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Extended Audio Sample J. D. Salinger: A Life Audiobook, by Kenneth Slawenski Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.71 out of 53.71 out of 53.71 out of 53.71 out of 53.71 out of 5 3.71 (28 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Kenneth Slawenski Narrator: Norman Dietz Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2011 ISBN: 9781452671529
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One of the most popular and mysterious figures in American literary history, J. D. Salinger eluded fans and journalists for most of his life. Now comes a new biography that Peter Ackroyd in the Times of London calls "energetic and magnificently researched"-a book from which "a true picture of Salinger emerges." Filled with new information and revelations garnered from countless interviews, letters, and public records, J. D. Salinger: A Life presents an extraordinary life that spanned nearly the entire twentieth century. Kenneth Slawenski explores Salinger's privileged youth, long obscured by misrepresentation and rumor, revealing the brilliant, sarcastic, vulnerable son of a disapproving father and doting mother and his entrance into a social world where Gloria Vanderbilt dismissively referred to him as "a Jewish boy from New York." Here too are accounts of Salinger's first broken heart-Eugene O'Neill's daughter, Oona, left him for the much older Charlie Chaplin-and the devastating World War II service of which he never spoke, and which haunted him forever. J. D. Salinger features all the dazzle of this author's early writing successes, his dramatic encounters with luminaries from Ernest Hemingway to Laurence Olivier to Elia Kazan, his surprising office intrigues with famous New Yorker editors and writers, and the stunning triumph of The Catcher in the Rye, which would both make him world-famous and hasten his retreat into the hills of New Hampshire. Whether it's revealing the facts of his hasty, short-lived first marriage or his lifelong commitment to Eastern religion, which would dictate his attitudes toward sex, nutrition, solitude, and creativity, J. D. Salinger is this unique author's unforgettable story in full-one that no lover of literature can afford to miss. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An invaluable work that sheds fascinating light on the willfully elusive author.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • Slawenski's life of Salinger makes at least speculative sense of a seemingly unknowable story, one that has beguiled readers for more than 50 years. That alone makes his book must reading. Booklist Starred Review

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leslie Angel | 2/19/2014

    " I liked this, obviously a sympathetic portrayal; I especially liked the description of his war experience. I'd read about the battles in fiction before, felt like visiting a known place, but more grim and brutal. I remember college days and "Seymour charts." "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Holli Arnold | 2/8/2014

    " bogged down in the minute details "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christina | 1/30/2014

    " I've never read a bio of Salinger & lord knows they must be difficult to write. Salinger is notorious for shunning any type of publicity or really any contact with the public for the last 40 or so years of his life. This bio is certainly exhaustive in how it looks into his work, describing & examining each of his published pieces very closely. It is perhaps a bit too deferential in its dealings with his personal life. While I do know a great deal more about him than I did before (for instance, I knew nothing whatsoever about his WWII service & it is extensive & impressive), it does gloss over some things that might have borne closer examination. His relationship with Joyce Maynard & her subsequent memoir are given all of 3/4 of one page of text. This had the unintended effect of making me think I ought to read her memoir, since their relationship isn't really covered here. This deference is the main sticking point with this bio, that & the lack of information available to anyone about Salinger (he destroyed or ordered destroyed many of his letters & no one close to him, including any of his three wives, has ever spoken publicly about him much), which made it difficult for the author. For hardcore Salinger fans only, I think (I still have my heavily highlighted copy of Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenter and Seymour–An Introduction from high school). "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katherine Clare | 1/18/2014

    " For all the obsessed Salinger fans out there, I would strongly recommend reading this biography and character analysis. Although I did not agree with the Author on some of his reasoning of Salinger's intent behind published works, I found it compelling nonetheless. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 1/16/2014

    " Billed as a biography this is so much more as the author uses extensive information about the writings and interweaves Salinger's works with his life. When I retire I will re-read my beloved Salinger in conjunction with this book! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kat | 1/14/2014

    " This book is an amazing, thorough overview of J.D. Salinger's life...a great read for anyone who loves his writing, like me! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patrick | 1/14/2014

    " A deferential fan's biography, this answers any curiosity one might have about the reclusive writer's influences and motives for rejecting a public life. Salinger had no brother, no suicides in his family or intimate circle, but he did see a rough patch in WW2 including the liberation of Dachau. He was badly treated by critics and was rightly annoyed with some of his agents, editors and publishers in the 60s just as he achieved financial independence. So he rejected the literary public life, and his fanatical readers, as well as a press that was a precursor to a paparazzi age. He wrote in solitude for decades, meditated, and lived openly if quietly with his family and later a third young wife in the same small town for decades, dying at 91. Good for him. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Teresa | 1/14/2014

    " The center piece of this book is the collection of Salinger's writing and its publication. The man is no more open than he has ever been. As a usual thing I like to have some information of the back ground of the author of a biography. Slawenski seems merely to be the keeper of a website. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paul Heidebrecht | 12/29/2013

    " Excellent biography of the once-mysterious Salinger. Slawenski really takes the measure of the man. A great writer but a sad, pathetic person when it's all over. Didn't realize J.D. was a Buddhist of sorts. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mike | 12/19/2013

    " Well organized and presented. Sufficiently informative that had Salinger survived to see it, he would have undoubtedly sued the author. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Blake Nelson | 12/18/2013

    " liking this. you have to read between the lines at points, as the author does not have all the facts.... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Georgia Swinton | 12/12/2013

    " Helped me understand a lot. Really resourceful. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Noah | 11/22/2013

    " Rest in peace. (I hope to God that Salinger's will included permission to print his trove of unpublished stories from the past 40 years...) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Texx Norman | 10/3/2013

    " I got very close to finishing this, but it was a library book and when I went to recheck it there were like a hundred people on the waiting list to read it and they wouldn't let me recheck it. It is one o fthe more frustrating parts of using the public library. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andreas | 10/13/2012

    " One of the best biographies I have ever read a must-read for any fan of Salinger. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Frank Snell | 10/6/2012

    " If you are interested in American literature of the 20th Century, this is an outstanding biography. It seems to give a balanced account of the life of an extremely controversial author. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hadrian | 3/11/2012

    " Average biography of a very reclusive figure. Has to really stretch in order to get some details. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patrick | 8/26/2011

    " Interesting bio for Salinger fans. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Westley | 7/31/2011

    " The author does not seem to have known Salinger, so he relies on literary analysis and reviews of Salinger's letters to his publishers. The book is certainly thorough and generally well-written but the constant literary analysis grew tiresome. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Peter | 7/30/2011

    " Quite possibly the best biography I have ever read. Cannot recommend it enough "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Merry | 5/31/2011

    " I expected a biography, but I got more of a dissertation. Guess he was just too much of a recluse...however, it inspired me to reread his books. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leslie | 5/20/2011

    " I liked this, obviously a sympathetic portrayal; I especially liked the description of his war experience. I'd read about the battles in fiction before, felt like visiting a known place, but more grim and brutal. I remember college days and "Seymour charts." "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kaworu | 5/4/2011

    " Average biography of a very reclusive figure. Has to really stretch in order to get some details. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Seth | 4/11/2011

    " I was initially dubious about the author's credentials, but I found this book to be quite readable and informative. It provided context for Salinger's work that makes me appreciate it more than I did before. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Teresa | 4/4/2011

    " The center piece of this book is the collection of Salinger's writing and its publication. The man is no more open than he has ever been. As a usual thing I like to have some information of the back ground of the author of a biography. Slawenski seems merely to be the keeper of a website. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ida | 4/3/2011

    " this is my third biography of him and first posthumous one...i hope it's interesting and not fixated on his love of "green food" "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mike | 3/19/2011

    " Well organized and presented. Sufficiently informative that had Salinger survived to see it, he would have undoubtedly sued the author. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Annhfisher | 2/26/2011

    " I really had no idea the extent of his combat experience in WW2 -- rewatching Band of Brothers as a result of reading this book. "

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About the Author

Kenneth Slawenski is the creator of DeadCaulfields.com, a website founded in 2004 and recommended by the New York Times. He spent eight years working on his biography of J. D. Salinger. Slawenski was born in New Jersey and has lived there his entire life.

About the Narrator

Norman Dietz is a writer, voice-over artist, and audiobook narrator. He has won six Earphones Awards and was named one of the fifty “Best Voices of the Century” by AudioFile magazine. He and his late wife Sandra transformed an abandoned ice-cream parlor into a playhouse, which served “the world’s best hot fudge sundaes” before and after performances. The founder of Theatre in the Works, he lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.