Archive for October 2013

Salinger, Chapter Eight: Measuring Up


This man’s name is A.E. Hotchner, the pride of Saint Louis, Missouri. He’s a writer and editor who was longtime friends with both Salinger and Hemingway, and he was also close friends with Paul Newman, who teamed with him to found Newman’s Own and raise hundreds of millions of dollars for charitable and educational nonprofits.

This American treasure is still alive and living in Westport, Connecticut. He’s 93 years old.

His words dominate Chapter Eight, providing this highly flawed biography with the ethos and substance missing from most of the text. Salerno and Shields step aside (mostly) and allow for Hotchner’s paragraphs to fill many of these pages. This is significant, because up until now, the people who got the most page-coverage in this book were people who were never in the same room with Salinger. Hotchner, though, provides moments like this

Jerry was a lousy poker player. He refused to bluff and felt that anybody who bluffed was a weenie, as he would say. I said “But if you don’t bluff, you’re not going to be a successful poker player.” I don’t recall Jerry ever winning a round of poker; he was too cautious and suspicious. (190)

They would hang out in Greenwich Village at places like Chumley’s, a legendary pub frequented by writers like Dos Passos, Cather, Faulkner, Steinbeck. The Beats were there.

Hotchner should have written this book. Hotchner at Chumley’s with Salinger

We’d sit at one of the small tables, and if somebody came in whom he knew and liked, he would join us, but there weren’t many people Jerry knew and liked. […] I don’t know why he decided to spend as much time with me as he did. Maybe it was because I sometimes questioned his literary arrogance; he would put down almost any writer you could talk about. (191)

I won’t talk about some of the awful, fraudulent shit in this chapter (Shields, Phoebe Hoban, Tom Wolfe, et al.), because people like Hotchner, William Maxwell, Gay Talese, Joyce Maynard, and Jean Miller counteract the nonsense. The book should really start here. And should probably be 200 pages instead of freaking 700.