Beloved American author J.D. Salinger has presented a strong body of work to run away with the Gold Medal in Hermiting (Pynchon takes silver for foolishly using his own voice in that Simpsons episode—they have your voice now, Tom). We recently visited the Morgan Library and combed through a newly available trove of letters Salinger sent as a young man to a lady friend and aspiring writer. Turns out old J.D. is one of those guys whom your girlfriend insists is just a "good friend," not an alluring, irresistible recluse who seduces her imagination with every comma.

The 28 letters were given to the Morgan by the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York. Our reporter was given strict instructions to not photograph the letters, or fully transcribe them, or even breathe in that weird way where your nose whistles a little bit (those tasks went to the New York Times).

How to write a story about letters if we can't show you what's in the letters? A question for the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York, no doubt. But with the notes we took, along with a little spiritual guidance from the I Ching and cootie-catchers, we may synthesize their contents and provide some details the Times omitted.

In short, these letters will knock you out; it's like a well-curated Twitter feed of a young Justin Bieber, but with less tattoos and more anachronisms. Letters, lol. The collection's got everything: correspondence between Indian philosopher and Vendanta teacher Swami Nikhilananda, who founded the center in New York where Salinger attended "classes," as well as letters with his successor Swami Adiswarananda; letters from J.D. to the Center; responses from the Center to Salinger (hot!) and notes to and from the Center and Salinger's wife, Coleen (DOUBLE hot).

Not hot enough for you? The aforementioned paper trail only comprises a mere 19 of the 28 donated letters. The remaining 9 letters detail a correspondence from 1941 to 1943 between a young Salinger (many sent from his 1133 Park Avenue address) and a then-aspiring writer (and rather wry literary critic—see below) from Toronto, Marjorie Sheard.

Some choice passages we obtained show a previously unseen flirty side of Salinger, compared to the other sides of him that we have also not seen, as he was a recluse, not a public figure, and a writer of fiction entitled to his privacy (read: horny). This is where you start to dab your kerchief on your glistening head in a hurried manner. These letters actually have everything.

  • Sultry photos! Sheard sent one, Salinger did not, because he is a Tease, though he did engage in some mid-20th century flirtation: "Sneaky Girl," Salinger wrote upon receiving the photo. "You're pretty."
  • Because neither mixtapes nor Neutral Milk Hotel existed, Salinger recommended Sheard read F. Scott Fitzgerald. In addition to The Last Tycoon, Salinger suggested The Great Gatsby. "If you haven't read it, you're in for a thrill. He could throw a novel together better than any man I know, excluding no one," Salinger wrote.
  • But Sheard told Salinger that Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald annoyed her "in the same way," feeling tricked into having "sympathy for entirely undeserving and rather tiresome people." Fake It Til You Make It, Marjorie!
  • Upon learning that Sheard had ended her relationship with a man named George, Salinger wrote, "So you've broken up with George. I'll bet he loved a good Freudian analysis. Never fails to bring a man closer to a woman."
  • Of his own romantic fate, Salinger wrote, "I was supposed to get married . . . [she] wanted it all said and done at her daddy's house in Hollywood. So I picked up where I left off with a typewriter." A Salinger scholar believes that this was just the author trying to look cool.
  • He signed his letters, variously, as Jerry, Salinger, JDS, "Fitzdudley", Flo + Benjy, Wormsley-Blassett. (Other nicknames we hope to show up in future correspondence: vedantaman, Bone Hunter, Cyberdude9967, and foxmulder.)
  • Salinger also called the staff at the New Yorker "a bunch of pixies" for delaying the publication of his story Slight Rebellion Off Madison, which was put off because of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Salinger would later write to Sheard while he was in the army—one letter bore the return address of 721st C/C Squadron, AAFCC, Nashville TN.
  • Salinger's handwriting was sloppy and loopy. And you know what they say about sloppy handwriting.

So there you have it: J.D.'s secret past as your girlfriend's really close guy friend. He's just a good friend, you know? Whatever! I'm not into him at all, we've just always had a lot in common. He's nice to have around. Stop it, you're being crazy.

Gothamist has obtained some text-messages from Sheard to then-boyfriend George, reproduced below.

G: hey what r u doing tn?
S: spending a couple of hours writing a letter to j.d.
G: lol him again hes so lame
S: shut up hes my friend
G: well what r u doing after
S: i was going to go to the soda fountain for a malted but now i think im going to take a train to new york. jds been asking me alot to come sit quietly by a window while he writes
G: wat a dweeb lets go get that malted babe
S: i dont think so
G: u rnt thinking of going ARE U???
S: this just isnt working out
G: if u go it's over
S: it's already over, george...we're thru.

Reporting by Sophie Kleeman