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Book News: Did A Missing Testicle Make J.D. Salinger A Recluse?

A photo of J.D. Salinger taken in September 1961.
A photo of J.D. Salinger taken in September 1961.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Among the odder "revelations" coming out of a new J.D. Salinger biography is the claim that the author of Catcher in the Rye had only one testicle. According to David Shields and Shane Salerno, the biography's authors, two women "independently confirmed" the story. They go on to posit that testicle-shame may have been one of the reasons he became such a recluse. But given that wearing clothes is customary in many parts of New York (exception: the subway), it seems Salinger needn't have shunned society if he wanted to hide that particular problem.
  • U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey recalls her first encounter with Seamus Heaney, the legendary Irish poet who died last week: "When I finally did meet Seamus, at the garden party of the colleague who'd made those facsimiles for me, I was stunned by his accessibility and generosity of spirit — two things quite evident in his poems. Often it seems that there are writers who are their best selves on the page. That Seamus Heaney was as genuine and deeply admirable in person as in his poems was to me a gift, then as now."
  • British betting site Ladbrokes says Japanese author Haruki Murakami is a 3-to-1 favorite to win the Nobel Prize in Literature this October. Murakami is followed by Joyce Carol Oates (6-to-1) and Peter Nadas (7-to-1).
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf playwright Edward Albee gave an intriguing (if somewhat combative) interview to The Believer: "I do not invent characters. There they are. That's who they are. That's their nature. They talk and they behave the way they want to behave."
  • Novelist and critic Katie Kitamura explains to Guernica why "a really good, interesting novel will often let a little ugliness get into its words."
  • Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie's fussy, mustachioed detective, is getting a new lease on life after Christie's estate agreed to let novelist Sophie Hannah revive him in a mystery coming out next fall. Hannah said in a press release, "I hope to create a puzzle that will confound and frustrate the incomparable Hercule Poirot for at least a good few chapters."
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.