Writer's Cramp?

JD salinger CBS

Amazon.com is pulling a listing saying a new J.D. Salinger book is due in November. No publication date has been set for "Hapworth 16, 1924," a novella that appeared in The New Yorker in 1965 and was originally expected in book form five years ago.

Several Web sites had repeated the information posted on Amazon, and even included links to the online retailer, raising hopes that a "new" Salinger work would be coming for the first time in 40 years. But both Salinger's agent, Phyllis Westberg, and his publisher, Orchises Press, told The Associated Press that Amazon was wrong.

"There's enough uncertainty about when it's going to be published that we're going to remove the date," Amazon.com spokesman Bill Curry said Monday.

Curry said the source of the November date for "Hapworth" is uncertain, but that it likely came from a distributor's catalog. He declined to say how many orders had been placed for "Hapworth," which as of Monday afternoon ranked 25,106th on Amazon.

The unpredictable fate of "Hapworth" has only added to the unpredictable image of Salinger, the author of "The Catcher in the Rye."

In early 1997, Westberg confirmed rumors that a book version of "Hapworth" was coming out soon. Salinger presumably could have signed with any of the major publishers, but instead selected Orchises, a small imprint based in Alexandria, Va., and run by an English professor at George Mason University.

The novella is an episode from Salinger's famous Glass family saga, a purported letter from camp written by precocious, 7-year-old Seymour Glass. Anticipation was so high that New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani didn't wait for a review copy, but tracked down the old New Yorker text and panned it as a "sour, implausible, and, sad to say, completely charmless story."

For reasons unclear - some speculated about the impact of Kakutani's review - "Hapworth" didn't appear. Salinger, of course, wasn't talking. And Orchises was only slightly more accessible, saying that publication was still planned, but not giving a date. A spokeswoman for Orchises recently said that that status is unchanged.

Even before removing the November date, Amazon had cautioned Salinger fans.

"As one might expect with a J.D. Salinger title, there are some twists and turns," reads a message posted on the page devoted to "Hapworth."

"There can be unexpected delays in the publication process, especially with a title that is generating as much demand as this one, and unfortunately such delays are beyond our control. ... (But) Orchises notes that all backorders will be honored and assures us the book is really being published."

"Salinger has always refused to take the conventional route, and it looks like he's running true to form with the publication of this book."


By Hillel Italie
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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