cover image Sergeant Salinger

Sergeant Salinger

Jerome Charyn. Bellevue, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-942658-82-5

In this literary tour de force, Charyn (The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King) recreates J.D. Salinger’s experiences during WWII. The book begins with a bravura set-piece in which Sonny Salinger goes on a date with teen debutante Oona O’Neill to the Stork Club, where he rubs shoulders with columnist Walter Winchell, gangster Frank Costello, and his idol, Ernest Hemingway, before returning home to receive his draft notification. Assigned to the Army’s much-feared Counter Intelligence Corps, Sonny storms Utah Beach on D-Day, helps to liberate Paris, survives the Battle of the Bulge, and frees the inmates of a concentration camp, all the while carrying with him the work-in-progress that will one day become his masterpiece. One year after the end of the war and a nervous breakdown, Sonny returns home to his family in New York, accompanied by a German war bride and suffering from writer’s block. Charyn makes a persuasive case for how America’s most famous reclusive author endured the horrors of war and carried these memories into his postwar writing career. With standout scenes—Sonny’s disastrous bar mitzvah, a confrontation with Hemingway at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, a breakthrough in Bloomingdale’s bargain basement—Charyn vividly portrays Sonny’s journey from slick short story writer to suffering artist. The winning result humanizes a legend. (Jan.)