The work shines brightest when the sheer sweat of its journalistic and workmanlike research is on display. They have certainly assembled and chronicled an exhaustive company of primary sources and empirical data. They have surfaced new information and shed light on previously incomplete components of Salinger’s life. They have contributed to the conversation.
The book overreaches however as it tries to dig authoritatively into Salinger’s soul to wrap up a tidy explanation of both his method and his madness. Beyond the pop psychology, Salinger was opaque by design and this fine book unwisely concludes with a laundry list attempting to parse the elements into an organized and quantifiable summary.
They should have left well enough alone.