J.D. Salinger: According to David Shields, he's probably thinking about his single testicle in this picture.
The day J. D. Salinger died, anyone with a brain and a library card could tell you what was going to happen next. The publishing industry would do one of the things that the publishing industry does best: descend upon a famous dead man's estate and pick everything clean. Literary gossip maintained that Salinger had never stopped writing, that he'd kept an array of new manuscripts neatly tucked away in a safe. Those books would be released to great clamor (and profitability) by a lucky publisher on a nice, steady schedule for years after Salinger's passing. And then there would be the other race: the journey to publish the definitive biography of the author, to interview all his acquaintances while they're still alive and publish as much taboo material as quickly as possible—good biographies can take decades—while still maintaining some modicum of literary credibility.
Three years after his death, we now know that Salinger left behind at least five manuscripts, which will be published starting in 2015. We have that information thanks to the first posthumous biography of Salinger, which, seemingly flying in the face of any realistic timeline, has been published this month. The writers of Salinger, director Shane Salerno—his documentary of the same name will open on September 20—and local author/UW professor David Shields, have surreptitiously been working on the book for more than a decade.
If it's just shocking revelations you're looking for, you'll probably be happy with Salinger. The book is packed full of never-before-published photographs of the camera-shy author, both in his youth and during his four decades of hermitage in New Hampshire. Salerno and Shields speed through Salinger's 91 years in just shy of 600 pages, giving extra attention to the most lascivious moments. (Shields reminds us repeatedly throughout the book that Salinger had a congenital defect, an undescended testicle, and he attributes so much meaning to Salinger's relationship with his single ball that it almost becomes the genital version of Citizen Kane's Rosebud.)