J.D. Salinger - known to his friends as Jerry - is the mysterious author of the most famous adolescent book in the last century, 'The Catcher In The Rye'. Little has ever been known about the talented Jewish author; he preferred to keep his private life out of the public eye, stopped taking interviews 30 years before his death and hated being photographed by the media. In 1965, he had stopped publishing stories altogether and few people knew exactly what had happened to him. Few people also knew about his troubling experiences in the army during World War II and there were rumours that he had suffered a nervous breakdown and worked on his writing alone in an isolated cabin. It was no wonder, in some respects, that he wanted to stay out of the limelight as much as possible, after three young boys used the novel to justify cold-blooded murders. Now, some of the most sought after details of his Salinger's personal life are revealed, from his relationships to his emotional struggles.
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It's true of many writers, for the natural curve of their career to go from cold, hard fact and veer increasingly to stories and fiction. Toni Morrison began as a lecturer, before writing her first novel The Bluest Eye, Daniel Defoe began as a political writer and pamphleteer before his embarking on an exceptional fiction-writing career including Robinson Crusoe, and Stieg Larsson was an international journalist long before forging on his incredible Millenium Trilogy. The motivation is always the propellant desire to more greatly understand humanity, and Tom Wolfe's journey has been no different. Beginning his career as an investigative and radical writer and journalist, he changed the face of journalism itself and wrote the world famous The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, long before stepping out into the big, wide, scary world of fiction, back in 1987, with the wildly popular The Bonfire of Vanities. He returns tomorrow with the release of his fourth work of fiction Back To Blood.
Back To Blood is an epic and sprawling work is driven by tension, itself fueled by race, crime and uncomfortable diversity. Set in Miami, where whites are in the minority, the Hispanic and African-American relations are tense, but Russians and Haitians are added to the mix to make this an extraordinarily diverse, and true to life, depiction of Miami. The Daily Beast describes it as a "bracing vision of America's shifting demography and the immutability of ethnic conflict and class aspirations." Reality, in this novel, bites not only in content but in style, regarding a minor point of an exclamation mark, he said to USA Today; "I think that's how people talk. They talk in exclamation points! They don't talk in philosophical essays."
And indeed he's right, we like to shock and we like to be shocked, we're forever surprised, forever sarcastic, and all of that requires a healthy dose of exclamation marks. Wolfe is one to shock and surprise, perpetually. Anyone that reads or has read his fiction or non-fiction cannot help but be perpetually surprised- and delighted- at Wolfe's grand narrative styles, but also the confidence with which he broaches his topic, be it the effects of drugs, collegiate politics, or in the case of his latest novels, racial tensions in Miami. Back To Blood is available for purchase tomorrow (23rd Oct. 2012).
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