In 1974, in what could have been one of his last public comments, JD Salinger, the author of "The Catcher in Rye", told The New York Times: "I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure... I'm known as a strange, aloof kind of man. But all I'm doing is trying to protect myself and my view."
In short, Salinger hated any intrusion on his privacy. However, the PBS show "American Masters" that documents biographies and life of writers, actors and artists have now finally caught up with Salinger, the recluse.
For those who have literally memorized every sentence and even the punctuations of his bestseller "The Catcher in the Rye", the 135-minute long documentry is something that will throw much insight into the man that Salinger was. And that is where the film falls short. The PBS edition of "Salinger" is much longer than the film version, which was released in September in theaters, but sadly it is short on his literary achievements.
Salinger, the recluse, who till his death successfully thwarted the attempts by writers and film-makers to tell his story, in all probability would have sued "American Masters" as well.
"American Masters: Salinger"
What is it about? Of course, Salinger. The pet project of screenwriter Shane Salerno makes a great attempt to bring a piece that byfar should be considered among the most indepth analysis with new insights. There is much to look forward to as the Salerno movie provides extensive details on new Salinger works that include stories from the fictional Glass family to reports on "Catcher" narrator Holden Caulfield.
Salerno spent 10 years researching on "Salinger" and hence the piece has interviews from several key figures, including Ernest Hemingway biographer AE Hotchner and also Jean Miller, who had a five-year relationship with Salinger starting 1949. The crucial turning points in Salinger's life - the D-Day landing as Army sergeant and his post-war breakdown have been brilliantly covered as well.
But Why Would Salinger Hate it?
Salinger would have hated "American Masters" simply because that's how he would have preferred it. If history could offer any clue, then the 1995 gag on screening of an Iranian film, based on one of his works, would offer clue on the extend that Salinger can go to wall-up his personal life. In film by director Dariush Mehrjui, was an unauthorized adaptation of Franny & Zooey. And though Salinger could not sue for copyright infringement since it was made outside of US jurisdiction, the film's planned screening at the Lincoln Center was banned. In all probability, he would have done the same with the "American Masters".
Another reason why he would have hated "American Masters: Salinger" is that the piece follows a triumphant tone that tries to declare Salinger as the ultimate American literary genius.
But to establish that, Salerno gets the people with whom Salinger may have spoken to, fought with or even slept with. Instead of going deep into his literary works, the film simply delves on the man Salinger was.
The author of "A Catcher in the Rye", who died in 2010 at the age 91, would have simply hated it because he would found it too intrusive.