There comes a time in the life of any young fanatic when you think you know it all. You’ve read their individual and collected works. You’ve trawled libraries and search engines for everything there is to find on them and then they go and pull the incredible feat of surprising you, from beyond the grave.
I’m talking about the emergence of new material, namely Jack Kerouac’s Upper Peninsula Diary which was found in a used bookstore in Michigan and photographs of J D Salinger in army fatigues amongst his buddies during the Second World War.
As someone who grew up ravishing every written word the pair of them wrote it’s a strange sensation to know there is still more, that I’m obviously not quite the fan I thought because I’m not prowling bookshops in small-town America and I’ve not spent the best part of a decade researching an elusive writer who would hate the thought of any kind of interest in him still existing. The thought of Salinger’s alleged trove of unreleased material found following his death is more than I as a fan can stand.
It’s nice to have a little reminder that those whose words taught you so much can still surprise you in the way they did when you first fell for them. That there may be a limit to the amount one person can produce in a lifetime but for someone else to accumulate and obtain that knowledge is almost as limiting.
I don’t want to be precious about them but there’s a reason the UPD and unreleased Salinger manuscripts never saw the sight of day during their lifetimes, and it’s just possible they could stay that way.