After 34 years, reclusive Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger is finally coming out with a new book. Only it isn’t, strictly speaking, quite so new. The tiny Alexandria, Va., outfit Orchises Press has been mysteriously authorized to reissue Salinger’s last published work: an epistolary novella entitled ”Hapworth 16, 1924” that The New Yorker printed in 1965.
Publisher and agent, presumably under strict orders from the notoriously publicity-shy Salinger, colluded to keep the imminent publication as low-key as possible, capitulating only after a sharp-eyed fan espied a telling entry among online book peddler Amazon.com’s listings. ”Why don’t you just leave this one out [of EW], if that’s okay?” implores querulous-sounding Orchises editor Roger Lathbury, whose past reprints include works by Tolstoy and W.H. Auden. Agent Phyllis Westberg confirms only that a deal was made. And Salinger? Please. Now 78, he lives in rural New Hampshire, granting interviews to no one; last year he directed minions to shut down a devotee’s website.
But the prospect of even this warmed-over offering has thrilled many of his acolytes. Previously they had to make do with photocopies of ”Hapworth,” which takes the form of a letter from precocious summer-camp attendee Seymour Glass. Soon they’ll be able to own an edition that, fitting previous Salinger specifications, will boast no cover art and no author photo. Borders fiction buyer Matthew Gildea says that though ”we will definitely order it,” the number of copies will be determined by the book’s final appearance, price, and contractual restrictions on how it may be displayed — matters that, not surprisingly, have yet to be disclosed by the publisher.