"I am a professional short-story writer and novelist," the affidavit reads. "I write only fiction. For more than thirty years, I have lived and done my work in rural New Hampshire.
"I was married here and my two children were raised here. I publish my fiction seldom. I have tried, all my professional life, to live and work in privacy. It may be precisely because I live and work as quietly and as remotely as I do, that I have from time to time been the mark for opportunists like the defendant."
The plaintiff is none other than J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of "The Catcher in the Rye," in a rare public statement. The defendant is Steven Kunes, an unpublished writer who said he was a friend and correspondent of Salinger's, and who submitted to People magazine a detailed account of what he said was an interview with the writer conducted in that same rural New Hampshire that has so far eluded the world press.
This week, Salinger was successful in getting Kunes to sign a stipulation promising never to say the two had met or were friends, requiring Kunes to "recall" any documents he has sent out "which purport to be derived from J.D. Salinger, written by J.D. Salinger, or transcribed from statements made by J.D. Salinger," and to file with the court the name of every "person, firm or company to whom he has addressed any communication relating to or purporting to be derived from J.D. Salinger . . ."
So ends, it would appear, a friendship that never existed in the first place.
"Within the last several months," Salinger told the court, "it has come to my attention that one Steven Kunes . . . has been impersonating me through forged writings, has signed my name to forged letters, has prepared and circulated letters on false letterhead which he has claimed were sent out by me, has offered for sale at least one completely fictitious 'interview' with me which grossly misrepresents both my character and my outlook on life, attributes opinions to me that I do not hold, attempts to copy my prose mannerisms and altogether tries to pass off as real an interview that never took place."
The interview, which Kunes submitted to People, is a poignant tale of a young writer's chance meeting with J.D. Salinger on a New York street. Salinger is quite taken with the young man and invites him to New Hampshire, where he gives a philosophical discourse in the manner of a grown-up Holden Caulfield. "Maybe this interview will help get you published," Salinger tells the interviewer just before bidding him godspeed.
"The interview is entirely fantasy, never took place and is nothing but the crude, ambitious concoction of the defendant," Salinger told the court.
Salinger, who did not appear in court, also denied he ever wrote a letter to Kunes about a "houseboat" -- or any letter at all. Salinger said the letter came to light when Kunes sent it to the mystery writer John D. MacDonald, author of more than 70 books, asking MacDonald's advice about the suitability of a floating home for a fledgling writer. MacDonald hero Travis McGee lives on a houseboat called The Busted Flush.
The letter, addressed to "Steve" and signed by "Jerry" under a J.D. Salinger letterhead, said in passing that MacDonald's "McGee books are my favorite." It also said, "I think you are right about a houseboat. If there's enough room it is an ideal place for a writer." It also said, of Kunes' unpublished work, "Your latest story is just fine. I wouldn't change a word."
According to the affadavit, Kunes sent the letter to MacDonald so MacDonald could see the compliment to his work. MacDonald wrote to Salinger, thanking him for the sentiment.
But Salinger did not write the letter.
"The entire thing is a forgery, including the fake letterhead," Salinger said in his affidavit. "I have never owned or used that or any other letterhead." Salinger charged that Kunes also sent a letter on the same letterhead to a playwright named Tom Griffin, also signed "Jerry," and also forged a Salinger-Kunes telegram in the People manuscript.
When this came to light in U.S. District Court in New York, the judge asked Kunes' lawyer to address himself to the allegations.
Kunes lawyer pointed out that his client was a "young, new writer" who had been married for less than a year and a half; Kunes' wife, the lawyer said, had recently had surgery and was at the time two or three months pregnant.
". . . He is a fledgling author. He is attempting to become, as Mr. Salinger did many years ago, a well-published and widely-published author."
But Salinger, apparently having read the interview submitted to People and the letters, took a less cavalier view. His affidavit is spiced with an analysis of Kunes' prose quite different from that advanced by the Salinger of the Kunes "interview."
". . . I am appalled to think that there are in circulation a number of wholly false and grotesquely inept pieces of writing . . . attributed to me . . .
"I believe this defendant expected no troublesome reaction from me to his forgeries and deliberate misrepresentations . . . In fact, however, I find defendant's activities too corrupt and too destructively consequential to ignore . . .
"His forgeries and misrepresentations are dreadfully conceived and written . . ."
In the end, both parties agreed that J.D. Salinger and Steven Kunes were not friends.