[ Proof of the suppressed version of Ian Hamilton's biography, with fullest quotations from Salinger's letters. ] J. D. Salinger: A Writing Life.

Ian Hamilton [ J. D. Salinger; William Heinemann Ltd, London publishers; Random House ]
Publication details: 
Suppressed proof. [ London: William Heinemann Ltd. 1986 ]
SKU: 20047

The present item is a product of one of the most celebrated publishing controversies of the twentieth century. In 1982 the English critic and poet Ian Hamilton set out to write a biography of the legendarily-reclusive Salinger. The attempt, as The Times explained in Hamilton's obituary, 31 December 2001, 'went horribly wrong': 'Salinger succeeded in blocking publication in the courts', because the book, to be titled 'J. D. Salinger: A Writing Life' (hereafter WL86), which Salinger had seen in proof, 'quoted (minimally) from letters of his from the 1950s and 1960s now held in American libraries. Hamilton had to rewrite to salvage the book as 'In Search of J. D. Salinger (1988), a tale of frustration as much as discovery.' Karl Miller, in his entry on Hamilton in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, put it another way: the version as published in 1988 was designed 'to accommodate, wryly, the fate of a resisted biographical investigation'. The best description of the affair is by Hamilton himself. In Chapter 13 of 'In Search of J. D. Salinger' (hereafter IS88), he recounts how the manuscript of WL86 was accepted for publication by Random House in July 1985, 'the book was set in type, a jacket was designed, and, after a bit, an English set of bound galleys was in modest circulation'. All seemed in order, and British serial rights were bought by the Observer, but a letter from Salinger's solicitors was received in May 1986, stating that he had 'read bound galleys of my “biography,” that he was displeased by my use of his unpublished letters, and that unless these quotations were removed forthwith, he would take all necessary legal steps to have the book enjoined'. On legal advice Hamilton set about reducing the amount of direct quotation, but the resulting manuscript was still not acceptable to Salinger, and Hamilton set about for a second time excising and paraphrasing, 'hacking and juggling so that no more than ten words remained from any single letter'. Meanwhile the Observer had cancelled its contract and was demanding reimbursement. By September 1986 only about two hundred of Salinger's words remained in the manuscript. This was still not acceptable to Salinger. In November, after Salinger had had to swear an affidavit and endure an interview by a defence lawyer, the issue went before an American judge, who in November 1986 found in favour of Hamilton and his publishers; the judgment was overturned by the US Court of Appeals in January 1987. An application by the publishers that the Supreme Court consider the matter was denied. The present item comprises the proofs of the version of Hamilton's abortive book with the most complete quotations from Salinger's letters. It is a photocopy of vii + 216pp., on 113 A4 leaves. Unbound, and wrapped in a copy of the dustwrapper that had been designed for the book by Nicholas Pollitt, printed in black on grey paper embossed calligraphic design by Nicholas Stewart. (The blurb states that Hamilton has, '[f]rom the writings and recollections of those who knew him, and from Salinger's own words, […] produced the fullest portrait possible of the elusive, eccentric author of one of this century's key novels'.) The first few leaves somewhat worn, with damp staining to one edge, and the final leaf also worn. In worn dustwrapper with closed tears and ruckling along spine. One example will suffice to indicate the differences between WL86 and IS88. Pp.124-126 of WL86 deal with Salinger's response to his meeting with Laurence Olivier; this includes two direct quotations from a Salinger letter to Hamish Hamilton, totalling 15 lines, together with a quotation of a telegram message. A rewritten and condensed version of the incident is given on p.119 of IS88, with no mention of the telegram and the following replacing the fifteen lines of quotation: 'In a long letter to Hamish Hamilton, he goes to great pains to separate his view of Olivier from the view of Holden as expressed in the book, and asks Hamilton to convey this explanation to the actor.' COPAC does not throw up any copies of this 1986 Heinemann version of the book. OCLC WorldCat gives a confused response: only appearing to cite 'J. D. Salinger: A Writer's Life (1935-1965)', New York, Random House, 1986.