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Pirates on J.D. Salinger's Ocean
November 28, 2013 6:05 AM   Subscribe

"Three unpublished works by J.D. Salinger, including The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls, have been leaked online after showing up in an eBay auction. Birthday Boy, Paula, and the aforementioned Ocean are three short stories that form part of a larger collection of Salinger works that was never published."

Yesterday the stories were uploaded as a PDF to the exclusive private BitTorrent tracker What.cd, which reportedly offered a 1TB-6TB download credit bounty for "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls" by itself.

The other two stories, "Birthday Boy" and "Paula," are also available at University of Texas' Ransom Center, and have been confirmed as authentic copies by Salinger scholar Kenneth Slawenski.

Before now, "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls" was only available to read in person under supervision at Princeton University's Firestone Library: "Firestone’s unpublished, 18-page carbon copy of the original typescript is a story about the death of Kenneth Caulfield, who appears as Holden Caulfield’s brother Allie in The Catcher in the Rye."

Firestone Library has strict rules for interested readers: "Visitors get copies, not originals. You have to wash your hands when you arrive. No photocopying; no cameras; no laptops; no pens."
posted by nicebookrack (41 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, it's not like Salinger was going to make any money.
But obviously someone needs to print some copies at stupidly high prices, because people will pay money.
I would, if I had ever read Catcher in the Rye.
posted by Mezentian at 6:10 AM on November 28, 2013




"You have to wash your hands when you arrive. No photocopying; no cameras; no laptops; no pens."

Wait...what?
Information is free, is it not?
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 6:18 AM on November 28, 2013


The stories were apparently scanned from a unauthorized book compiling the three, a 25-copy print run printed in London in 1999. One can only speculate how much each of those 25 books cost. Plus it's nice (?) to see that dead-tree book piracy is still alive and well.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:19 AM on November 28, 2013


Last night, @brendlewhat said that "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls" was good, but he didn't say where he'd found it. This explains it. Thanks for the post!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:19 AM on November 28, 2013


Information is free, is it not?

Sorry, I was busy monetising your private e-mails. What was your question?
posted by Mezentian at 6:20 AM on November 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Quoted from "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls" wiki link above:
As per the terms of Salinger's donation of the manuscript to Princeton University, it cannot be published until 50 years after his death; thus, the earliest it can be published is January 27, 2060.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:25 AM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Although the origin of the three stories is unclear, the book first surfaced in a British eBay listing. Sold by an eBay member from Brentford in London, the book sold for just £67.50 (roughly $110) at auction. Whoever bought it then proceeded to scan and upload its contents to the members-only torrent site what.CD.

Their link to the original eBay auction shows the book was relisted twice. The first was copy 6 of 25, and went for £67.50 on 23 September; the second was 8 of 25, and went for £32.20 on 22 October; and the third was 22 of 25, and closed on 12 November with no bids. So there are at least three people (the seller and two buyers) who could have uploaded it.
posted by rory at 6:28 AM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Information is free, is it not?

Sorry, I was busy monetising your private e-mails. What was your question?


Nothing important, Mr. Schmidt, carry on.
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 6:30 AM on November 28, 2013


The plot thickens! Reportedly the files have been removed and banned from What.cd:
As many of you are aware, a leak of J.D. Salinger’s heretofore unpublished “Three Stories” found its way to What.CD in the last day. It is our current belief that this leak originated as a physical copy on eBay and made its way to our site in digital form thereafter, although we cannot confirm this lineage at present.

The official request for these stories has existed on What.CD for some time, and although many thought it would never be filled or otherwise viewed it as a harmless act of communal wishing, the request’s existence was in no way a formal endorsement by What.CD Staff.
Our first priority can and must be the protection of What.CD. Due to this case’s rare and unlikely circumstances, due to the unnecessary and unwanted attention the Salinger leak has brought, and due to our desire to comply with the desires of the Salinger estate or other involved parties in this matter, the content is being removed from What.CD. It is not to be re-uploaded under any circumstances, and anyone found doing so will have their account disabled.

We thank you for your patience as we continue to resolve this matter. Additional details will become available as is necessary per the discretion of the Staff.
I suspect that "unnecessary and unwanted attention" is going to bite What.cd hard despite their quick removal of the Salinger stories.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:32 AM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's likely we'll hear more about how and why the bootleg book came to be in the possession of a Londoner. The original eBay auction lists a full London address under the item's location, which, if genuine, could lead to the seller being questioned on the book's origin. The seller will also have the address that he sent the book to, possibly leading law enforcement to whoever scanned and uploaded the stories.

Law enforcement is going to interrogate people about where they got unauthorized Salinger stories? Seriously?
posted by jayder at 6:33 AM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Phew! I just read "Bowling Balls" and thanked God I wasn't fifteen anymore, endlessly complicating everything and reading tons of Salinger. I sincerely feel like I wasted way too much time reading/looking for meaning in Salinger books and should have spent more time having fun with friends.)
posted by discopolo at 6:37 AM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


rory: the "copyright" page of the book lists it as "copy no 6" of 25, which matches the first auction.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:41 AM on November 28, 2013


Also that is one boring, ugly, obviously self-published-by-a-computer pirated book. I mourn for the days of private printing presses and proper fancy hand-typeset pirated books.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:47 AM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


the earliest it can be published is January 27, 2060.

Man, he must have really hated that book.
posted by fungible at 7:09 AM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


What.CD is about to get stomped into a fine paste. When the name of your private, highly exclusive torrent tracker appears in the New York Times, that's pretty much all she wrote.
posted by Optamystic at 7:29 AM on November 28, 2013


Man, he must have really hated that book.

The genie is out now.
Not putting out an authoritative edition is kind of pointless.
posted by Mezentian at 7:29 AM on November 28, 2013


One of the things that makes me feel like an oldie on the internet is the effect the phrase "exclusive private BitTorrent tracker What.cd" has on me. I don't know how to find places like that anymore. Damn whippersnappers with their new fangled distributed pipes and encrypted data streams.

In my day we shared URLs. And passwords.
posted by DigDoug at 7:32 AM on November 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


In my day we shared URLs. And passwords.

They still do.
You're just not cool.

Like me.
posted by Mezentian at 7:34 AM on November 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


What.CD is so exclusive and Too Cool For You that it has an entrance interview to join. It would be easier to just buy those obscure throat-singing vinyls you desperately want to download instead.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:42 AM on November 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


what.cd is probably the largest private music torrent tracker since oink, which it followed in short order, I'm sure that its been firmly on the radar of anti-piracy groups for years now - publicity is never good for a website like that but I suspect that it will not be the swift killing that some of you suspect
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 7:43 AM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


This site has The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls in a readable format. For now.
posted by chavenet at 7:54 AM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found the Bowling Balls story to be decent.
posted by mafted jacksie at 8:09 AM on November 28, 2013


This is a bit funny because, since Salinger isn't around to alter the terms of his bequest, there really isn't anybody who can put the brakes on this Streisand Effect train wreck. It will be very interesting to see what the library and Salinger estate do when they realize that the genie ain't going back in the bottle.
posted by localroger at 8:16 AM on November 28, 2013


What.CD is about to get stomped into a fine paste.

Anybody even a tiny bit interested in torrents has known about What.CD for years.
posted by ryanrs at 8:18 AM on November 28, 2013


What.CD survived the release of COFEE, for what it's worth, although NYT coverage is probably the real killer here.
posted by absalom at 8:31 AM on November 28, 2013


(Phew! I just read "Bowling Balls" and thanked God I wasn't fifteen anymore, endlessly complicating everything and reading tons of Salinger. I sincerely feel like I wasted way too much time reading/looking for meaning in Salinger books and should have spent more time having fun with friends.)

I love reading Salinger, but I always finish with a vaguely sick feeling in my stomach, like after I saw the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. Too much moral ambiguity or unreliable narration or something... it shows me too clearly the veneer of normalcy that passes for mental health in our society.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:37 AM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


When reached for comment, the Beastie Boys stated that they are "madder than Mad's Alfred E. Newman."
posted by orme at 8:50 AM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love reading Salinger, but I always finish with a vaguely sick feeling in my stomach,

You know, reading his work now does make me feel slightly nauseated. I'm taking it as a good sign though that I grew up and became a well-adjusted and happy person ;-)
posted by discopolo at 8:58 AM on November 28, 2013


I always finish with a vaguely sick feeling in my stomach

Salinger did begin his career about the time Sartre published Nausea...
posted by localroger at 9:08 AM on November 28, 2013


weirdly I once came across a beach where someone had dumped a couple of hundred bowling balls into the water and onto the strand.
posted by mwhybark at 9:24 AM on November 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's truly surprising how much samizdat Salingeriana there is out there in paper circulation among the fans and scholars, or locked away in the reading rooms, that hasn't yet made it onto the Internet in any form, out of some combination of respect for his wishes and deference to his (and now his estate's) litigiousness. And perhaps also just a generation gap — his most hard-core fans tending to be a bit older than those of BitTorrent. The text I'm most surprised hasn't yet shown itself online is actually not even any of the unpublished stories, but the pre-lawsuit galley of Hamilton's biography: a number of people possess copies, but they're still treated like an arcane secret passed only from hand to hand. It's an interesting cult.
posted by RogerB at 9:49 AM on November 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Salinger complaint [PDF] that led to Salinger v Colting in 2009 is an amusing read and sort-of Streisands itself because the summary of The Catcher in the Rye in it is more than enough for a high-schooler to write an essay off of. All of the case's documents are available on Deadcaulfields.com, which is also an excellent site for all things J.D. Salinger. It's run by Kenneth Slawenski, author of J.D. Salinger: A Life.
posted by chavenet at 10:38 AM on November 28, 2013


What.CD (which has it's own Wikipedia entry, so it's not exactly a secret, and as mentioned above, you can get in via an interview, which they also provide a guide to pass) is only impressive because of how much it has. Chances are, anything that "leaks" there can be found elsewhere first, and if not, it'll spread beyond that walled garden pretty fast. And if you were wondering, the bounty was up to 6.129 TB for "Ocean," after being up as a request since August 2009. There was an ongoing joke that people would go into the library and memorize a page at a time to get the bounty.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:40 AM on November 28, 2013


Also, I was sure that What.CD has been covered by NYT before, but it's really hard to search for the term (perhaps why they chose the site name). Here's an amusing Google search of the site for "what.cd", and a local search on NYT.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:41 AM on November 28, 2013


Finally read "Oceans Full of Bowling Balls!" SPOILERS AHOY. To me it's a remarkable story about death within a family, marred by Kenneth's state as Too Good For This Sinful Earth. I love the conveyance of emotion through action and speech alone--how Vincent goes into meandering, chatty detail about everything, and then from Kenneth's collapse to the end it's all stripped to desperate bare syllables. Holden wiping the sand off Kenneth's face, his mother running up the stairs "like a girl": owww.

Which makes me facepalm over Kenneth all the harder. This would be such a different story if it were about the death of an obnoxious-but-totally-lovable kid brother like Holden. (And love or hate him, that camp letter is perfect Holden.) But OF COURSE the Littlest Cancer Patient (Heart Patient) spends his last day on earth being a pillar of goodness & joy and admonishing his writer brother to write more kindly about people and intoning meaningfully about what he'll do when he dies, right before he goes in the ocean to frolic to death. OF COURSE. No wonder you think life is a series of cliches, Holden; you live in one.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:51 AM on November 28, 2013


Before now, "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls" was only available to read in person under supervision at Princeton University's Firestone Library

I've done this, actually! The Salinger stuff there is well-worth reading, not just the uncollected stories (which are good, because Salinger is good, but are mostly not as good as the ones you've already read) but the correspondence with editors, too.

However, when you ask to see the Salinger material, the reference librarian gives a little sigh, because Firestone has an amazing, immense collection of American literature and basically nobody ever goes in there except to ask for the Salinger stories. Embarrassed, I felt I had to pretend not to have gone in there just for those stories, so I also ordered another box from the Story magazine archives, selected at random, to give the impression that I had come in to research mid-century American fiction more generally.

And that was how I discovered James Purdy, who is amazing, and now mostly forgotten.

Thanks, embarrassment!
posted by escabeche at 12:53 PM on November 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


By the way, I heard that sigh again just last week when I looked at the David Foster Wallace archive at the Ransom Library at UT-Austin. And there is a lot of stuff in there that What.CD doesn't have, let me tell you.
posted by escabeche at 12:54 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The history of American literature will not have to be rewritten on account of these three stories.
posted by beagle at 1:45 PM on November 28, 2013


[Further music/torrent nerding: the entrance interview for What.CD basically ensures that people have some idea about the site's focus on quality, and really isn't that hard. And private sites have been around since the days of l33t BBS's, when only the k-cool kids had access to the 0daywarez, and the n00bs got their ill-gotten goods a week later. Really, it's handy to have access to the world's greatest record store audio library, but the snobbish "only high quality music is allowed" excludes the true rarities that have been cobbled together by fans and appears on blogs. And even the greatest audio library can't keep it's archives of true oddities and things no one thinks about open all the time.]
posted by filthy light thief at 7:36 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unless they are going to strip search you, given how small cameras are these days it seems kind of inevitable that this is going to get out. Wear a slightly loose t-shirt and tape a phone to your chest. Not that I know someone who did that as a crude wiretap during a contact dispute at all.
posted by Canageek at 9:06 PM on November 28, 2013


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