Was J.D. Salinger Missing A Testicle? Biopic Claims Incomplete Anatomy Drove Salinger To Seclusion

on September 05 2013 9:04 PM
Salinger Documentary
The biography “Salinger” will be accompanied by a documentary film of the same name set to premiere on Public Broadcasting Service stations Sept. 6. PBS

The authors of a new J.D. Salinger documentary have claimed that the critically-lauded author may have embraced a life of solitude and reclusion in his later life because he only had one testicle.

At this point, it’s impossible to truly verify whether or not Salinger was missing a testicle – the author has been dead and buried for over two years now – but the authors of the upcoming biopic “Salinger” insist that the literary mind behind “The Catcher in the Rye” was missing that key component. What’s more, “Salinger” authors David Shields and Shane Salerno claim that Salinger kept such a low profile throughout his life because he was deeply afraid that others might find out.

According to NPR, two unidentified women have “independently confirmed” to Shields and Salerno that Salinger was indeed missing a testicle. Furthermore, the book cites another Salinger scholar Eberhard Alsen, who claims that when Salinger attempted to enlist in the army after Pearl Harbor, he was given an I-B deferral due to his missing member. Salinger would later write that the deferral was only handed out to "cripples and faggets."

The Daily Beast claims that Salinger was later accepted into a counterintelligence program and went on to tell his hero Ernerst Hemmingway “that he didn’t think the army would take him… [because] he had only one testicle.”

Throughout “Salinger,” Shields and Salerno insist that there were two main reasons that the author withdrew from public life and sought seclusion in small-town New Hampshire. One was the mental anguish brought on from liberating the Kaugering concentration camp, and another was the his own obsession with an imperfect body: specifically, the missing testicle.  

“Surely one of the many reasons he stayed out of the media glare was to reduce the likelihood that this information about his anatomy would emerge,” the authors write, later adding that "the war was one wound, but his body was the other. It was the combination of these wounds that made Salinger."

We may never know for sure if Salinger was truly missing a testicle, but the authors of “Salinger” make an interesting, if not completely compelling, case for the reclusive writer’s incomplete anatomy.