UNDATED (USA Today) - More weirdness surrounding the strange afterlife of late leave-me-alone American writer J.D. Salinger. This time, it's about three unpublished short stories by Salinger, leaked online in murky circumstances.
The upshot is that Salinger, who died in January 2010 after a lifetime of acclaim and grumpy refusal to acknowledge it, is making almost more headlines dead than alive. The creator of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye would not be pleased.
The latest strange tale is being reported by culture-watchers at Reddit, BuzzFeed and The Guardian newspaper in Britain, among others. Apparently, it all started with an eBay auction, now ended.
A PDF scan of a paperback book by Salinger titled Three Stories was posted on the auction site Wednesday. One story, "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls," is thought to be one of the author's best and was sort of a precursor to Catcher. But Salinger had directed it not be published before 2060.
According to a post on Reddit, the auction was noticed, and an anonymous file-sharer posted a scan of the book on a invitation-only file-sharing site. Notes on Reddit reported that the uploader claimed that the paperback was No. 6 of 25 copies published in London in 1999.
The unknown uploader declined to discuss the origins of the book but said it appeared as though someone with access to the originals compiled them in a self-published collection. "Other than that, its existence is not well documented," Reddit reported.
Before this, "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls" was at the Princeton Library, available to read under supervision only by vetted scholars. One scholar, Kenneth Slawenski, author of JD Salinger: A Life, told Buzzfeed that the leaked stories "look to be true transcripts of the originals."
Besides being a New Hampshire recluse, Salinger was famous for his do-not-publish directions in his post-Catcher work. He published his last story in 1965. He was 91 when he died.
This summer, much excitement ensued when Salinger, a new biography and a decade-in-the-making documentary on him, revealed that there are five posthumous works by Salinger scheduled to be published between 2015 and 2020.
Shane Salerno, co-author of the book and director of the film, told USA TODAY that Salinger didn't want his work published while he was alive "because he wasn't writing for applause or ego. He was writing for himself. He wasn't seeking out rewards."
But his approach to publishing means his work is rare, which means there's always a scramble when anything new becomes available. Maybe the weirdest thing of all is that the winning bid for the eBay auction was in British pounds, for about $107. Someone got a bargain.