January 29, 2010
USA: 'Catcher in the Rye' Author J.D. Salinger Is Dead at Age 91
. NEW YORK, NY / Wall Street Journal / Life & Style / Books / January 28, 2010 By Stephen Miller Perhaps the most reluctant celebrity in the history of American letters, J.D. Salinger leaves behind some of its most-read stories. Mr. Salinger, who died Wednesday at age 91, leaves behind one fully-realized novel ("The Catcher in the Rye") and five collections of shorter writings, all surrounded by a penumbra of unknowns about the author, who went into seclusion in 1953. Yet Mr. Salinger's books have remained highly visible, iconic presences in American classrooms and have sold more than 65 million copies, including translations around the world. "The Catcher in the Rye" is often cited in lists of the best 20th- century novels. The son of a cheese importer, Mr. Salinger grew up on Manhattan's Upper West Side. He attended a military academy for high school and never graduated from college. Critics and enthusiasts had little problem drawing parallels between Mr. Salinger's youth and that of the "Catcher in the Rye's" narrator, Holden Caulfield. J.D. Salinger in 1951 Getty Images Mr. Salinger's early stories appeared in magazines while he was serving in the Army in Europe during World War II, in magazines including The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire. His more mature work appeared in the New Yorker starting in the mid-1940s, including "A Perfect Day for Bananafish." "The Catcher in the Rye" caused a sensation when it was published in 1951, unusual for its salty language and sentiment, attributed to Caulfield, who styled himself an enemy of "phonies." Taken as portraying a thirst for authenticity by some, the work is seen by many young people these days as merely whiney. .Mr. Salinger's celebrity was hardly dimmed by his decision to live out of the limelight. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1961 yet remained a sphinx. His last original published work, "Hapsworth 16, 1924," appeared in the New Yorker in 1965. Visitors who caught sight of him in New Hampshire where he lived described an unkempt recluse. More and more, his public face consisted of lawsuits brought against unauthorized publishers of his early works or unpublished letters. After Mr. Salinger filed suit, a federal judge last year barred a Swedish writer and publisher from publishing a sequel to "Catcher in the Rye." In one of the few public statements he made after 1953, Mr. Salinger told the New York Times in 1974, "There is a marvelous peace in not publishing." Mr. Salinger's death is almost certain to generate renewed interest in his work and increasing pressure to bring his work to the big screen, something the author for the most part resisted. More Speakeasy: How 'Catcher' Helped Create Young Adult Literature Speakeasy: Will 'Catcher' Finally Be Filmed? Mr. Salinger allowed his short story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" to be optioned, resulting in the 1949 film "My Foolish Heart." But it was apparently so bad in the eyes of both Mr. Salinger and the critics that it soured him from ever again selling film rights. "I toy very seriously with the idea of leaving the unsold rights to my wife and daughter as a kind of insurance policy," Mr. Salinger wrote in a 1957 letter attributed to him and made public by a Washingtonville, N.Y. memorabilia dealer in 2009. "It pleasures me to no end…to know that I won't have to see the results of the transaction." [rc] —Steven Kurutz, Jeffrey Trachtenberg and Christopher Farley contributed to this article. Copyright ©2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.