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J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist (Icons) Hardcover – June 3, 2014
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“Beller offers a uniquely literary inquiry into the combatively reclusive and epically blocked author of The Catcher in the Rye and beloved short story collections…A fine and stirring portrait of a haunted literary artist.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Beller...focuses on the minutiae of Salinger’s existence, the small details that Shields' biography skimmed over.” —Lit Reactor
“Beller writes with intelligence and insight” —The Los Angeles Times
“Irresistible…endearing…lyrical and precise… J.D. Salinger is the story of the resonance of its subject, but it is also the story of a generous, humorous, sensitive writer, which is to say Thomas Beller. Not much escapes him.” —The New York Times Book Review“Rather than writing a straightforward biography, Beller (How to Be a Man) offers here an exceptionally well-researched, deeply felt, and thoughtful exploration of the elusive author’s history, in which he probes Salinger’s life and prickly familial ties, and their manifestation in his timeless characters and settings.” —Publishers Weekly
“In this genre-bending nonfiction delight, a Tulane prof and contributor to The New Yorker tells a story of literary obsession, deftly folding a slim Salinger bio into a memoir of his own pursuit of the elusive literary icon.” —The New Orleans Times-Picayune
“The objective, exhaustive biographies of Salinger have been published. Beller supplies us with what's needed now—a book that shines with a deep personal passion for the writer.” —Edmund White, author of Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel and Marcel Proust: A Life
“In this mesmerizing brief biography, Thomas Beller captures in lively fashion the many sides of Salinger's complicated personality: the recluse, the distant father, the eccentric genius writer. And there is another personality here: the biographer himself, at once detective, story teller and acerbic critic rolled into one. It’s hugely readable; I couldn’t put it down.” —Patricia Bosworth, author of Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman
“So engaging, so funny, so witty and intelligent and wise. I had not thought it possible to learn anything more about Salinger, but Beller has done it. —Philip Lopate, author of To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction and Portrait Inside My Head
“This book approaches J. D. Salinger's life and art from six or seven angles, all of them acute. Beller reveals his own sensibility along with his subject's, and the result is a wonderfully personal portrait, telling in every detail, gesture, remark and reflection." —Daniel Menaker, author of My Mistake
“It's hard to imagine a more perfect pairing of author and subject than Thomas Beller and J.D. Salinger. Beller is not just a close reader of Salinger but an intimate companion, an aficionado/scholar whose expansive curiosity, sharp insight, and wry self-awareness make The Escape Artist both a pleasure and an education.” —Meghan Daum, author of My Misspent Youth
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Top Customer Reviews
There is a passage in The Catcher in the Rye where Holden Caulfield states that he likes to read books that, after you read them, you feel like you know the author well and want to call him up and chat. He has just read Out of Africa and would like to call Isak Dinesen up. He also wishes he could pal around with Ring Lardner. He doesn't feel that way about Somerset Maugham after reading Of Human Bondage, however. It turns out that tons of people feel that way after reading his books, and after trying to answer his fan mail personally it is just too much for him and he becomes a hermit. I remember reading a magazine article that was essentially the saga of a fan who felt such an overwhelming compulsion to meet him that he went searching for him, and when he finally did speak to him, the reclusive author didn't have much to say and was perplexed and bewildered about just exactly what these people expected of him. What did they want? Even though this story was nothing if not anti-climactic, I and no doubt many others read it with interest, curious to know what was going on with him. Was he still writing, and if so, why wasn't he publishing anything?Read more ›
Beller seems most interested in showing how his background and experiences are similar to Salinger's - not that interesting to the reader, though.
But about half way thru the book, Beller starts going off on tangents, particularly about the women in Salinger's life including daughter Margaret Salinger and Joyce Maynard who at age 19 moved in with the 53 year old author. Although seeming sympathetic with the plight of women who come into the orbit of a famous man, he makes a lot of mean-spirited cracks about Maynard in particular. At this point Beller's intentions begin to get muddy and his identification with Salinger turns unpleasantly competitive. Is he resentful of the obsessive hold Salinger has on his own imagination?
There is interesting new information (for me) about Salinger here, and Beller teases out intriguing connections between the author's life and his art. But Beller's attempt at paralleling his own life experiences with Salinger's just does not work. I'm left with no interest in reading more of the author's writing.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I frankly do not want to know that much about the author, I was more interested in learning about a character in the book named JD Salinger. Read morePublished 9 months ago by lawrence R hamilton
Less than I wanted to hear about Salinger, more than I needed to hear abut Beller. Are we sure he found the suppressed MS he says he lost?Published 11 months ago by George R. Yanok
The best book I have read this year. Much more than a biography, The Escape Artist is portrait of what it means to be an artist.Published 13 months ago by Jason Brown
Becoming my own Writer, after a lifetime of experience, I am interested in other writers life experiences to inspire me. I see common ground in many of my favorite authors.Published 14 months ago by Gerald Donoghue
This book fills in much biographical goodies about this brilliant, enigmatic writer. It adds another piece to the puzzle of J.D. Salinger. A most worthwhile read.Published 15 months ago by Lois C. Ernst