The literary world is abuzz with news that there may be five extant unpublished manuscripts by the late author J.D. Salinger. Salinger’s post-publication output–he published nothing new after June 1965, living another 45 years–has long tantalized adoring readers and hard-up Salinger scholars. Whether the reclusive creator of the phony-hating Holden Caulfield, the crystalline Glass clan of geniuses, and about a dozen strangely enduring stories, continued to write during his terminal withdrawal from the public eye was cocktail party fodder for generations. Everybody wondered, even those who pretended not to.
Enter Shane Salerno, who knows how to open doors. He burst through the notoriously exclusive Hollywood portal right out of high school, and by age 24 he’d co-written the Michael Bay blockbuster Armageddon. Now his documentary/book project delves deep into the Salinger mysteries. Salerno (and his precocious talent) would fit right in at the Glass family dinner table, so his interest in his own people is only natural. But Salerno’s dedication (the film took eight years) to a subject who for half a century was quieter than a silent movie is especially notable given Salerno’s status and clout in the film world. He’s signed on, for instance, to write Avatar 4 with King-of-the-World director James Cameron. There’s a lot of water under the cultural bridge between Catcher In The Rye and Avatar. In Catcher, Holden’s biggest disappointment is his brother D.B–a great writer who “sells out” his talent to Hollywood. No one even mentions that old trope anymore–not in the Golden Age of Television where Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) is the new Scott Fitzgerald. Even Holden might like David Chase (Sopranos)–and probably Shane Salerno, too. So far Salerno’s work, including TV dramas Hawaii Five-O and UC: Undercover, has focused on the fictional. Now there are millions and millions of Salinger fans who devoutly hope that his revelations about fresh work from their hero is anything but.