Betty Eppes, the woman who secretly recorded “Catcher in the Rye” author JD Salinger to take the tape to the grave
According to Paul Alexander, author of Salinger: a biography, the Eppes band is the only known recording of Salinger’s voice.
Recordings of author voices have a strange history. We have their words, but we know next to nothing what the greats of the past looked like before, say, 1950.
The only known tape of Oscar Wilde’s voice was debunked as fake in 2000. George Orwell’s sound remains a mystery, even though he worked regularly for BBC Radio. Only two brief recordings of F. Scott Fitzgerald, reading Ode to the nightingale and a passage from Othello, to exist. It is possible that Thomas Edison recorded Alfred Lord Tennyson and Walt Whitman on a wax cylinder in 1889 and 1890, but its authenticity remains in dispute.
Over the years, Eppes has had several opportunities to sell the tape. The most lucrative, she said, came after her Paris review article, from someone she will only call “a rich and interested foreign party”, who offered US $ 500,000 ($ 680,000). She grew closer after that when director and screenwriter Shane Salerno wanted to use her for his 2013 documentary, Salinger.
The author‘s memorabilia turned out to be a profitable market: in 1999, author Joyce Maynard sold 14 letters written by Salinger to software entrepreneur Peter Norton for US $ 156,500; five years later, 41 letters that Salinger had signed sold at Christie’s for US $ 185,000.
But Eppes refused to sell the tape because she felt guilty about the way she went about it. “In the years that followed, I came to regret it, terribly, terribly. I spent many, many, many, many hours a day thinking about this. And, of course, that means a lot to me, ”she says. “Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and think, ‘I stole this. I stole his voice. You know it’s like stealing someone’s soul, right? This tape is not mine to give or sell.
Shortly after our conversation, Eppes called me to let me know that she had updated her will. The tape will now be placed, along with its body, in the crematorium.
– Bloomberg Business Week