Salinger's Letters by Nils Schou

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Salinger's Letters by Nils Schou

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Anna Hollingsworth
Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth
Summary: A struggling author tries to come to grips with his depression through corresponding with J. D. Salinger. Much too superficial in style, this novel fails to wholly do justice to its content.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 270 Date: November 2015
Publisher: Sandstone Press Ltd
ISBN: 978-1910124659

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Dentist-turned-author Dan Moller is struggling, both financially and mentally, when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a pair of Americans. They offer to sweep away Moller's financial worries in exchange for his correspondence with J. D. Salinger, the elusive author of The Catcher in the Rye. What follows is, for Dan Moller, a journey to America to meet Salinger, and, for the reader, a journey through these letters into Moller's relationship with his depression, the lives of the eccentrics in his writers' collective, and into Western intelligentsia ranging from Kiergegaard's writings to a psychedelic apparition of pop icons featuring Andy Warhol and Woody Allen.

The crux of Salinger’s Letters is very much formed by these layers alternating between the stories told through Moller's experiences in America and those unfolding through the correspondence between the two authors. Schou masters the art of the multilayered structure, transitioning with impeccable smoothness between Kopenhagen and New York, and university football matches and LSD-fuelled trips into a depressed mind. All of the layers, although seemingly disparate, contribute in their own ways to the thematic overlay of the novel, a picture of a man and his depression.

It is precisely this non-linear structure that allows Schou to populate his novel with an intriguing cast of characters, spanning several decades and spread across two continents. Different chapters zoom into the lives of Puk, the centre of all literary life in Copenhagen, Nora, the Marilyn Monroe of literature, Dr Schroder, the corrective jaw surgery professor sharing Moller's very particular variety of depression, as well as Amanda, the personification of Moller's depression. This is what the novel succeeds in the best: providing sneak peaks, as it were, into the worlds of diverse characters, consistently shedding more light onto one central theme.

However, Salinger's Letters fails to realize its full potential, falling into the trap of providing more breadth than depth. The characters' actions often come across as unmotivated, and their mindsets will change without much elaboration; while such a way of storytelling may sometimes be justified as an artistic choice or literary device, in Schou's writing it comes across as a failing in style and skill. The diverse surroundings fail to draw the reader in, serving merely as a soulless backdrop to the plot, so that Schou's writing leaves the reader an outsider, with a feeling of only scraping the surface of what could be something much more vibrant and tangible – instead, the storytelling is superficial at best and abrupt and clumsy at worst.

Salinger's Letters is a novel with unfortunately unrealized potential; it is an enjoyable read rich in cultural references, but in the end it is a bit too much of a light page-turner to wholly do justice to its substance.

If this book appeals to you, then you might also like to try The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld.

Buy Salinger's Letters by Nils Schou at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Salinger's Letters by Nils Schou at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Salinger's Letters by Nils Schou at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Salinger's Letters by Nils Schou at Amazon.com.


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