"Letters by J.D. Salinger"

The curtain comes up on the reclusive author's private life, detailed in a 40-plus-year correspondence with his friend Michael Mitchell. Read 11 letters he wrote at the Morgan Library & Museum, and draw your own conclusions.

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Letter eight

April 6, 1985
The things Salinger confides to Mitchell in this letter make it the most dense and beautiful piece in the Morgan's collection. In it, he begs Mitchell's forgiveness for his "shortcomings" as a friend. There's a good amount of straight-talking emotion here: Salinger considers the pure relationships he built with Mitchell and Bet the best of his life. They mean everything to him, and though their friendship survives only in letters now, the time they once spent together is described the way most people describe a true love that has wasted away; it "doesn't seem to repeat itself in a single lifetime." He is sorry, but he has no regrets—he is who he is, and he presses on, at odds with those who wound him with their judgments that he is living a selfish, unproductive life. "I've needed to stew endlessly, unrelievedly in my own juice," Salinger writes. "That sentence says it all, as far as I know."

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