Sergeant Salinger

288 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $16.99
ISBN: 9781942658740


ISBN: 9781942658757

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“[A] literary tour de force. . . . Charyn vividly portrays [J.D. Salinger’s] journey from slick short story writer to suffering artist. The winning result humanizes a legend.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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“A masterly portrait of a young man’s terrible war.”

The Times

“A bravura slice of creative reconstruction. . . . Charyn triumphantly adds to the wealth of historical war fiction, while exercising his right as a fiction author to rewrite our understanding of another.”

Daily Mail

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“Wonderfully recreates the war years of J. D. Salinger. . . . If you are looking for a more nuanced war novel, a story of World War II and what it did to the young men forced to fight it, this is the book for you.”

Michigan Daily

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“Two intriguing suggestions are buried deeply in the story that Charyn tells so compellingly in Sergeant Salinger. One is that Salinger could have but chose not to write one of the great war novels of the twentieth century. (In a real sense, Charyn has done it for him.) The other is that Salinger’s experience of war drove him to explore only the inner lives of the characters he invented and to hide his own inner life from the generations of readers who revere him.”

Jewish Journal

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“Charyn wisely avoids the biographical novel’s penchant for the blow-by-blow, scene-by-scene recounting of all the important moments in the subject’s life. Instead we are immersed in the immediacy of war as Salinger . . . has to psyche out the phonies and somehow remain true to himself.”

University Bookman

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“Intense and absorbing.”

The Reporter

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“This supremely engaging novel leaves us with a new, sometimes heart-rending understanding of [J.D. Salinger] and the times in which he came of age.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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“Charyn deftly leaves the reader wondering whether Holden Caulfield’s teenage angst was really Salinger’s personification of post-traumatic stress disorder. . . . Engrossing.”

Library Journal

“Nuanced and acutely perceptive. . . . Charyn offers an astute psychological portrait of an elusive yet vastly compelling subject.”


“Charyn peers into the traumas that formed the lifelong recluse and his enigmatic stories. . . . The whole story makes for an engaging and informative rendering of an important American author.”

Historical Novels Review

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“An in depth look at one of our most celebrated of writers. . . . Charyn answers the question of how it was meant to be for Salinger to write that novel that unwittingly summoned the world.”

Comics Grinder

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Sergeant Salinger is a gift for anyone who would like to know more about the author who made Holden Caulfield a classroom name. . . . If you feel about Salinger as I do, I hope you will visit the pages of this insightful novel if for no other reason than to enjoy a great story.”

Linda Bond, Auntie’s Bookstore (Spokane, WA)

“Incredible. . . . Jerome Charyn is a great writer.”

Matt Tannenbaum, The Bookstore (Lenox, MA) on WAMC The Roundtable

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J.D. Salinger, mysterious author of The Catcher in the Rye, is remembered today as a reclusive misanthrope. Jerome Charyn’s Salinger is a young American WWII draftee assigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps, a band of secret soldiers who trained with the British. A rifleman and an interrogator, he witnessed all the horrors of the war—from the landing on D-Day to the relentless hand-to-hand combat in the hedgerows of Normandy, to the Battle of the Bulge, and finally to the first Allied entry into a Bavarian death camp, where corpses were piled like cordwood.

After the war, interned in a Nuremberg psychiatric clinic, Salinger became enchanted with a suspected Nazi informant. They married, but not long after he brought her home to New York, the marriage collapsed. Maladjusted to civilian life, he lived like a “spook,” with invisible stripes on his shoulder, the ghosts of the murdered inside his head, and stories to tell.

Grounded in biographical fact and reimagined as only Charyn could, Sergeant Salinger is an astonishing portrait of a devastated young man on his way to becoming the mythical figure behind a novel that has marked generations.

Tribune-Star “Best Books of the Year” selection

WAMC The Roundtable “Book Picks” selection

Excerpt from Sergeant Salinger

Find an excerpt from Jerome Charyn’s novel Sergeant Salinger in “Salinger and the Art of ‘Jewish Zen’” at the Jewish Book Council.

Before he wrote the novel Sergeant Salinger, Jerome Charyn attempted to discover the man behind the myth in a Forward magazine cover story, “J.D. Salinger: The Lost Bar Mitzvah Boy.”