Hapworth 16, 1924

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"Hapworth 16, 1924" is the "youngest" of J. D. Salinger's Glass family stories, in the sense that the narrated events happen chronologically before those in the rest of the "Glass series". It appeared in the June 19, 1965 edition of The New Yorker, infamously taking up almost the entire magazine. Though he lived for nearly 45 years after its publication, this story was the last original work of Salinger's to be published in his lifetime.

Both contemporary and later literary critics harshly panned "Hapworth 16, 1924"; writing in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani called it "a sour, implausible and, sad to say, completely charmless story," "filled with digressions, narcissistic asides and ridiculous shaggy-dog circumlocutions." [1] Even kind critics have regarded the work as "a long-winded sob story" which many have found to be "simply unreadable," and it has been speculated that this negative response was the reason Salinger decided to quit publishing.[2] Conversely, Salinger is said to have considered the story a "high point of his writing" and made tentative steps to have it reprinted; nonetheless, these efforts came to nothing.[3]


The story is presented in the form of a letter from camp written by a seven-year-old Seymour Glass (the main character of "A Perfect Day for Bananafish"). In this respect, the plot is identical to Salinger's previous unpublished story "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls," written eighteen years earlier in 1947. In the course of requesting a veritable library of reading matter from home, Seymour predicts his brother's success as a writer as well as his own death and condemns the ironic "twist" endings in the stories of Anatole France, twist endings being an early Salinger device.

Publishing history[edit]

After the story's appearance in The New Yorker, Salinger—who had already withdrawn to his home in New Hampshire—stopped publishing altogether. Since he never put the story between hard covers, readers had to seek out a copy of that issue or find it on microfilm. Finally, with the release of The Complete New Yorker on DVD in 2005, the story was once again widely available.

In the meantime, however, in 1996, Orchises Press, a small publishing house in Virginia, started the process to publish "Hapworth" in book form. In an article in The Washington Post, published after Salinger's death,[4] and in a story for New York,[3] Orchises Press owner Roger Lathbury described his efforts to publish the story. According to Lathbury, Salinger was deeply concerned with the proposed book's appearance, even visiting Washington to examine the cloth for the binding. Salinger also sent Lathbury numerous "infectious and delightful and loving" letters.[4]

Lathbury, following publishing norms, applied for Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication data, unaware of how publicly available the information would be. A writer in Seattle, researching an article on Jeff Bezos, the founder of the then-fledgling Amazon.com, came across the "Hapworth" publication date,[5] told his sister, a journalist for the Washington Business Journal, who wrote an article about the upcoming book.[6] This led to substantial coverage in the press. Shortly before the books were to be shipped, Salinger changed his mind, and in accordance with his wishes, Orchises withdrew the work. Although new publication dates were repeatedly announced, the book never appeared.[7] Lathbury said, "I never reached back out. I thought about writing some letters, but it wouldn't have done any good."[4] Three months after Salinger's death, Lathbury published an account of the experience in New York Magazine.[8]


  1. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (20 February 1997). "From Salinger, A New Dash Of Mystery". nytimes.com. The New York Times Company. a sour, implausible and, sad to say, completely charmless story…filled with digressions, narcissistic asides and ridiculous shaggy-dog circumlocutions. 
  2. ^ French (1986), pp. 110-112
  3. ^ a b Lathbury (2010)
  4. ^ a b c Shapira (2010)
  5. ^ Lundegaard (2010)
  6. ^ Lundegaard (1996)
  7. ^ Noah (2000)
  8. ^ Lathbury, Roger (12 April 2010). "Betraying Salinger". nymag.com. New York Media, LLC. Retrieved 22 May 2010. I scored the publishing coup of the decade: his final book. And then I blew it. 


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