By now, most "Catcher in the Rye" fans know the big news from the recent bio of J. D. Salinger: This reclusive author, who published nothing after 1965, continued writing daily till his death in 2010; several of the resulting works are slated for release starting in 2015.
Yet there are many other eye-openers for "Catcher" buffs in this flawed but fascinating volume from Shane Salerno and David Shields.
Released Sept. 3 and tied to a concurrent documentary film, "Salinger" reveals a man so impossible to like or admire that devotees will never read their beloved book in quite the same way.
Most troubling is Salinger's penchant for preying on girls; time and again the author would initiate contact with someone like fresh-faced author Joyce Maynard (18 at the time; Salinger was 53) - and then, after relationships of varying length, he'd toss them aside, banning them from his presence with astonishing speed, permanence and thoroughness.
All this casts an unpleasant shadow over the otherwise glowing relationship between "Catcher" protagonist Holden Caulfield and his young sister Phoebe - just about the only person he likes.
Indeed, "Salinger" answers the long-standing question of how thoroughly the author endorsed Holden, whose habits include swearing, underachieving, hating everything and repeatedly indulging in various behaviors for which he excoriates everybody else.
Though "Catcher" often seems to indict Holden, to offer him up as a warning rather than a role model, Salerno and Shields show that Salinger identified closely with his antihero - even to the point of weeping and then pulling the manuscript when one publisher concluded the young man was crazy.
Similarly, Holden's unhealthy fantasies about withdrawal clearly mirror the hermit-like lifestyle Salinger adopted after "Catcher" took off.
Not only did he hole up in rural New Hampshire, refusing nearly all interviews, but he likewise sequestered himself from his family for huge chunks of time, pounding away at his typewriter in a self-styled "bunker" from which even loved ones were strictly banned.
"Salinger" asks whether anyone has the right to so seclude himself - though it does at least give the writer credit for avoiding the pitfalls of fame that seem endemic to our celebrity-crazed culture.
On the downside, the book consists almost entirely of verbatim interviews - hundreds and hundreds of blocked-off quotes, some a mere sentence or two; this produces a disjointed feel and results in considerable repetition among the various accounts.
The authors could, like most biographers, have synthesized all this into something smoother and more organic - especially since they do occasionally take over entirely, styling themselves as just two more interviewees for multi-page passages.
Loaded with names, facts and captivating info - including a masterful chapter on the various murders tied to "Catcher" - the book also badly needs an index.
Nonetheless, "Salinger" is hard to put down, and the biographers have managed interviews with many elusive figures in the authors life - particularly Jean Miller, who fell for him at age 14 and never talked about it publicly until now.
Salerno and Shields have performed a vital service for Salinger's legacy; and if they leave "Catcher" fans skeptical about their favorite novel - well, that may be the most vital service of all.