Sunday, 21 March 2010

Salinger Letters

JD Salinger comrade recalls 'emotional and warm' friend

Alison Flood
Friday 19 March 2010 16.00

Werner Kleeman, 91, who fought alongside the writer in the second world war, reveals hitherto unseen letters

JD Salinger's austere public image has been belied by the memories of an old comrade from the second world war, who has been reminiscing about their friendship after unveiling a hitherto unseen correspondence.

Werner Kleeman met Salinger in March 1944 while they were stationed in Devon with the 12th infantry regiment of the 4th infantry division. Kleeman, 91, told Spiegel Online that on meeting the late author he "saw right away that [Salinger] was a bit of an eight-ball. He refused to tie the straps of his helmet. He did what he wanted to do."

"We became grown-ups together, we had to," Kleeman continued. "I knew Jerry like not many knew him ... We both went through hell. That binds you together." Questioning Salinger's reputation as standoffish and unfriendly, Kleeman said the author was "very humble [and] emotional and warm".

After Salinger died in January, Kleeman dug out the letters the author had sent him over the years. The correspondence sees Salinger describing himself as "a perennial sad sack" and telling Kleeman about his new husky puppy, as well as reminiscing about the pair's meeting with Ernest Hemingway during the war; Kleeman told Spiegel Online that they drank champagne from plastic cups and listened to Hemingway, then working as a war correspondent, tell his adventure stories.

He visited Salinger's New Hampshire home twice, where the two "spent hours on the balcony chatting", and where Kleeman says he was shown "the room where he kept all his manuscripts". The reclusive author, whose last published work was Hapworth 16, 1924 in 1965, is said to have left a cache of around 15 novels that have never been published.

The typewritten letters, signed "Jerry," "Yours, Jerry" or "Best always, Jerry", are currently kept in a bank by Kleeman, but New York museum the Morgan Library said they could be worth $60,000. "Through them Salinger comes alive," curator Declan Kiely told Spiegel Online. "We would love to have those."

And a letter from Salinger!

Inside the Mind of a Young J.D. Salinger

The late author's second short story for Esquire appeared in the October 1945 issue and so did this brutally honest letter in which he questions his ability to write a novel.

J.D. Salinger writes: "I am twenty-six and in my fourth year in the Army. I've been overseas seventeen months so far. Landed on Utah Beach on D-Day with the Fourth Division and was with the 12th Infantry of the Fourth until the end of the war here. The Air Corps background for This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise comes naturally because I used to be in the Air Corps. Have also been in the Signal Corps. Am also a graduate of Valley Forge Military Academy. After the war I plan to enlist in a good, established chorus line. This is the life. I've been writing short stories since I was fifteen. I have trouble writing simply and naturally. My mind is stocked with some black neckties, and though I'm throwing them out as fast as I find them, there will always be a few left over. I am a dash man and not a miler, and it is probable that I will never write a novel. So far the novels of this war have had too much of the strength, maturity and craftsmanship critics are looking for, and too little of the glorious imperfections which teeter and fall off the best minds. The men who have been in this war deserve some sort of trembling melody rendered without embarrassment or regret. I'll watch for that book."

1 comment:

  1. Salinger. Catcher... What memories. I hope we get to read his unpublished works someday, as we supposedly did with some of Hemingway's words, posthumously.