Important collection of Salinger letters could deliver $150,000

J D Salinger was one of the most notoriously reclusive writers ever known. Having achieved enormous fame with the publication of The Catcher in the Rye he published only a handful more things during his lifetime and very rarely made contact with anyone outside his inner circle.

As you'd expect, Salinger's autograph is distinctly rare in any form. So it's with a sense of excitement that Sotheby's is presenting a collection of letters exchanged between the author and Olga Pastuchiv - a fan who succeeded in the difficult task of becoming his friend.

Pastuchiv read The Catcher in the Rye when bedridden with flu, and wrote Salinger a seven page long letter. The correspondence developed and Salinger was particularly keen to talk literature with his fan, who worked in a bookstore.

Indeed his first letter criticises his own long story Seymour: An Introduction as "overdone".  Most of the discussions return to Russian literature, as Salinger notes that Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Turgenev were all important to him in his youth.

Irish literature is also mentioned, he says he doesn't enjoy Yeats's autobiographical writings as whilst he admires the poetry his is not impressed with Yeats himself. James Joyce is a "blank" for him, but he does grudgingly admire the work of Edna O'Brien.

Surprisingly to some will be the author's high opinion of Arnold Bennett, in particular The Old Wives' Tale, which Pastuchiv doesn't share. He concedes that it might not be to the taste of a Dostoevsky lover.

J D Salinger letters

Other subjects covered include the author's love of Chinese food, for Japanese culture in general (including haikus), his improving opinion of Australians, cookery, cinema, great enthusiasm for homeopathy (he even attaches little packets of a plant homeopaths use for a sleeping aid).

Interestingly, Salinger encourages personal meetings partly on the basis that he spends a lot of time during the day at his typewriter and would prefer to minimise letter-writing. He even passes on his phone number, with instructions to memorise it and tear it up ("CIA-like").

In total, the letters are one of the best sets of correspondence from the reclusive author ever likely to come to market - especially as he pressed correspondents to destroy his letters.

They will appear in Sotheby's auction of Rare Books and Manuscripts tomorrow (June 18) in New York, alongside John Lennon lyrics and letters by René Magritte, with an estimate of $100,000-150,000.

Collectors and investors interested in owning Salinger's autograph will want to take a look at this one which is also on the market at a more entry-level price.


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