University of Leicester academic to appear on BBC Radio 4 to discuss celebrated American author J. D. Salinger

Posted by ngi2 at Feb 15, 2016 12:08 PM |
Dr Sarah Graham will feature in J. D. Salinger: Made in England, which airs on Thursday, February 18, at 11.30am. The show will discuss Salinger's time in Britain as well as his short story, For Esmé - with Love and Squalor. Dr Graham is a lecturer in American Literature and has written two books on Salinger.

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 15 February 2016

A University of Leicester lecturer in American Literature will be exploring the English influences on J. D. Salinger's work on BBC Radio 4 later this month.

Dr Sarah Graham, of the School of English, will feature in 'J. D. Salinger: Made in England' next Thursday (18th), and will be discussing a specific period in Salinger's life, during the Second World War, which was spent in the south west of England.

She will be joined by freelance writer and editor of the most recent biography of Salinger, Mark Hodkinson.

Dr Graham, who has published two books on the celebrated 20th century American writer, said: “Salinger’s work has never been out of print because it resonates with each new generation. It seems to speak to people of all ages from all over the world.

“He captures people’s anxieties and desire for meaning in the modern world. His fiction is often very funny, but can also be very moving.”

The show will air on Radio 4 at 11.30am.

While recording the programme, the panel visited a country house outside Tiverton which the US Army used as headquarters during the war.

The building has now been converted to flats, but Dr Graham and Mr Hodkinson spoke to residents, who had photos of the house during the war, with jeeps parked outside looking very incongruous.

They also visited a church in Tiverton that seemed similar to one described in the short story.

Dr Graham said: “I’m talking about the relationship between the time he spent in Tiverton, Devon, and one of his best-known short stories, For Esmé--with Love and Squalor, which is set in a small town in Devon and features a soldier waiting to ship out to the war in Europe.

“This connection suggests that this very American author - most of his fiction is set in New York - was influenced and inspired by his time in England to produce important, enduring work.”

Dr Graham has been at the University since 2003 and teaches American Literature, which includes an undergraduate module on 'The Catcher in the Rye', about which she has written two books.

Her latest book focusses on Salinger’s works of short fiction and includes the central story under discussion in the radio programme, 'For Esmé - with Love and Squalor'.

“The book I’m going to complete this year is all about the short fiction Salinger published,” said Dr Graham, “which is a bit overshadowed by Catcher’s popularity, but is often brilliant.

“Salinger saw himself as much more a writer of short fiction than a novelist and many people would argue that the short stories are better than the novel.

“In the radio programme, we are discussing the story 'For Esmé - with Love and Squalor', which is set in an unnamed Devon town based on Tiverton, where Salinger was stationed before he participated in the D-Day Landing in June 1944.

“The story describes a soldier’s brief meeting with a girl, Esmé, and her younger brother Charles in a tea-room.

“Esmé asks the narrator/soldier to write her a story about ‘squalor’ which he promises to do.

“The rest of the story is set at the end of the war, and focuses on Sgt X, the narrator of the first part, who is traumatised by his experiences in combat.

“Now in Germany, he has been treated for a breakdown, but has not recovered.

“He receives a letter from Esmé, lost in the postal system for months, and the love she conveys to him is healing because it brings the sergeant the possibility of hope for the future, reassurance that not all innocence has been lost in the war.”

J. D. Salinger was born in New York in 1919, and died in New Hampshire in 2010.

Although known as a short story writer, his most successful novel was 'The Catcher in the Rye', which told the story of Holden Caulfield, now an iconic figure in contemporary literature.

This much-loved book has received critical acclaim and attracted controversy – with rumours linking it to various assassination attempts.

Dr Graham said: “It has been associated with various strange theories and assassinations, such as the idea that Mark Chapman was brain-washed into killing John Lennon with the novel as a trigger.

“It was also associated with the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan.

“There is a film starring Mel Gibson, called, in a straight-to-the-point way, 'Conspiracy Theory', that has the FBI monitoring every sale of Catcher as a way of locating subversives.

“Some argue that the FBI is the ‘catcher’ of the title. So watch out…”

 

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