Howdy do, everyone, Papa Vinyard here.
J.D. Salinger published The Catcher in the Rye the same year that Jack Kerouac completed On The Road. Kerouac's novel encapsulated a generational movement that led directly into the counter-culture of the '60s. But no one would argue that Salinger's work was anything other than the most influential book of the latter half of the 20th century. While Kerouac and Salinger both retreated from the public eye following their rise to fame, Salinger remains the more enigmatic, mysterious figure, particularly because, even though he lived until 2010, he stopped publishing his work in 1965. What the hell was one of America's finest novelists doing for the last 45 years of his life?
That's the premise that provoked screenwriter Shane Salerno (SHAFT, SAVAGES) to dedicate eight years and $2 million of his own loot (presumably from his TV work and ARMAGEDDON) to the purpose of completing this Salinger-centric doc. Aside from examining his past (including a tour in WWII that shaped the rest of his life) and talking-head interviews discussing his massive influence, the film seeks to discover why Salinger became so resentful of the public eye, and just what the hell he was doing instead of accepting awards and doing photo shoots. There seems to be plenty of evidence that shows that he was writing plenty of material during the second half of his life. Salerno appears to have attempted to dig up at least some of that material, or at least information regarding it, using the cloud of mystery surrounding Salinger's life as an interesting hook to distinguish it from other examinations of the writer and his mark on American culture.
The trailer sets up the premise, and Salinger's impact on countless adolescents, while getting in a few of the celeb interviewers, including Martin Sheen, John Cusack, Edward Norton, and Danny DeVito in there as well. I like the bit where playwright John Guare discusses the repercussions of the fact that three prolific murderers attributed their crimes to reading Catcher; with that kind of notorious fame and influence, it is not hard to imagine that a sensitive artist, such as Salinger, would see no other option than to Howard Hughes himself out of mainstream society's unforgiving, rampant scrutiny.
According to IMDB, the film also features interviews with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gore Vidal, Judd Apatow, David Milch, Robert Towne, and E.L. Doctorow, as well as, I'm sure, a mess of less-famous literary experts and professors. This trailer has definitely sold me on both the idea that a doc like this was necessary to make, and that Salerno had the style and information to pull it off properly.
SALINGER will be released on September 6th.