The Jan. 27 death of J.D. Salinger has focused new attention on Firestone Library’s collection of letters and short stories by the famously reclusive author.
The collection includes seven short stories from the 1940s, the most well-known of which is “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls.” Firestone’s unpublished, 18-page carbon copy of the original typescript is a story about the death of Kenneth Caulfield, who appears as Holden Caulfield’s brother Allie in The Catcher in the Rye. The files also contain 36 letters from Salinger and copies of letters to him, according to Don Skemer, curator of manuscripts with the Department of Rare Books.
The stories and letters are part of the archives of Story magazine and Story Press donated to the library by Whit and Hallie Burnett, the magazine’s publishers.
Firestone also holds the working papers of literary critic Ian Hamilton, who started work on a biography of Salinger in the 1980s. The book was to include letters written by Salinger, but after the author went to court to try to stop publication, the book was published with paraphrased use of the letters. The library’s holdings include copies of the letters, manuscript notes, and depositions from the lawsuit.
Skemer said the Salinger material attracts two to three visitors per week and is the most frequented of the manuscript collections. “Salinger would never allow anyone access to his papers, so what little there is gets a lot of attention,” he said. “We’re one of the few places that has the little.”