Sex in the Salinger Archives?
A little-known short story might be a clue.
Also in Slate: Joanna Smith Rakoff on answering Salinger's mail; Troy Patterson on the two Salingers; Stephen Metcalf on Salinger's genius; Nathan Heller on Nine Stories; Chris Wilson on " Seymour: An Introduction"; Jody Rosen on Salinger's New York; Dana Stevens on Hollywood Holdens; Donald Fagen on his love for Franny Glass.
The great mystery J.D. Salinger left behind, of course, is just what he'd been writing all these years. There have been repeated sketchy reports that he was still writing in those last 45 years or so since he stopped publishing. There were, supposedly, completed manuscripts in his lonesome house of refuge on a hill in Cornish, N.H., a house I once paid a conflicted visit to.
But no one seemed to have any real evidence about what it was he was working on. Will we find reams of pages covered with "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" a la The Shining? Or arcane tomes on one of his esoteric, mystical enthusiasms, such as homeopathy? Or—sigh—more, yet more Glass family sagas, centering on that supposed saint, the tedious Seymour, no matter how much his last, vexing visitations in "Seymour: An Introduction" and "Hapworth 16, 1924" tried the patience of his most avid followers.
I know it's wishful thinking, but I wonder whether there's a clue in a little-known, unpublished—at least, not in book form—story that I came on the first time a day after Salinger's death. A story called "Go See Eddie."
You're not supposed to know about this particular Salinger story. Very few do, and those who do will probably become fewer still, thanks to what seems like a strange and hasty Web cover-up maneuver someone pulled off last weekend.
"Go See Eddie," was J.D. Salinger's second published story, the one that first appeared in an obscure journal called Kansas City Review in December 1940 and then disappeared into musty library stacks for a nearly a quarter-century until an archivist in the Midwest uncovered it in 1963.
I'd never read "Go See Eddie" before Salinger died, but several years ago, I'd bookmarked a Web site that had links to all the known unpublished (between hard covers) stories of J.D. Salinger. The ones that had mainly appeared in places like The Saturday Evening Post and Mademoiselle. The ones he'd sued people over any attempt to reprint them in book form.
Something funny, weird, mysterious—Salingeresque—happened to that Web site in the weekend after Salinger died. I knew that he had sicced lawyers on someone who had tried to publish an unauthorized edition of these stories. But the Web site had been there for years, so I assumed it was, if not authorized, then tolerated.
When I clicked on the site the day after his death, I read "Go See Eddie" and his first published story, "The Young Folks." But after I'd started writing this column, I clicked on my bookmark for the site again and found myself gazing at what seemed to be the Web site of a Hungarian technical business magazine.
At least that's what I guessed from its list of menu options:
Gyakran Ismételt Kérdések
These do not seem to be Salinger titles translated into Hungarian. A number of Google entrees that once linked to the Salinger site now linked to the Hungarian site. Fascinating: Who did this and why? The Salinger estate? The original creator of the site out of fear of the Salinger estate?
I did discover on Amazon that there were (as of this writing) seven copies left of an out-of-print college anthology of 30 short stories published in 1969 that includes Salinger's "Go See Eddie." This in itself is interesting. Because it means that at some point, four years after he stopped publishing, he permitted one of his first two stories to be republished. (It's unlikely his agent would have done it without consulting the famously sensitive author.)
And although Salinger has tried to unauthorize all these stories late in life, there had been a point at which he'd authorized "Eddie." But something is happening right before my eyes: Almost all the Google and Yahoo links to Salinger have either disappeared or turned Hungarian. Hiked the Appalachian trail. So I almost feel like Melville's survivor or the Ancient Mariner, and I alone am left to tell the tale.
"Eddie" starts with a naked redhead brushing her lush hair, just after getting out of the bath, having previously disposed of "cream jars and soiled tissues" from last night's makeup removal.
Ron Rosenbaum is the author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler. His latest book is How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III.