Three Unpublished J.D. Salinger Stories Have Leaked Online

Updated: The leaker says the source was a mysterious eBay auction, and Salinger scholar Kenneth Slawenski has confirmed for BuzzFeed that they are truly Salinger’s unpublished stories.Three unpublished stories by J.D. Salinger — “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls,” “Paula,” and “Birthday Boy” — have been available to read at research libraries, but have never been seen in print or online before today. Whoa.

2010 San Diego Historical Society

 

The sun was terrific. it showed up my pasty hands; ribbon-inky and nail-bitten at my fingers; but it struck and settled handsomely on Kenneth’s red hair, and that seemed fair enough.

Update: Nov. 28, 1:19 a.m. ET:

Salinger scholar Kenneth Slawenski, author of J.D. Salinger: A Life confirms that these are truly Salinger’s unpublished stories, having read the previously guarded manuscripts. In an email to BuzzFeed, he wrote “While I do quibble with the ethics (or lack of ethics) in posting the Salinger stories, they look to be true transcripts of the originals and match my own copies.”

Update: Nov. 27, 10:00 p.m. ET:

On Reddit, the original uploader claims that the source is this eBay auction, which appears to be a book published illegally — the title page reads oxymoronically, “the three stories in this book remain unpublished.” PJ Vogt, who is fairly sure that “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls” is the same story he read at Princeton, confirms that the images on the leak don’t appear to be that same manuscript. “My memory is that Princeton’s copy looked like a submission — typed out pages, maybe even double-spaced. These seem too laid out to be from that collection.”

Three previously unpublished and closely guarded J.D. Salinger stories appear to have been leaked online today for the first time.

It’s hard to determine the origin of the “book” pictured in the photos that were leaked onto invite-only bittorrent website what.CD today (and later reposted on Reddit) — the ISBN doesn’t lead anywhere, and a book of these three stories was certainly never printed legally.

The first story is “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls,” widely thought of as Salinger’s greatest unpublished work and is a prequel of sorts to the author’s most popular book, Catcher In The Rye.

The short story has been available to read at the Princeton library, under supervision, in a special reading room. PJ Vogt, a producer at On The Media, read the Princeton manuscript a few years ago and is fairly certain this is the same story. In an email tonight, he wrote “I definitely remember that first line: ‘His shoes turned up.’ And I remember the detail about the India ink on the catcher’s mitt. And that Holden has a cameo from camp.” The story concerns the death of Kenneth Caulfield, a character who was developed into Holden’s brother Allie in Catcher. The story was written for Harper’s Bazaar, but Salinger withdrew it before it was published.

The other two stories, “Paula” and “Birthday Boy,” have been available to researchers at the University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Center. We weren’t able to confirm whether these stories match the manuscripts there, but the plot details recounted on Salinger scholar Kenneth Slawenski’s website do seem to match the details of the stories.

Reading the stories is an odd experience — “The Ocean Full Of Bowling Balls” in particular is magical and sweet and sad, as is all of Salinger, and it’s a delight to finally be able to read it and impossible to understand why he would secret it away. But the other two stories are very rough, at best, and it’s hard not to feel a bit guilty when devouring something that he didn’t want the world to see, and it’s harder still to imagine a less Salinger-esque way to read these stories than hastily scanned and illegally hosted online.

In the end, Salinger’s way with words wins out. Here are the most beautiful quotes from the three stories:

His face got triumphant — the way Kenneth’s face got triumphant; without implications of his having defeated or outdrawn anybody. The ocean was terrible now. It was full of bowling balls.

There was a long kiss, and passion a very remote part of it.

He knew the batting and fielding averages of every player in the major leagues. But he wouldn’t and didn’t go to any of the games with me. He went just once with me, when he was about eight years old, and had seen Lou Gehrig strike out twice. He said he didn’t want to see anyone really good strike out again.

He was a gentleman; a twelve year-old gentleman; he was a gentleman all his life.

But all her little trips, side- and direct- considered, approximately 23 hours of the day, 165 hours of the week, 644 hours of the month, Mrs. Hincher resided under counterpane. She breakfasted, lunched, and dined in bed. She read and knitted in bed, all current newspapers and magazines, bags of wool and graduated sizes of knitting needles, within her reach.

The word “baby” sans the preceding definite article completely disarmed and waylaid Mr. Hincher’s heart.

[From Holden Caulfield’s letter from summer camp] The swimming stinks here because there are no waves even little waves. What good is it without any waves and you never get scared or turned all over.

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