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J.D. Salinger, Author of “The Catcher in the Rye,” Dies at 91

January 28, 2010 04:50 PM
by James Sullivan
Salinger died Wednesday of natural causes in his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived for the past 50 years, removed from the public eye.

Reclusive Author Dead

Salinger’s literary agent, Harold Ober Associates, released a statement announcing his death: “Despite having broken his hip in May, his health had been excellent until a rather sudden decline after the new year. He was not in any pain before or at the time of his death.”

The publication of “The Catcher in the Rye” in 1951 propelled Salinger to fame. The book was almost instantly a best seller, and would come to be a feverishly consumed classic by generations of teenagers attracted to “its sympathetic understanding of adolescence and its fierce if alienated sense of morality and distrust of the adult world.”

Salinger’s bibliography consisted notably of 1951’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Nine Stories” (1953), “Franny and Zooey” (1961) and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction” (1963). Despite being relatively small, his body of work proved immensely influential on post-war American literature.

In response to his celebrity, the enigmatic Salinger moved to New Hampshire and stopped publishing his work.

J.D. Salinger

Born Jerome David Salinger on Jan. 1, 1919, in New York City, J.D. attended Valley Forge Military Academy. He attended New York University, but did not receive his degree. As a young man Salinger worked on a cruise ship and later served in the army. The Guardian reports that before he entered the army, Salinger fell in love with a woman that later married Charlie Chaplin, a move that may have created his disdain for the movies.

Although Salinger is well-known because of his book, “The Catcher in the Rye,” it is his only novel; the majority of his work is in short story format. Salinger has been known to take legal action to prevent publication of any biography about him or publication of any of his unpublished works. In 2009, Salinger sued the author of a sequel to “The Catcher in the Rye,” titled “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye.” The book follows an elderly Caulfield through his escape from a retirement home, and includes a character version of Salinger himself.

Despite living in seclusion and successfully remaining out of the public eye, Salinger gained attention again in 1981, when John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman, was found carrying a copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” at the time of the murder. Chapman was fanatical about the book, believed “a large part of” himself to be Holden Caulfield and used the book as an explanation for why he carried out the murder.

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