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Salinger: A Biography

3.14 of 5 stars 3.14  ·  rating details  ·  196 ratings  ·  18 reviews
J.D. Salinger was one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers. He was also one of its most elusive. After making his mark on the American literary scene, Salinger retreated to a small town in New Hampshire where he hoped to hide his life away from the world. With dogged determination, however, journalist and biographer Paul Alexander captured Salinger’s story in this,...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published November 9th 2010 by Renaissance Books (first published 1999)
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M. D.  Hudson
Paul Alexander, Salinger, a Biography

So there I am, walking out of the library (where I am employed) and there on the special bargain discount discard rack, Paul Alexander’s bio. of J. D. Salinger. It was only a quarter, but I felt sleazy about it.

This is a pretty inept little book, but it was not a hatchet-job for the most part, and the writing of it did not involve stalking Salinger to make him squeal (which made me feel a little less guilty about picking it up), although there is a melodram...more
Salinger is notoriously secretive--that's an understatement, really. Having been a recluse since shortly after Catcher in the Rye was published, very few people have seen or heard from Salinger over the last several decades. So all we really have to go on is what can be pieced together by biographers. This book traces Salinger's life and career, giving a good analysis of why Salinger chose to stop publishing and retreat from the public eye. It also does a nice job of providing insight into the d...more
The author spends a whole page in the second chapter explaining to the reader that sometimes, a writer's actual life creeps into his work. Ummm... yeah. Pretty sure we all know that. And it doesn't get better from there. While there were some interesting facts, I wish I had gone online to find them instead of having to put up with this writing style.
Alec Julien
It's a little bit ironic (if there is such a thing as small irony) that the person to tackle the biography of one of the greatest writers ever turns out to be a mediocre writer himself. Sad, really. Salinger deserves better.

That said, there is plenty of interesting material here: references and summaries of Salinger's non-book-published stories, bits of history I hadn't known about, etc. But it's just not very well cobbled together, and on top of my aesthetic complaints, there's way too much am...more
Shans McClellan
Granted, it must be very difficult to write a biograpy about one of the most famous recluses in all of literature. However, it almost seemed as if Alexander were trying to complete a requisite number of pages, seeing as how he repeats his theories and ideas a million times. (Just like Holden!) This book didn't really tell me much that I couldn't find on wikipedia, but I still read the whole thing.
Mia Brown
If I could give this book zero stars, I would. This is the worst biography I've ever "read" (I couldn't finish it, it was that bad). Alexander should be ashamed of himself.
Wat een droefenis dat de biograaf van zo'n briljant stilist als Salinger zelf zo middelmatig schrijft! Het boek leest stroef en hangt aan elkaar van platitudes en banaliteiten. Kleine illustratie: “Perhaps because he was trying to make a new life for himself, Salinger did things he had never done before” (p. 114). Dat is al vrij onvergeeflijk, maar als de inhoud ook nog eens niet meer is dan een veredelde Wikipedia-pagina, blijft er weinig over. Iets over de oorlog, iets over zijn obsessie met j...more
Not as bad as Hamilton's book--but still pretty goddamn lame. Another guy who can't let the poor old recluse alone (or give him the right to be a recluse) but has to impart other motives to it. And the young-girl crap became as tiresome as the unconsciously-seeking-publicity stuff. The first part of it (through the war) was better than the rest...but his comments about the stories were often just buffoonish. Dismissing "The Laughing Man," and his sensitive-soul remarks about "Down In the Dinghy"...more
As of now, this is probably the best available biography of J.D. Salinger. Paul Alexander does something that I didn't think was possible---he presents an admirable and yet even-handed portrait of a man who went out of his way to be unknowable.

True, Alexander renders a picture of a signal literary artist. He gives us in-depth analysis of Salinger's four published books, plus tantalizing explication of the stories Salinger chose to let languish in yellowing copies of the magazines in which they f...more
Far be it for me to presume to be a worthy critic of biographies, but I really liked this one. I get that it may not have been very "academic," but it was interesting and entertaining. Alexander seems to imply that Salinger's reclusive nature is all just a well-crafted publicity stunt, but I tend to disagree. After learning what he went through in WWII, he kind of makes more sense to me now. Although the fascination with younger women is well documented, and pretty creepy.

Anyway, the book defini...more
I bought this out of the dollar pile somewhere. I was thinking about reading the new biography, then decided to just read this one I'd never gotten around to. It's fairly straightforward. The first two thirds tells what Salinger did and when he did it without much speculation on the whys. The latter part gets into his reclusive weirdness, which I don't guess you can ignore. We didn't get too weird--some of the bombshells recently reported in the news are unknown or ignored. There is no testicula...more
I really enjoyed reading about Salinger's life. He kept out of the public eye as much as he could which is unusual for a man as famous as him. The Catcher in the Rye is my favorite book of all time so I was thrilled with this biography. There were so many things that I did not know about J.D. Salinger. I am saddened that he stopped publishing his work because I am sure that whatever else he wrote is excellent. Franny and Zooey is also one of my favorite books. I am now glad to know more about Sa...more
Another very good book by Paul Alexander. Really manages to make the material come to life. This subject is a particularly hard one, since Salinger spent his entire adult life trying to prevent people from finding out anything about him. Really an odd man. Makes you wonder what kind of stuff he wrote in his later years after he stopped publishing.
Gilbert Lopez
Feb 03, 2008 Gilbert Lopez rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: salinger fans who might want to know more about the guy
it was alright, he stole chaplin's girlfriend and goes crazy/vegan...and he writes a book and some stories. Sorry if I ruined the ending.
I guess it'd be pretty difficult to write a biography about a total recluse. Still though, Alexander went to Iowa.
Sep 13, 2007 Danielle rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
really bad book. bad writer, i don't know how anybody can make salinger uninteresting, but this guy did.
While I found the information very compelling...I thought this was poorly written.
I feel guilty for liking it.
Irina Anghel
Irina Anghel marked it as to-read
Oct 06, 2014
Rebecca marked it as to-read
Oct 02, 2014
James Eckert
James Eckert marked it as to-read
Oct 01, 2014
Holly Sherrod
Holly Sherrod marked it as to-read
Sep 26, 2014
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Besides the bestselling Kindle Singles Murdered, Accused, and Homicidal, Paul Alexander has published eight previous books of nonfiction: Ariel Ascending: Writings About Sylvia Plath; Rough Magic, a biography of Plath; Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times, and Legend of James Dean, the bestseller that has been published in 10 countries; Death and Disaster: The Rise of the Warhol Empire and...more
More about Paul Alexander...
Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath Murdered (KindleSingle) Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times and Legend of James Dean Homicidal Accused (Kindle Single)

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