UPDATE: A lot has happened. Get the whole story here.
A teenager reads The Catcher in the Rye, then decides to read Franny and Zooey, then wants to read everything ever written by J.D. Salinger — only to discover that there’s nothing left after Nine Stories and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. Such “Salingermania” may be a cliche, but it is so for a reason: Salinger’s work has been able to speak to the lost and angsty for generations. The Catcher in the Rye (to use the most well-known example) is one of the few classic novels that can sit a 14-year-old down and say to him or her, “Shit sucks, but I’ve been there too.”
With the arrival of a new Salinger biography and documentary, Salingermania has reemerged for readers of all ages. Fans are suddenly learning that Salinger only had one testicle and may have married a Gestapo informer, but the most exciting discovery is that more of his books are on the way. Still, we will all have to be patient because the unpublished work won’t be out for another three to seven years.
In the meantime, though, you can enjoy more Salinger stories than you may be aware of. The author published many more short stories than were included in Nine Stories, and there’s a 207-page trove of 22 out-of-print pieces available online. (Mind you, these may or may not have been published with permission from the copyright owners; we did not publish them, and we do not encourage infringement.) Of those 22, here are 10 particularly interesting ones:
Salinger’s First Published Short Story
1. “The Young Folks” (Story Magazine, 1940)
The first story a writer publishes provides so much insight into his or her growth over time and which skills, traits and tics have been there from the start. Salinger’s first is no exception. He’s already speaking to generations of aimless youth in this tale about a college party where two insecure party-observers are brought together in conversation. There are a few references to “young men from Rutgers” and proof that very little has changed about college parties since the 1940s.
A Story Narrated by Vincent Caulfield (also know as “D.B.” in The Catcher in the Rye)
2. “This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise” (Esquire, 1945)
Possibly my favorite of the bunch, this story opens with Vincent sitting inside an army truck in the rain, “waiting to get tough” as he anticipates unpleasant orders from his lieutenant. Vincent’s voice is reminiscent of that of his brother, Holden Caulfield, whom Vincent spends most of his time worrying about. In true Salinger fashion, everyone else in the troop is excited for the dance in town while Vincent is caught up in his own mind, letting the reader in on all of it.
The Last of the Caulfield Family Stories
3. “The Stranger” (Collier's, 1945)
It’s possible that “The Stranger” is the last of the Caulfield family stories considering it’s set after all three of the Caulfield brothers (Holden, Vincent and Kenneth) have passed away. The story centers around an army buddy of Vincent’s named Babe Gladwaller, who goes with his younger sister Mattie to pay respects to Vincent’s girlfriend. It ends on a beautiful Salinger-esque epiphany, the kind you find at the end of Franny and Zooey and The Catcher in the Rye, but packed tightly into a short story.
Early Versions of The Catcher in the Rye
4. “I’m Crazy” (Collier's, 1945)
Fans of The Catcher in the Rye will recognize this as an earlier draft of the section of the novel in which Holden leaves Pencey Prep, visits Mr. Spencer, then returns home to see Phoebe, but one startling difference is the addition of another Caulfield sister named Viola, who is younger than Phoebe. The most beautiful bit is the mention of the ducks in Central Park. Nice to see that Salinger had that famous detail developing from the start.
5. “Slight Rebellion off Madison” (The New Yorker, 1946)
This story is an early version of the portion of The Catcher in the Rye involving Sally Hayes. In this version, the two go ice skating, are awful at it, then Holden calls her while drunk (just as he does in the final novel). There is a great deal of talk in the story about hating New York and wanting to leave it (just as there is in Catcher), but in this story, rather than saying Holden wishes to move to the woods somewhere, Salinger is a bit more specific: “Here’s my idea. I’ll borrow Fred Halsey’s car and tomorrow morning we’ll drive up to Massachusetts and Vermont and around there, see? It’s beautiful.”
A Short Story That May Explain Salinger’s Relationship with Writing and People
6. “The Inverted Forest” (Cosmopolitan, 1947 — you can buy an original for $100, you crazy Salinger fans.)
Apparently published back when Cosmo still published short stories, “The Inverted Forest” was unpopular at the time of its release and is said to have been understood by only a few of its readers. Yet the story is hard to put down, with details that are remarkable throughout (aside from the ridiculous number of times that the protagonist Corinne faints when the going gets tough). It follows the relationship between Corinne and Ray Ford, a famous poet who is very concentrated on his work and has a difficult time maintaining relationships. The story also offers a beautiful response to T.S. Eliot with this line from one of Ford’s poems: “Not a wasteland, but a great inverted forest / with all foliage underground.” This surreal image creates a beautiful metaphor for a way of living: a world experienced almost solely by writing — or by creating a new world to experience.
Salinger’s Experiences in World War II
7. “The Hang of It” (Collier's, 1941)
This story centers around a father’s realization that his son Harry may be the next to disgrace the family in the military, following in the footsteps of Bobby, a weak soldier who always insisted he would eventually get the hang of it. It’s a two-page story — an easy, quick read, though it offers an interesting glimpse into Salinger’s own experiences with the military.
8. “Personal Notes of an Infantryman” (Collier's, 1942)
Somewhat similar to “The Hang of It” in that it’s a brief story about someone trying to enlist. The major difference? The person attempting to enlist is an older man, unfit for the military because of his age rather than any sort of missed potential, as with Bobby and Harry. There is a beautiful note of melancholy throughout, with the perspective of both men and women on what happens when it comes to soldiers shipping off.
9. “A Girl I Knew” (Good Housekeeping, 1948)
Set right before WWII in Vienna, the narrator meets a girl named Leah and tells readers: “Probably for every man there is at least one city that sooner or later turns into a girl. … She was there, and she was the whole city, and that’s that.” This story may align well with Salinger’s actual life considering that he worked counterintelligence in Vienna, and it gives readers a perspective on the trauma and heartache that the Holocaust imparted on Salinger.
Salinger’s Last Published Short Story
10. “Hapworth 16, 1924” (The New Yorker, 1965)
Infamous for taking up almost the entirety of The New Yorker issue it was published in, this story is narrated by Buddy Glass, who discovers a summer camp letter from Seymour Glass (the main character in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”) years after Seymour’s suicide. The letter is then given to readers under the pretense that Buddy is typing it up for us, word by word. It’s a gorgeous letter, written by a happier seven-year-old Seymour who is precocious enough to ask his family: “Please send any books on the structure of the human heart I have not read.” There are hints of Seymour’s misfit sadness throughout, though, as well as his thoughts on his parents and writers like Tolstoy and the Bronte sisters. Considering that Seymour is said to have avoided letter-writing later in the Glass family timeline, this is a delightful surprise for Salinger fans.
This unofficial 22-story collection is a great teaser for the forthcoming Salinger books, with many of these out-of-print stories perhaps even making their way into the new titles. “Hapworth 16, 1924,” for example, may be included (although not necessarily The New Yorker version) in The Family Glass, which will add five new chapters to the Glass family saga. Other anticipated books include a collection of Caulfield family stories, a novel set in WWII and a novella about Salinger’s own experiences at war; the similarities of these to some of the stories above is uncanny. But at the very least, these out-of-print stories give us a glimpse into Salinger’s development as a writer and offer some insight into what would continue to inspire him as he wrote during his days in Cornish, New Hampshire.
Freddie Moore is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her full name is Winifred, and her writing has appeared in unFold, The Leaf Unturned and Italics Mine. As a former co-president of SUNY Purchase’s Cheese Club, she’s a big-time foodie who knows her cheese.
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