian Hamilton's cautious, yet entertaining, meta-biography. He doesn't dwell and gets on with his story. Hamilton does a great job of exposing the split personality of the biographer: as both neophyte and leech upon the creative world. Hamilton questions the validity of the "simplest" details of his subject's secret life. His honesty and reverence for Salinger result in a well-executed piece of writing; the best I've read anyway.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Raskolnikov on February 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
The major problem with this book is that it only covers Salinger's life from 1919 to 1965. After this date, Hamilton only put a kind of resume of the trial that opposed him to Salinger. It sure is an interesting book to read, but there is way too much quotations and somehow you feel that you could've learned more. I suggest Paul Alexander's biography instead. It's more complete, even though he owes a lot to Hamilton who was one of the first to make profound researches about Salinger.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up a copy of this book in a used book store recently. I remember reading reviews about the book and the "fair use" controversy when it was first blocked and then later revised and published. I'm glad I finally read it. Like Hamilton, I fell under Salinger's spell in my youth, and I enjoyed reading Hamilton's account of the Salinger attraction. It is true that Hamilton's stylistic affectation of carrying on "debates" with his alter ego "biographer" can be distracting at first, but I found some of the points he made about his conflicting views and motives while researching and writing the book instructive. In fact, Hamilton did a good deal of orignial research, turned up some valuable new information about Salinger, especially in letters that were not previously known, and wrote a fair and balanced account of the difficulties of writing a biography about a writer as complicated and contradictory as J.D. Salinger. This is a good book both for Salinger fans, and for those who just don't get the Salinger phenomenon. I came away with a better understanding of Salinger's appeal and of the neuroses that account for it. There were many moments when I found myself agreeing with Hamilton even when I had a somewhat different take on Salinger and his possible motives. But Hamilton allows for those differences and provides the evidence for arriving at them.
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By A Customer on March 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The book became a cause celebre when Salinger himself came out of hiding in 1984 to challenge Hamilton's right to quote from his unpublished letters, and his suit was upheld on appeal. The book, already in galleys, had to be rewritten and none of the trove of material that Hamilton had uncovered could be used. So what we're left with is a sketchy biography, that only goes up to 1965, the date of Salinger's last publication ("Hapworth 16, 1924"-the long story that's supposed to be republished as a book one of these years). But most anyone interested in Salinger will enjoy reading this book regardless. It's well written, objective, often funny, and creates a believable picture of the man. The definitive biography will be some time in coming-the outstanding question, of course, is what has he written (and saved) since 1965-but if you're looking for SOMETHING new about Salinger in the meantime, this is well worth your time.
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