The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls

The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls
18 pp. of double-spaced typescript with the by-line J. D. Salinger
Original Publication DateNovember 6, 2018 Rating
18 pp. of double-spaced typescript with the by-line J. D. Salinger

The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls was referenced in July 1945 as being completed, though it was not sold for another two years and was never published.

The draft of this story is currently housed at the Firestone Library of Princeton University. Access is tightly controlled, and Salinger has reportedly ordered that the stories not be published until at least 50 years after his death.


In The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls, Allie‘s place as the dead brother in the Caulfield family is taken by Kenneth. He has a heart condition and dies while swimming in the ocean. Kenneth also owns the famous poem-covered baseball mitt. He is described as having his mother’s bright red hair.

In the story, Vincent is the writer in the family and has written a story about a man who tells his wife he goes bowling every week but secretly visits another woman instead. After his death, his secret is revealed and the woman throws his bowling ball out the window.

Kenneth doesn’t like the story because it is not about positive things. Later, Kenneth and Vincent go to the beach, where Kenneth dies. Note that Jim Rovira’s account claims that the roles of Kenneth and Vincent are reversed.

Reader Accounts

Like the narrators in Sherwood Anderson’s stories I’m a Fool and I Want to Know Why, who tell their tales because they want to set things straight, Vincent Caulfield writes of his relationship with one of his younger brothers, Kenneth, and of Kenneth’s death. Included in the story are Kenneth’s expression of love for Holden and Phoebe, Kenneth’s anger at an adult for calling Holden crazy, and a letter to Kenneth from Holden at Camp Goodcrest, in which Holden complains about life and people at camp. Even though he does not call them phonies, Holden cites the hypocrisy of the adults at camp.

Donald Fiene comments as follows on this story: “Sold to Woman’s Home Companion in 1947 or 1948. According to Knox Burger, editor of Gold Medal Books, former fiction editor of Collier’s … the publisher objected to the story as too ‘downbeat’–after the fiction editor of WHC had bought it. Later, 1950 or 1951, the same man rejected it for Collier’s too. But at about this time Salinger withdrew the story which is an early experiment with the Glass family and concerns the death of one of the younger children.”