Fans of J.D. Salinger have been able to read newly released short stories by the late, famously reclusive author, 50 years before they were supposed to be published. Last month, pirates began sharing copies of three short stories that were first published in an unauthorized collection more than a decade ago, and uploaded to the filesharing site What.cd on November 27.
While the leak may be good news for fans of literature, it could spell legal trouble for Princeton University, which confirmed the authenticity of the manuscripts. One of the stories, “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls,” was apparently copied from the university’s rare books archives, where it had been available only to researchers.
University spokesman Martin Mbugua speculated the leak was copied longhand in the reading room, or that it had been photocopied more than 25 years ago, before Firestone Library prohibited photocopies of Salinger’s work in 1987. Salinger was famously protective of his work, and launched a lawsuit to prevent a biographer from quoting his unpublished material in the 1980s.
Nonetheless, in 1999, “An Ocean Full of Bowling Balls” was published, in London, along with two other short stories, in a book called “Three Stories,” of which only 25 copies were reportedly made, without permission from Salinger. Last month a copy of the book showed up on eBay, and soon after a .pdf file was uploaded to the Internet and is now widely available.
Salinger had donated the story to the university under the condition that it not be published until 50 years after his death. Since Salinger died in 2010, Princeton would not have released the book until 2060. A review of “Bowling Balls” in the Guardian noted that it had originally been accepted for publication in Harpers Bazaar in 1946, but that he decided not to publish it, for an unknown reason.
The story is of particular interest to Salinger fans because of its tie to the author’s most celebrated work, “The Catcher in the Rye,” and its protagonist, Holden Caulfield. “Bowling Balls” is about the death of Holden’s younger brother Kenneth, and is narrated by his older brother Vincent. The story contains a letter from Holden himself, written from “Camp Goodrest for slobs.”
The other two stories, “Birthday Boy” and “Paula,” were kept at the University of Texas.