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Two publishers remember Salinger dealings

Last week, Post reporter Ian Shapira wrote a heartbreaking story about an Alexandria publisher, Roger Lathbury, who struck up a friendship with J.D. Salinger in the mid-1990s. Lathbury made a deal with the reclusive author to publish his last published work, "Hapworth 16, 1924," in book form. It had originally run in the New Yorker in 1965.

The pair met in person and for months exchanged letters, "some of them deeply personal." But when The Washington Post caught wind of the upcoming book and published a story, the deal evaporated and the letters ceased.

"My general feeling is anguish," Lathbury told Shapira. "I never reached back out. I thought about writing some letters, but it wouldn't have done any good."

If Salinger was particular, however, he was not impossible. A letter published in the Guardian yesterday recounts a British publisher's written plea to Salinger to allow his four published books to be reissued and rejacketed in the early 1990s:

"A few weeks went by before the unthinkable happened: I received a fax from New York with a letter from Salinger himself - densely typed on a manual typewriter with, at the top, the date and the word "Cornish", the town in New Hampshire where he lived his reclusive life. The letter was over 1,000 words long and was signed from 'Jerry'. It felt like a message from God."

Salinger eventually approved the redesigned covers and jacket copy.

By Emma Brown  |  February 3, 2010; 10:35 AM ET
 
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