Saturday, January 30, 2010

J.D. Salinger Dead at 91

J.D. Salinger Image

Jerome David Salinger died at his home on January 27, 2010 in Cornish, New Hampshire. His literary agent announced his death, saying it was of natural causes.

His literary talent rested on a small collection of highly influential works including the novel The Catcher in the Rye, the collection Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.

J.D. Salinger was best known for his 1951 novel, The Catcher in the Rye, as well as for his reclusive nature. Catcher was Salinger's most famous and controversial work. This American author gave his last interview in 1980 and published his last original work in 1965.

Jerome David Salinger was born in Manhattan on New Year's Day in 1919. He attended a progressive school on the Upper West Side but was never much of a student. Young Salinger reported to the admissions office that his interests were dramatics and tropical fish. After two years he flunked out and was sent to Valley Forge Military Academy.

Young Mr. Salinger was said to love attention. He bragged about his literary talents often. As a young writer, Salinger was reportedly a ladies' man and dated many young women including Oona O'Neill, the future wife of Charlie Chaplin.

The Catcher in the Rye was a novel about adolescent alienation and loss of innocence. The protagonist, Holden Caulfield, was a teenager newly expelled from prep school. He decides to visit his younger sister Phoebe before going west to live in a log cabin. The cynical voice of Caulfield echoes typical adolescent feelings and critical ideas of society. The novel was highly controversial because of Holden's language and criticism of society. For decades, the book topped the banned books list and conservatives demanded that it be removed from the shelves of libraries and public schools. The novel no longer remains as controversial today because of books with more explicit language. Interestingly , an American Library Association Survey published in 1996 found that The Catcher in the Rye was accessible in almost 99% of libraries that the group surveyed. The novel continues to sell over 250,000 copies a year in paperback and remains widely read.

Salinger's last published story, Hapsworth 16, 1924, appeared in The New Yorker in 1965. He received harsh criticism from the reviewers regarding his work. After its publication, Salinger left New York City and permanently moved to his farm in Cornish New Hampshire. He reportedly wanted to escape the "phony" society. Later, there were only rare public sightings of Salinger. The author lived in seclusion for more than 50 years.

Link of interest:

Biography Resource Center (requires JCLC Library Card)

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