Displayed under glass in the hushed, marbled precincts of the Morgan Library in Manhattan, the letters of J.D. Salinger to his friend Michael Mitchell feel incongruous. It’s not just their colloquial, occasionally profane tone, instantly recognizable to anyone who has read Catcher in the Rye. Reading the personal letters of America’s most famous literary recluse would be discomfiting under any circumstances, but somehow it feels particularly transgressive here, under the vigilant eye of a security guard in a room that also houses a Gutenberg Bible. The Morgan, which held the letters in secrecy until now (apparently not even the curators were allowed to read them), has said that Salinger’s death absolved the library of any obligation to preserve his vaunted privacy. This logic isn’t entirely convincing, and even the head of the literary and historical manuscripts department admits that Salinger would be “irate, to say the least, that we’re showing them.” Is there any defense for violating the wishes of a man so private that, as he confesses in one of these letters, “I don’t think I have ever in my life answered a ringing telephone without unconsciously gritting my teeth a bit”?