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J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  169 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
A spirited, deeply personal inquiry into the near-mythic life and canonical work of J. D. Salinger by a writer known for his sensitivity to the Manhattan culture that was Salinger's great theme.
Three years after his death at ninety-one, J.D. Salinger remains our most mythic writer. The Catcher in the Rye (1951) became an American classic, and he was for a long time the wri
Kindle Edition
Published June 3rd 2014
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Linda Hardin
Jul 02, 2014 Linda Hardin rated it it was ok
Confused writer

I enjoyed the insights about J.D. Salinger. At times, the author focuses on his own life and other areas of non-interest. The book also jumps around in time without a purpose. It could have been so much better if examples of Salinger's words were used to illustrate his points.
Feb 16, 2015 Kathleen rated it really liked it
This is an odd book. It's not so much a biography of J.D. Salinger as much as it is a series of short personal essays inspired by him as well as the author's research into his work and history.

Thomas Beller delves into Salinger's life and his relationships with family, friends and colleagues through an intensely personal lens. It's less about Salinger than about Beller himself, who is an elegant writer in his own right, though not the same kind of legend, of course. Who is?

Salinger became nearly
Christine Fay
Apr 03, 2015 Christine Fay rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I really don’t see where Beller gets off criticizing Margaret Salinger’s unauthorized biography of her father. I venture to guess that she knew him better than Beller did. Oh, wait, did Beller even meet him or did he just travel around to Salinger’s old haunts, hoping to get a glimpse of the J.D. Salinger that once was . . .? Or did Beller merely look through some old manuscripts of a biography that was never published? Regardless, this book didn’t really offer anything beyond what was already ...more
Feb 14, 2015 Allyson rated it really liked it
I loved the cover, size, and style of this very small book. I remain very confused about The Catcher in the Rye and when I saw this at the library, given his credentials, I thought this a perfect follow up read. Just enough information about Salinger without overtaxing my brain. Certainly he was an enigma but maybe as much for the absence as for the presence of it all. I remain unsure what to think but very much enjoyed this small book for very many reasons.
Sep 09, 2014 Danielle rated it liked it
Really wish Beller delved into Salinger's relationship with the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of NY (instead of saying he hates that one of his favorite authors strode down the perhaps shakey path of religion/mysticism...ugh)...would have been REAL helpful :/
Chris Craddock
Who Dini?

The Escape Artist is about J.D. Salinger but it is also about the author himself, his experiences while doing research, the fate of other Salinger biographers, and finally, in some of the books most moving passages, what Salinger's writing meant to him personally. He also weighs in on how ultimately Salinger's Fortress of Solitude failed to protect him from the kryptonite of crazies waving his book around after committing murders, and the crazy rumors that flourished in the vacuum about
Jun 18, 2014 Mitchell rated it it was ok
I can understand New Horizons (Icons) assigning or contracting this author to produce this book. Thomas Beller not an unknown and, like Salinger, he hails from NYC. But why didn't New Horizons have a "reject" clause and refuse this mess? Perhaps because a certain number of sales were guaranteed? They knew they could dump at least one copy in every library collection in the country because libraries now let Ingram and other contract jobbers do the bulk of choosing the books they buy.

Umpteen times
Camille McCarthy
Dec 31, 2014 Camille McCarthy rated it it was ok
This was a strange book for me. It wasn't so much a biography as an interpretation of Salinger's biography based on an appreciation of his works. It was confusing to me because it's really for the reader who already knows Salinger's works and biography and wants someone to mash them together into a personal connection. Beller muses on aspects of Salinger's life, visits some of the places Salinger lived, and shares anecdotes he's collected on Salinger from secondhand sources. He talks a lot ...more
Stephen Buggy
Aug 17, 2014 Stephen Buggy rated it liked it
As with every biography of the super-litigious and private Salinger, this biography is heavily padded and missing the usual details we have come to expect from an author's biography. Thomas Beller is at all times and amiable companion on this journey through Salinger's life.

The most surprising revelation for me was how Salinger became the worst type of religious nut in his later years. (He wrote to his dying New Yorker editor explaining how embracing Zen would cure him of his illness.)

There are
Jun 03, 2014 Kandace rated it it was amazing
Thomas Beller

Publication Date
June 3, 2014

Much more than your typical biography. Beller has wove Salinger's life throughout his own story and created a beautiful tapestry of life as not just an artist, but as a human being.

High Points
I like that this is so much more than a rehash of Salinger's life. Beller has given us a glimpse of how one's work can intersect and illuminate one's life quite beautifully. This isn't just a biography, it is an ode in prose.

Low Points

My only compl
PennsyLady (Bev)
Jan 22, 2016 PennsyLady (Bev) rated it really liked it
by writer and Tulane University professor Thomas Beller

Publishers Weekly
"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. "

Thomas Beller
"I came to feel, in the course of this project, that too much time and energy has b
Aug 27, 2014 Lissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-books
I found this to be a strange biography and while I liked it very much, I am having a hard time with the words to describe it. There has been a lot of Salinger news in the years since his death as the existence of his further works has come to light. This book is about Salinger but is also about the author and his voyage to understand Salinger’s life. The book is under 200 pages so it is definitely not the most comprehensive biography written but it does provide a broad overview of Salinger’s ...more
Oct 09, 2014 Ally rated it liked it
While Beller is a great writer, capable of weaving together images and transporting the reader, JD Salinger: The Escape Artist feels unfinished. Not quite a bio. Something a bit more than a musing, the book meanders through time (not in chronological order) making numerous pit stops to discuss Bellers life, his dislike of Salinger's daughters writing (almost obsessive dislike) and to draw very loose parallels between Salinger's father and his own. That said, Salinger HAUNTS this book, peeking ...more
Aug 24, 2014 Sam rated it it was ok
This is a strange biographical look at J.D. Salinger, his writing, and one writer's (the author, Thomas Beller) experience with Salinger's work and world. That's not to say it's bad, because it's not. It's okay, has some new information and insight about Salinger - most notably around the important influence of editor Gus Lobrano on Salinger's work. However, too often speculation and interpretation get in the way of straight biography or literary discussion. I would read it if you are a big ...more
Don Gorman
Aug 19, 2014 Don Gorman rated it it was ok
I think I learned more than I ever wanted to know about J.D. Salinger in 180 pages. I knew he was a quirky guy and that indeed, made for this quirky book. It flits around a great deal, no real flow other than a semblance of chronology, and it is hard to follow at times. It also is rather dry, more based on reporting information about those surrounding Salinger through correspondence as opposed to giving us any real insight on the man himself. Either way, it was an interesting expedition, but ...more
Jul 07, 2014 Danielle rated it liked it
I won this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.

I liked this book because of the way the author told his own story in conjunction with the life of J.D. Salinger. Sometimes you might experience a book that is on a high selling topic that also happens to be original but this book seems like it was written because they thought it would sell after the death of J.D. Salinger. Informative story but I think there might have been better angles to use in approaching this tale.

Ray Palen
Jun 30, 2014 Ray Palen rated it really liked it
Far from your typical biography, Thomas Beller fully shares his own journey and research in putting together this work on the infamous and reclusive author, J.D. Salinger.

Much has been written about Salinger but Beller breaks some new ground and his unique approach to non-fiction makes for a quick and enjoyable read. Jerome David or J.D. was known as "Sonny" by family members and THE ESCAPE ARTIST poses an interesting argument for his desire to step out of the limelight.
Liz Matheny
Jan 26, 2016 Liz Matheny rated it it was ok
This was not what I was expecting, so I skimmed through it.

Instead of a focus on Salinger, this tells the story of Beller's experience trying to find and reveal information about Salinger. Divided into short chapters, or vignettes, that concentrate on a different element or experience from Salinger's life, the chapters are more revealing of the author or of secondary characters than Salinger himself.

A little disappointing, but I can see why some would enjoy this book.
Taylor Church
Nov 07, 2014 Taylor Church rated it liked it
This book was okay. I think I expected more depth, more insights into the reclusivity of Mr. Salinger. The writing was strong at times and very interesting at other times. The biggest takeaway I suppose is my new desire to read every short story that Salinger got out on paper. It was a quick and easy read, and though it was all over the place at times, it held my interest.
Kevin A.
Oct 14, 2014 Kevin A. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short biography (almost more of a commentary, really) does not seek to be definitive, and is all the better for it. Beller understands both Salinger's appeal and his craft, as a fellow fiction writer. Salinger the man is worth spending time with, but maybe not a lifetime, so this smart, opinionated book is perfect.
Connie Bickford
Jul 18, 2014 Connie Bickford rated it really liked it
For me, this was a very interesting read. I have been a fan of J.D. Salinger since my grandparents gave me his books for Christmas when I was 18 and living on my own. Having read this book, I am now compelled to explore his earlier stories so that I am able see the how his writing developed and re-read the books I have through different eyes.
Aug 23, 2015 Kitchener rated it it was ok
A Triptych Down Memory Lame

...I don't have an actual review to share, I just thought that would be a super clever title for a negative review of this haughty-ass book. And yes, the title contains italics--due mostly to the off chance that Thomas Beller might read it and become annoyed.
Jun 03, 2016 Steve rated it liked it
An interesting and frustrating "quest" biography, as much about Beller as about its subject. Still, a nice mosaic, some of the chapters read like memoir, some like biography, some like cultural criticism, some like prose poems.
Thanks to Netgalley for this ebook.

An interesting read about J.D Salinger. a thoroughly enjoyable book which differs from other biographies. "The Escape Artist" focuses not just on Salinger himself, but on the effect his works have had on Beller.

Would recommend to any Salinger fan.
Aug 04, 2014 Rose rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good short meditation on Salinger rather than a biography. Nice conversational tone. Starts in a linear way, then skips around. No illustrations,but suffers more from lack of any documentation. Still, a very good place to start if you do not want to take on a large biography.
Jul 08, 2014 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned far more about the author of this book than I did about Salinger. His writing style is easy to get sucked into-- very conversational and accessible-- but I want to know more about Salinger than what was presented!
Donna Peake
Aug 05, 2014 Donna Peake rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014-books-read
Salinger was really a character who seemed to want privacy. I enjoyed peeking into his life. I've only ever read Catcher in the Rye, think I will read another one of his books.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Thank you, Nancy, for your generosity. You are one of the many amazingly cool people on Good Reads that make me keep participating here in spite of myself.
Jun 11, 2014 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written, and very interesting. Any fan of Salinger's should read this, and even if you not a fan, it's well worth your time to read.
Sep 10, 2016 Kaite rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won a free copy from the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway Program and think that it interesting. I would recommend it to everyone.
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“In the Glass family stories, the mother is portrayed as hungry for her son’s correspondence and news. She is portrayed as insatiable for this, in fact, and for this reason her son Zooey is in a constant state of mortified retreat. This theme plays itself out in many of Salinger’s stories, the reticent brother and son who doesn’t keep in touch.” 0 likes
“A couple of hours later, his mother arrived in the lobby and found her son, dressed head to toe in his Indian costume, complete with a long feather headdress. His suitcase was by his side. “Mother, I’m running away,” he said. “But I stayed to say goodbye to you.” 0 likes
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