Four of J.D. Salinger's books to go digital

Four titles by novelist J.D. Salinger (left in photograph) - The Catcher In The Rye (1951), Nine Stories (1953), Franny And Zooey (1961) and Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters And Seymour: An Introduction (1963), will be available as e-books.
Four titles by novelist J.D. Salinger (left in photograph) - The Catcher In The Rye (1951), Nine Stories (1953), Franny And Zooey (1961) and Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters And Seymour: An Introduction (1963), will be available as e-books.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK • A new chapter has opened for fans of American novelist J.D. Salinger.

In the five decades since he published his final short story, Hapworth 16, 1924, his small, revered body of work has stayed static.

Even as publishers and consumers adopted e-books and digital audio, Salinger's books remained defiantly offline, a consequence of the writer's distaste for computers and technology.

And while he kept writing until his death at age 91 nearly 10 years ago, not a word has been published since 1965.

That is partly because of his son, Mr Matt Salinger, who helps run the J.D. Salinger Literary Trust and is a vigilant guardian of his father's legacy and privacy.

But now, in an effort to keep his father's books in front of a new generation of readers, the younger man is beginning to ease up, gradually lifting a cloud of secrecy that has obscured the life and work of one of America's most influential and enigmatic writers.

This week, in the first step of a broader revival that could reshape the world's understanding of J.D. Salinger and his writing, Little, Brown is publishing digital editions of his four books.

The move makes the author perhaps the last 20th-century literary icon to surrender to the digital revolution.

The e-books are The Catcher In The Rye (1951), Nine Stories (1953), Franny And Zooey (1961) and Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters And Seymour: An Introduction (1963).

Then in autumn, with Mr Matt Salinger's help, the New York Public Library will host the first public exhibition with items from the writer's personal archives.

The event will feature letters, family photographs and the typescript for The Catcher In The Rye, with the author's handwritten edits, along with about 160 other items.

And before long, decades worth of J.D. Salinger's unpublished writing will be released, a project which his son estimated will take another five to seven years to complete.

Combing through his father's manuscripts and letters has been both enlightening and emotionally taxing, Mr Matt Salinger said in an interview to promote the digital editions.

"It's kept him very much alive for me," he admitted during an interview at the New York Public Library. "It's been fascinating and joyful, and moving and sad."

It has also put him in the awkward position of becoming a public face for an author who detested publicity and once told an interviewer that "publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy".

J.D. Salinger, who died in 2010, lived a reclusive life in Cornish in New Hampshire, and rarely spoke to the media.

He not only stopped releasing new work, but also rejected any reissues or e-book editions.

NYTIMES, AP

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2019, with the headline 'Four of J.D. Salinger's books to go digital'. Print Edition | Subscribe