The publicity surrounding the publication of Dream Catcher, Margaret Salinger's memoir of growing up the daughter of J.D. Salinger, reminded Chatterbox that he still hadn't received that copy of Hapworth 16, 1924 that he ordered from Amazon.com three years ago. Hapworth is, you'll recall, Salinger's last-published work of fiction (not counting anything he may have published under an assumed name); The New Yorker ran the 20,000-word story in its issue of June 19, 1965. Thirty-one years later, Orchises Press, a small publisher based in Alexandria, Va., cut a deal with Salinger to bring it out as a book. In breaking the story, the Washington Business Journal noted that "there are several unsettled issues that are being finalized." That was four years ago.
Chatterbox isn't busting to read Hapworth. If he were, he could go to the library and hunt down an old copy of TheNew Yorker. However, Chatterbox would like to read it (even though news of its imminent publication caused Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times and Ron Rosenbaum of the New York Observer to opine that it isn't very good), provided he can get a copy with a minimum of inconvenience. What's holding it up? Chatterbox decided to investigate.
Amazon.com's listing for the book reports it will be out in November 2000. This struck Chatterbox as suspect, since Amazon has been listing Hapworth's publication date as imminent for more than three years. Besides, if it were a fall book, wouldn't it be getting some free pre-publication publicity in Salinger-crazed publications like the New York Times? Determined to get to the bottom of this, Chatterbox phoned Roger Lathbury, who runs Orchises Press out of George Mason University and is reputed to be almost as press-unfriendly as Salinger.
So, Chatterbox asked: What's up with the new Salinger?
"It's still on delay, alas," Lathbury answered. "It has not been canceled, but I don't know when it's coming out." The Amazon date, he said, is wrong.
Why the delay? Is Salinger is fiddling with the text, or fussing over the jacket illustration?
"Generally, on these topics I have to zip my lips."
Are all these delays costing Lathbury money?
Lathbury insisted not. "The most you could say a delay has cost is a slight inconvenience and the nuisance of answering phone calls like this."
Update, Jan. 30, 2010: With Salinger's death at age 91, Lathbury was free to spill the whole story to the Washington Post.