J. D. Salinger

J. D. Salinger books and biography


J. D. Salinger

Salinger in 1953.
Born: January 1, 1919 (1919-01-01) (age 88)
Manhattan, New York
Occupation: Novelist and writer
Writing period: 1940-1965
Debut works: The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
Influences: Sherwood Anderson, Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gustave Flaubert, Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka, Ring Lardner, Leo Tolstoy
Influenced: Wes Anderson, Aimee Bender, Stephen Chbosky, Carl Hiaasen, Susan Minot, Haruki Murakami, Tom Robbins, Philip Roth, Louis Sachar, Joel Stein, John Updike

Jerome David Salinger (born January 1, 1919) is an American author best known for his 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, as well as his reclusive nature; he has not published any new work since 1965 and has not granted a formal interview since 1980.



Raised in Manhattan, New York, Salinger graduated from Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania, where he began writing short stories. As a cadet, he was the editor of the school's yearbook, "Crossed Sabres". He attended Columbia University in New York briefly but dropped out to devote his time to writing, publishing his first short story in 1940. After serving with the U.S. 12th Infantry Regiment and working as a Counter-Intelligence officer in World War II, Salinger returned to New York. In 1948, he published a short story called "A Perfect Day for Bananafish". Although reception for his novel The Catcher in the Rye was mixed and it was banned in several countries and some U.S. schools due to its language and content, the book was an immediate popular success. Salinger’s depiction of adolescent alienation and loss of innocence in the character of protagonist Holden Caulfield was incredibly influential, especially among adolescents; in 1961, Time magazine wrote that "Salinger....has spoken with more magic, particularly to the young, than any other U.S. writer since World War II."[1] The novel remains widely-read, selling about 250,000 copies a year as of 2004.

The success of The Catcher in the Rye led to increased public scrutiny and Salinger became reclusive, publishing new work less frequently. He followed up Catcher with three collections of short stories, Nine Stories (1953), Franny and Zooey (1961), and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1963). His last published piece of writing, a novella titled "Hapworth 16, 1924," appeared in The New Yorker in 1965.

In the intervening years, Salinger struggled with unwanted attention, including a legal battle in the mid-eighties with Ian Hamilton, a biographer who attempted to excerpt pieces of Salinger’s letters, and the release in the late 1990s of memoirs written by two former confidantes: Joyce Maynard, an ex-lover, and Margaret Salinger, his estranged daughter. In the infrequent interviews he has granted, Salinger confirmed that he continues to write, and has completed at least two novels. In 1997, there was a flurry of excitement when a small publisher announced a deal with Salinger to publish "Hapworth 16, 1924" in book form, but amid the ensuing publicity, Salinger withdrew from the arrangement.


Early life

Jerome David Salinger was born in Manhattan, New York, to Sol Salinger, a Jewish father of Polish origin who worked for a meat importer, and Marie Jillich, a half-Scottish, half-Irish mother.[1] When they married, Salinger's mother changed her name to Miriam and passed as Jewish; J. D. did not find out that his mother was not Jewish until just after his bar mitzvah.[2] J.D. had only one sibling, his sister Doris, who was born in 1911.[3]

The young Salinger attended public schools on the West Side, then attending the private McBurney School in ninth and tenth grades, where he acted in several plays and "showed an innate talent for drama," though his father was opposed to the idea of J.D. becoming an actor.[4] He was happy to get away from the over-protectiveness of his mother by entering the Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania.[5] Though he had written for the school newspaper at McBurney, it was at Valley Forge that Salinger began writing stories, "under the covers [at night], with the aid of a flashlight."[6] He started his freshman year at New York University (NYU) in 1936, but dropped out the next spring; that fall, he was prevailed upon by Sol to learn the meat-importing business and was sent to work at the company in Vienna, Austria.[7]

He left Austria only a month or so before the country fell to Hitler, on March 12, 1938. That fall, he attended Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, but for only one semester. Salinger attended Columbia University evening writing class in 1939. The teacher was Whit Burnett, longtime editor of Story Magazine. During the second semester of the class, Burnett saw some degree of talent in the young author. In the March-April 1940 issue of Story, Burnett published Salinger's debut short story, a vignette of several aimless youths, entitled "The Young Folks." Burnett and Salinger would correspond for several years thereafter, although a mix-up involving the proposed publication of a short story collection, also entitled The Young Folks, would leave them estranged.

World War II

In 1941, Salinger started dating Oona O'Neill, daughter of the playwright Eugene O'Neill, and despite finding the debutante self-absorbed (he confided to a friend that "Little Oona's hopelessly in love with little Oona"),[8] he called her often and wrote her long letters.[8] Their relationship ended when Oona began seeing Charlie Chaplin, whom she eventually married.[9]

In late 1941, Salinger briefly worked on a Caribbean cruise ship, serving as an activity director (and, it is speculated, as a performer),[10] in what "was the closest he ever came to the world of entertainment."[10] In spring of 1942, several months after the United States' entrance into World War II, Salinger was drafted into the Army, where he saw combat with the U.S. 12th Infantry Regiment in some of the fiercest fighting of the war.[10] The writer was involved in action on Utah Beach on D-Day and in the Battle of the Bulge.[11] During the campaign from Normandy into Germany, he met and corresponded with Ernest Hemingway, a writer who had influenced Salinger and was then working as a war correspondent in Paris.[12] After reading Salinger's writing, Hemingway remarked, "Jesus, he has a helluva talent."[1]

Salinger was assigned to counter-intelligence division, in which he put his proficiency in French and German to use interrogating prisoners of war.[13] He was also among the first soldiers to enter a liberated concentration camp.[13] Salinger's experiences in the war affected him emotionally; he was hospitalized for a few weeks for combat stress reaction after Germany was defeated,[14][15] and he later told his daughter, "You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose entirely, no matter how long you live."[16] It was speculated by both of his biographers that Salinger drew upon his wartime experiences in several stories,[17] such as "For Esmé with Love and Squalor," which is narrated by a traumatized soldier. While serving, Salinger continued to publish stories in "slick" magazines such as Collier's and the Saturday Evening Post.

Post-war years

After the defeat of Germany, Salinger signed up for a six-month period of "de-Nazification" duty in Germany,[18] where he met a German woman named Sylvia whom he married in 1945.[19] He brought her to the United States, but the marriage fell apart after eight months and Sylvia returned to Germany.[19] (In 1972, his daughter Margaret was with her father when he received a letter from Sylvia. He looked at the envelope, tore it up, and discarded it, unread. He said that that was the first time he had heard from her since she left, but "when he was finished with a person, he was through with them.")[20]

By the late forties, Salinger had become an avid follower of Zen Buddhism,[1] to the point that he "gave reading lists on the subject to his dates"[1] and met Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki. In 1948, he submitted a short story titled "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" to The New Yorker. The demanding magazine was so impressed with "the singular quality of the story" that its editors accepted it for publication immediately and signed Salinger to a contract that allowed them right of first refusal on any future stories.[21] The critical acclaim accorded "Bananafish," coupled with problems Salinger had with stories being altered by the "slicks," led the author to publish almost exclusively in The New Yorker.[22] However, "Bananafish" was not his first experience with the magazine; in 1942, Salinger had received his first acceptance from The New Yorker for a story entitled "Slight Rebellion off Madison," whose protagonist was a disaffected, alienated teenager named Holden Caulfield. The story was held from publication until 1946 because of the war. "Slight Rebellion" was related to several other stories featuring the Caulfield family, but perspective shifted from older brother Vince to Holden.

In the early forties, Salinger had confided in a letter to Whit Burnett that he was eager to sell the film rights to some of his stories in order to achieve financial security.[23] After being disappointed, according to Ian Hamilton, when "rumblings from Hollywood" over his 1943 short story "The Varioni Brothers" came to nothing,[23] Salinger did not hesitate to agree when, in mid-1948, independent film producer Samuel Goldwyn offered to buy the film rights to his short story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut."[23] Though Salinger sold his story with the hope, in the words of his agent Dorothy Olding, that "they would make a good movie,"[24] the film version of "Wiggly" was critically lambasted upon its 1949 release.[25] Renamed My Foolish Heart and starring Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward, the melodramatic film departed to such an extent from Salinger's short story that Goldwyn biographer A. Scott Berg referred to it as a “bastardization.”[25] As a result of his experience with My Foolish Heart,[26] Salinger never again permitted film adaptations to be made from his work.

Release and influence of The Catcher in the Rye

Salinger's landmark 1951 novel, The Catcher in the Rye.
Salinger's landmark 1951 novel, The Catcher in the Rye.

Salinger had confided to several people that he felt Holden Caulfield deserved a novel,[27] and The Catcher in the Rye was published on July 16, 1951. The novel's plot is simple,[28] detailing the sixteen-year-old Holden's experiences in New York City following his expulsion from an elite prep school, and the book is more notable for the persona and confessional voice of its first-person narrator, Holden.[29] Holden serves as an insightful but unreliable narrator who expounds on the purity of childhood, the "phoniness" of adulthood, and his own alienation and loss of innocence.[29] In a 1953 interview with a high-school newspaper, Salinger admitted that the novel was "sort of" autobiographical, explaining that "My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the was a great relief telling people about it."[30]

Initial critical reactions were mixed, ranging from The New York Times's hail of Catcher as "an unusually brilliant first novel"[31] to denigrations of the book's monotonous language and the "immorality and perversion" of the character of Holden,[32] who uses religious slurs and discusses premarital sex and prostitution in an open and casual manner. However, the novel was an immediate popular success; within two months of its publication, The Catcher in the Rye had been reprinted eight times, and eventually spent thirty weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.[28]

Though the book's initial success was followed by a brief lull in popularity,[33] by the late fifties the book, according to Ian Hamilton, had "become the book all brooding adolescents had to buy, the indispensable manual from which cool styles of disaffectation could be borrowed."[33] Newspapers began publishing articles about the "Catcher Cult,"[33] and the novel was banned in several countries and some U.S. schools because of its subject matter and what Catholic World reviewer Riley Hughes called an "excessive use of amateur swearing and coarse language."[34] (One irate parent counted 237 appearances of the word "goddamn" in the novel, along with 58 "bastard"s, 31 "Chrissakes," and 6 "fuck"s.)[34]

In the seventies, several U.S. high school teachers were "fired or forced to resign for having assigned" the book,[35] and in 1979 one book-length study of censorship noted that The Catcher in the Rye "had the dubious distinction of being at once the most frequently censored book across the nation and the second-most frequently taught novel in public high schools [after John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men]."[35] The book remains widely read; as of 2004, the novel was selling about 250,000 copies per year, "with total worldwide sales over - probably way over - 10 million."[36]

In the wake of its fifties success, Salinger was presented with (and turned down) numerous offers to adapt The Catcher in the Rye for the screen (Samuel Goldwyn among them).[25] Since its publication, there has been sustained interest in the novel among filmmakers, with Billy Wilder,[37] Harvey Weinstein, and Steven Spielberg[38] among those seeking to secure the rights; Salinger stated in the seventies that "Jerry Lewis tried for years to get his hands on the part of Holden."[39] The author has repeatedly demurred, though, and in 1999, Joyce Maynard definitively concluded, "The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J. D. Salinger."[39]

Writing in the fifties and move to Cornish

In July 1951, his friend and New Yorker editor William Maxwell in Book of the Month Club News asked Salinger about his literary influences. Salinger said, “A writer, when he's asked to discuss his craft, ought to get up and call out in a loud voice just the names of the writers he loves. I love Kafka, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Proust, O'Casey, Rilke, Lorca, Keats, Rimbaud, Burns, E. Brontë, Jane Austen, Henry James, Blake, Coleridge. I won't name any living writers. I don't think it's right."[40] (In letters written in the forties, Salinger had expressed his admiration of three then-living, or recently-deceased, writers: Sherwood Anderson, Ring Lardner, and F. Scott Fitzgerald;[41] Ian Hamilton wrote that Salinger even saw himself for some time as "Fitzgerald's successor.")[42]

After several years of practicing Zen Buddhism, in 1952, while reading the gospels of Hindu religious teacher Sri Ramakrishna, Salinger wrote friends of "something momentous [making] an appearance in his life."[43] He became an adherent of Ramakrishna's Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, which advocated celibacy and detachment from human responsibilities such as family for those seeking enlightenment.[44][45] Salinger also studied the writings of Ramakrishna's disciple Vivekananda, who is referred to in his story "Hapworth 16, 1924" as "one of the most exciting, original and best-equipped giants of this century."[44]

In 1953, Salinger published a collection of seven short stories from The New Yorker ("Bananafish" among them) as well as two that the magazine had rejected. The collection was published as Nine Stories in the United States, and For Esmé with Love and Squalor in the UK, after one of Salinger's best-known stories.[46] The book received grudgingly positive reviews,[47] and was a financial "success—remarkably so for a volume of short stories," spending three months on the New York Times Bestseller list.[47] Already tightening his grip on publicity, though, Salinger refused to allow publishers of the collection to depict his characters in dust jacket illustrations, lest readers be given a preconceived notion of how his fictional beings should look.

As the notoriety of The Catcher in the Rye grew, Salinger gradually withdrew into himself. In 1953, he moved from New York to Cornish, New Hampshire. Early in his time in Cornish he was relatively sociable, particularly with students at Windsor High School, who Salinger frequently invited over to his house to play records and talk about problems at school.[48] One such student, Shirley Blaney, convinced Salinger to let her interview him for the high school page of The Daily Eagle, the city paper. However, after Blaney's interview appeared "in splendid prominence" in the newspaper's editorial section,[48] Salinger cut off all contact with the high schoolers without explanation.[48] He was also seen less frequently around town, only seeing one close friend, jurist Learned Hand, with any regularity.[49]

Marriage, family, and religious beliefs

In June 1955, when he was 36, he married Claire Douglas, a Radcliffe student. Their daughter Margaret was born that December, and their son, Matt, was born in 1960. Margaret Salinger wrote in Dream Catcher that she believes her parents would not have married, nor would she have been born, had her father not read the teachings of a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, who brought the possibility of enlightenment to those following the path of the "householder" (i.e., a married person with children).[50] After their marriage, J. D. and Claire were initiated into the path of Kriya yoga in a small store-front Hindu temple in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1955.[51] The couple received a mantra and breathing exercises that they were to practice for ten minutes twice a day.[51]

Salinger also insisted that Claire drop out of school, only four months shy of graduation, and live with him, which she did. Certain elements of the story "Franny", published in January, 1955, are based on Claire, including the fact that Claire had the book The Way of the Pilgrim.[52] Due to their isolated location and Salinger's proclivities, they hardly saw other people for long stretches of time. Claire was also frustrated by J. D.'s ever-changing religious beliefs. Though she committed herself to Kriya yoga, Claire remembered that Salinger would chronically leave Cornish to work on a story "for several weeks only to return with the piece he was supposed to be finishing all undone or destroyed and some new 'ism' we had to follow."[53] Claire believed "it was to cover the fact that Jerry had just destroyed or junked or couldn't face the quality of, or couldn't face publishing, what he had created."[53]

After abandoning Kriya yoga, Salinger tried Dianetics (later called Scientology), even meeting L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics' founder, according to Claire.[53][54] This was followed by adherence to a number of spiritual, medical, and nutritional belief systems including Christian Science, homeopathy, acupuncture, macrobiotics, the teachings of Edgar Cayce, fasting, vomiting to remove impurities, megadoses of Vitamin C, urine therapy, "speaking in tongues" (or Charismatic glossolalia), and sitting in a Reichian "orgone box" to accumulate "orgone energy."[55][56][57][58]

Salinger's family life was further marked by discord after Margaret's birth; according to Margaret, Claire felt that her daughter had replaced her in Salinger's affections.[59] The infant Margaret was sick much of the time, but Salinger, having embraced the tenets of Christian Science, refused to take her to a doctor.[60] According to Margaret, her mother admitted to her years later that she went "over the edge" in the winter of 1957 and had made plans to murder her thirteen-month-old infant and then commit suicide. Claire had intended to do it during a trip to New York City with Salinger, but she instead acted on a sudden impulse to take Margaret from the hotel and run away; after a few months, however, Salinger persuaded her to return to Cornish.[60]

Last publications and relationship with Joyce Maynard

Salinger published Franny and Zooey in 1961, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction in 1963. Each contained a pair of related short stories or novellas which had been published in The New Yorker in the fifties. On the dust jacket of Franny and Zooey, Salinger wrote, in reference to his interest in privacy, "It is my rather subversive opinion that a writer's feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him during his working years."[61]

Despite the fact that, in 1961, Time magazine reported that the Glass family series "is nowhere near completion....Salinger intends to write a Glass trilogy,"[1] Salinger has, to date, only published one story since. His last published work was "Hapworth 16, 1924," an epistolary novella in the form of a long letter from seven-year-old Seymour Glass from summer camp, that took up most of the June 19, 1965 issue of The New Yorker. Around this time, Salinger's isolation of Claire, making her, Margaret Salinger later wrote, "a virtual prisoner"[53] from friends and relatives, led Claire to separate from him in September 1966. Their divorce was finalized on October 3, 1967.[62]

In 1972, when Salinger was 53, he had a year-long relationship with 18-year old writer Joyce Maynard, already an experienced writer for Seventeen magazine. The New York Times had asked Maynard to write an article for them which, when published as "An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back On Life" on April 23, 1972, made her a celebrity-of-the-moment. Salinger wrote a letter to her warning her about living with fame. After exchanging 25 letters, Maynard moved in with Salinger the summer after her freshman year at Yale University.[63] Maynard did not return to Yale that fall, and spent ten months as a guest in Salinger's Cornish home; the relationship ended, he told his teenaged daughter Margaret at a family outing, because Maynard wanted children, and he felt he could not stand the reality of children again (as opposed to the fantasy children in his writings).[64]

Salinger continued to write in a disciplined fashion, a few hours every morning; according to Maynard, by 1972 he had completed two new novels.[65][66] In a rare 1974 interview with The New York Times, the author explained, "There is a marvelous peace in not publishing....I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure."[67] According to Maynard, he saw publication as "a damned interruption."[68] In her memoir, Margaret Salinger described the detailed filing system her father had for his unpublished manuscripts: "A red mark meant, if I die before I finish my work, publish this 'as is,' blue meant publish but edit first, and so on."[69]

Later years and instances of exposure

On September 15, 1961, Time devoted its cover to Salinger, in an article that profiled his
On September 15, 1961, Time devoted its cover to Salinger, in an article that profiled his "life of a recluse."[1]

Although Salinger tried to escape public exposure and attention as much as possible, he continued to struggle with the unwanted attention he received from both the media and the public.[70] Readers of his work and students from the nearby Dartmouth College often came to Cornish in groups, hoping to glimpse Salinger.[71] Upon learning in 1986 of the intent of British writer Ian Hamilton to publish In Search of J. D. Salinger: A Writing Life (1935-65), a biography including letters Salinger had written to other authors and friends, Salinger sued to stop the book's publication. The book was finally published in 1988 with the letters' contents paraphrased. The court ruled that Hamilton's extensive use of the letters went beyond the limits of fair use, and that "the author of letters is entitled to a copyright in the letters, as with any other work of literary authorship."[72]

An unintended consequence of the lawsuit was that many details of Salinger's private life, including that he had spent the last twenty years writing, in his words, "Just a work of fiction....That's all,"[26] became public in the form of court transcripts. Excerpts from his letters were also widely disseminated, most notably a bitter remark written in response to Oona O'Neill's marriage to Charlie Chaplin:

I can see them at home evenings. Chaplin squatting grey and nude, atop his chiffonier, swinging his thyroid around his head by his bamboo cane, like a dead rat. Oona in an aquamarine gown, applauding madly from the bathroom.[72][9]

Salinger was romantically involved with television actress Elaine Joyce for several years in the eighties.[63] The relationship ended when he met Colleen O'Neill (b. June 11, 1959), a nurse and quiltmaker, whom he married around 1988.[73] O'Neill, who is forty years the author's junior, once told Margaret Salinger that she and Salinger were trying to have a child.[74]

In 1995, Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui made Pari, an unauthorized loose film adaptation of Salinger's Franny and Zooey. Though the film could be distributed legally in Iran since the country has no official copyright relations with the United States,[75] Salinger had his lawyers block a planned screening of the film at Lincoln Center in 1998.[76] Mehrjui called Salinger's action "bewildering," explaining that he saw his film as "a kind of cultural exchange."[76]

In a surprising move, in 1997 Salinger gave a small publisher, Orchises Press, permission to publish "Hapworth 16, 1924," the previously uncollected novella; it was to be published that year, and listings for it appeared on and other book-sellers.[77] After a flurry of articles and critical reviews of the story appeared in the press, the novella's publication date was pushed back several times, the last time to 2002.[77] It was not published and no new date has been set.

In 1999, twenty-five years after the end of their relationship, Joyce Maynard put up for auction a series of letters Salinger had written to her.[78] The sale helped to publicize a memoir of Maynard's, At Home in the World : A Memoir, published the same year. Among other indiscretions, the book described how Maynard's mother had consulted with her on how to appeal to the aging author, and described Maynard's relationship with the author at length. In the ensuing controversy over both the memoir and the letters, Maynard claimed that she was forced to auction the letters for financial reasons;[78] she would have preferred to donate them to Beinecke Library. Software developer Peter Norton bought the letters for $156,500 and announced his intention to return them to Salinger.[78]

Margaret Salinger's memoir Dream Catcher, its cover featuring a rare photograph of Salinger.
Margaret Salinger's memoir Dream Catcher, its cover featuring a rare photograph of Salinger.

A year later, Salinger's daughter Margaret Salinger, by his second wife, Claire Douglas, published Dream Catcher: A Memoir. In her "tell-all" book, Ms. Salinger described the harrowing control Salinger had over her mother and dispelled many of the Salinger myths established by Ian Hamilton's book. One of Hamilton's arguments was that Salinger's experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder left him psychologically scarred, and that he was unable to deal with the traumatic nature of his war service. Though Ms. Salinger allowed that "the few men who lived through ['bloody Mortain,' a battle in which her father fought] were left with much to sicken them, body and soul,"[79] she also painted a picture of J. D. as a man immensely proud of his service record, maintaining his military haircut, service jacket, and moving about his compound (and town) in an old Jeep.

Both Margaret and Maynard characterized Salinger as a devoted film buff, despite his continued reluctance to have films made of his stories. According to Margaret, his favorite movies include Gigi, The Lady Vanishes, The 39 Steps (Phoebe's favorite movie in The Catcher in the Rye), and the comedies of W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, and the Marx Brothers.[80] Predating VCRs, Salinger had an extensive collection of classic movies from the 1940s in 16 mm prints. Maynard wrote that "he loves movies, not films,"[81] and his daughter went so far as to argue that her father's "worldview is, essentially, a product of the movies of his day. To my father, all Spanish speakers are Puerto Rican washerwomen, or the toothless, grinning gypsy types in a Marx Brothers movie."[82]

Ms. Salinger also offered many insights into other Salinger myths, including her father's supposed long-time interest in macrobiotics and involvement with what is today known as "alternative medicine" and Eastern philosophies. A few weeks after Dream Catcher was published, Margaret's brother Matt discredited the memoir in a letter to The New York Observer. He disparaged his sister's "gothic tales of our supposed childhood" and stated, "I can't say with any authority that she is consciously making anything up. I just know that I grew up in a very different house, with two very different parents from those my sister describes."[83]

Literary style and themes

In a contributor's note Salinger gave to Harper's Magazine in 1946, the author wrote, "I almost always write about very young people," a statement which has been referred to as his credo.[84] Adolescents are featured or appear in all of Salinger's work, from his first published short story, "The Young Folks," to The Catcher in the Rye and his Glass family stories. In 1961, the critic Alfred Kazin explained that Salinger's choice of teenagers as a subject matter was one reason for his appeal to young readers, but another was "a consciousness [among youths] that he speaks for them and virtually to them, in a language that is peculiarly honest and their own, with a vision of things that capture their most secret judgments of the world."[85] Salinger's language, especially his energetic, realistically sparse dialogue, was revolutionary at the time his first stories were published and was seen by several critics as "the most distinguishing thing" about his work.[86]

Salinger, who identified closely with his characters,[68] frequently used techniques such as the interior monologue, the letter, and the long telephone call to display his gift for dialogue as well as to "[give] him the illusion of having, as it were, delivered his characters' destinies into their own keeping."[87] Recurring themes in Salinger's stories also connect to the ideas of innocence and adolescence, including the "corrupting influence of Hollywood and the world at large,"[88] the alienation and disconnect between teenagers and "phony" adults,[88] and the perceptiveness and sometimes precocious intelligence of children.[17]

Contemporary critics noticed a clear progression over the course of Salinger's published work, as evidenced by the increasingly negative reviews received by each of his three post-Catcher story collections.[89][83] Ian Hamilton adhered to this view, arguing that while Salinger's early stories for the "slicks" had boasted "tight, energetic" dialogue, they had also been formulaic and sentimental, and it took the standards of The New Yorker editors, among them William Shawn, to refine his writing into the "spare, teasingly mysterious, withheld" qualities of "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," The Catcher in the Rye, and his stories of the early fifties.[90] By the late fifties, as Salinger became more reclusive and involved in religious study, Hamilton believed that his stories became longer, less plot-driven, and increasingly filled with digression and parenthetical remarks.[91] Louis Menand agreed, writing in The New Yorker that Salinger "stopped writing stories, in the conventional sense....He seemed to lose interest in fiction as an art form—perhaps he thought there was something manipulative or inauthentic about literary device and authorial control."[17] In recent years, Salinger's later work has been defended by some critics; in 2001, Janet Malcolm wrote in The New York Review of Books that "Zooey" "is arguably Salinger's masterpiece....Rereading it and its companion piece "Franny" is no less rewarding than rereading The Great Gatsby."[83]


Salinger's writing has had an effect on several prominent authors, prompting Harold Brodkey (himself an O. Henry Prize-winning author) to state, in 1991, "His is the most influential body of work in English prose by anyone since Hemingway."[92] Of the writers in Salinger's generation, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist John Updike attested that "the short stories of J. D. Salinger really opened my eyes as to how you can weave fiction out of a set of events that seem almost unconnected, or very lightly connected....[the experience of reading his work] stick[s] in my mind as really having moved me a step up, as it were, toward knowing how to handle my own material."[93] The early stories of fellow Pulitzer Prize-winner Philip Roth were also affected by "Salinger's voice and comic timing."[17]

In 2001, Louis Menand wrote in The New Yorker that "Catcher in the Rye rewrites" among each new generation had become "a literary genre all its own."[17] He classed among them Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (1963), Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971), Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984), and Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000). The writer Aimee Bender was struggling with her first short stories when a friend gave her a copy of Nine Stories; inspired, she later described Salinger's effect on writers, explaining, "it feels like Salinger wrote The Catcher in the Rye in a day, and that incredible feeling of ease inspires writing. Inspires the pursuit of voice. Not his voice. My voice. Your voice."[94] Authors such as Stephen Chbosky,[95] Carl Hiaasen, Susan Minot,[96] Haruki Murakami, Tom Robbins, Louis Sachar,[97] and Joel Stein,[98] along with Academy Award-nominated writer-director Wes Anderson, have also cited Salinger as an influence.



  • The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
  • Nine Stories (1953)
    • "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" (1948)
    • "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" (1948)
    • "Just Before the War with the Eskimos" (1948)
    • "The Laughing Man" (1949)
    • "Down at the Dinghy" (1949)
    • "For Esmé with Love and Squalor" (1950)
    • "Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes" (1951)
    • "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period" (1952)
    • "Teddy" (1953)
  • Franny and Zooey (1961)
    • "Franny" (1955)
    • "Zooey" (1957)
  • Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1963)
    • "Raise High the Roof-Beam, Carpenters" (1955)
    • "Seymour: An Introduction" (1959)

Published and anthologized stories

  • "Go See Eddie" (1940, republished in Fiction: Form & Experience, ed. William M. Jones, 1969)
  • "The Hang of It" (1941, republished in The Kit Book for Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, 1943)
  • "The Long Debut of Lois Taggett" (1942, republished in Stories: The Fiction of the Forties, ed. Whit Burnett, 1949)
  • "A Boy in France" (1945, republished in Post Stories 1942-45, ed. Ben Hibbs, 1946)
  • "This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise" (1945, republished in The Armchair Esquire, ed. L. Rust Hills, 1959)
  • "A Girl I Knew" (1948, republished in Best American Short Stories 1949, ed. Martha Foley, 1949)
  • "Slight Rebellion off Madison" (1946, republished in Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker, ed. David Remnick, 2000)

Published and unanthologized stories

  • "The Young Folks" (1940)
  • "The Heart of a Broken Story" (1941)
  • "Personal Notes of an Infantryman" (1942)
  • "The Varioni Brothers" (1943)
  • "Both Parties Concerned" (1944)
  • "Soft Boiled Sergeant" (1944)
  • "Last Day of the Last Furlough" (1944)
  • "Once a Week Won't Kill You" (1944)
  • "Elaine" (1945)
  • "The Stranger" (1945)
  • "I'm Crazy" (1945)
  • "A Young Girl in 1941 with No Waist at All" (1947)
  • "The Inverted Forest" (1947)
  • "Blue Melody" (1948)
  • "Hapworth 16, 1924" (1965)

See Uncollected Stories

Unpublished and unanthologized stories

  • "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls" (date unknown)
  • "The Last and Best of the Peter Pans" (date unknown)
  • "Two Lonely Men" (1944)
  • "The Children's Echelon" (1944)
  • "The Magic Foxhole" (1945)

See Unpublished Stories


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Sonny: An Introduction", Time, 1961-09-15. Retrieved on 2007-04-12. 
  2. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 20.
  3. ^ Alexander (1999). p. 32.
  4. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 10.
  5. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 31.
  6. ^ Alexander (1999). p. 42.
  7. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 39.
  8. ^ a b Scovell, Jane (1998). Oona Living in the Shadows: A Biography of Oona O'Neill Chaplin. New York: Warner. ISBN 0-446-51730-5.  p. 87.
  9. ^ a b Sheppard, R.Z. "Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted: In Search of J.D. Salinger by Ian Hamilton", Time, 1988-03-23. Retrieved on 2007-04-14. 
  10. ^ a b c Lutz (2001). p. 18.
  11. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 58.
  12. ^ Lamb, Robert Paul. "Hemingway and the creation of twentieth-century dialogue - American author Ernest Hemingway" (reprint), Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1996. Retrieved on 2007-07-10. 
  13. ^ a b Salinger, M (2000). p.55
  14. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 89.
  15. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 7.
  16. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 55.
  17. ^ a b c d e Menand, Louis. "Holden at Fifty: The Catcher in the Rye and what it spawned" (reprint), The New Yorker, 2001-10-01. Retrieved on 2007-07-10. 
  18. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 67.
  19. ^ a b Alexander (1999). p. 113.
  20. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 359.
  21. ^ Alexander (1999). p. 124.
  22. ^ Alexander (1999). p. 130.
  23. ^ a b c Hamilton (1988). p. 75.
  24. ^ Fosburgh, Lacey. "Why More Top Novelists Don't Go Hollywood" (fee required), The New York Times, 1976-11-21. Retrieved on 2007-04-06. 
  25. ^ a b c Berg, A. Scott. Goldwyn: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989. ISBN 1-57322-723-4. p. 446.
  26. ^ a b "Depositions Yield J. D. Salinger Details" (fee required), The New York Times, 1986-12-12. Retrieved on 2007-04-14. 
  27. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 77.
  28. ^ a b Whitfield (1997). p. 77.
  29. ^ a b Natchez, Jon and Brian Phillips. The Catcher in the Rye Study Guide, SparkNotes, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-10.
  30. ^ Crawford (2006). p. 4.
  31. ^ Burger, Nash K. "Books of The Times", The New York Times, 1951-07-16. Retrieved on 2007-07-10. 
  32. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 117.
  33. ^ a b c Hamilton (1988). p. 155.
  34. ^ a b Whitfield (1997). p. 97.
  35. ^ a b Whitfield (1997). p. 82, 78.
  36. ^ Yardley, Jonathan. "J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Aging Gracelessly", The Washington Post, 2004-10-19. Retrieved on 2007-04-13. 
  37. ^ Crowe, Cameron, ed. Conversations with Wilder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. ISBN 0-375-40660-3. p. 299.
  38. ^ PAGE SIX; Inside Salinger's Own World. The New York Post (2003-12-04). Retrieved on 2007-01-18.
  39. ^ a b Maynard (1998). p. 93.
  40. ^ Silverman, Al, ed. The Book of the Month: Sixty Years of Books in American Life. Boston: Little, Brown, 1986. ISBN 0-316-10119-2. pp. 129–130.
  41. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 53.
  42. ^ Hamilton (1988) p. 64.
  43. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 127.
  44. ^ a b Hamilton (1988). p. 129.
  45. ^ Ranchan, Som P. (1989). An Adventure in Vedanta: J. D. Salinger's The Glass Family. Delhi: Ajanta. ISBN 81-202-0245-7. 
  46. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 92.
  47. ^ a b Hamilton (1988). pp. 136-7.
  48. ^ a b c Crawford (2006). p. 12-14.
  49. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 30.
  50. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 89.
  51. ^ a b Salinger, M (2000). p. 90.
  52. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 84.
  53. ^ a b c d Salinger, M (2000). p. 94-5.
  54. ^ Smith, Dinitia. "Salinger's Daughter's Truths as Mesmerizing as His Fiction", The New York Times, 2000-08-30. Retrieved on 2007-03-09. 
  55. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 94-5. Mentions Salinger's interest in Christian Science, Edgar Cayce, homeopathy, acupuncture, and macrobiotics.
  56. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 195. Mentions Salinger's interest in fasting and vomiting to remove impurities.
  57. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 219. Mentions Salinger's interest in megadoses of Vitamin C.
  58. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 96. Mentions Salinger's interest in urine therapy, glossolalia, and orgone energy.
  59. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 115.
  60. ^ a b Salinger, M (2000). p. 115-116.
  61. ^ "People", Time, 1961-08-04. Retrieved on 2007-07-10.
  62. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 35.
  63. ^ a b Alexander, Paul. "J. D. Salinger’s Women", New York Magazine, 1998-02-09. Retrieved on 2007-04-12. 
  64. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 362.
  65. ^ Maynard (1998). p. 158.
  66. ^ Pollitt, Katha. "With Love and Squalor", The New York Times, 1998-09-13. Retrieved on 2007-04-14. 
  67. ^ Fosburgh, Lacey. "J. D. Salinger Speaks About His Silence", The New York Times, 1974-11-03. Retrieved on 2007-04-12. 
  68. ^ a b Maynard (1998). p. 97.
  69. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 307.
  70. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 33.
  71. ^ Crawford (2006). p. 79.
  72. ^ a b Lubasch, Arnold H. "Salinger Biography is Blocked", The New York Times, 1987-01-30. Retrieved on 2007-04-14. 
  73. ^ Alexander, Paul. "J. D. Salinger’s Women", New York Magazine, 1998-02-09. Retrieved on 2007-04-12.  The 1998 article mentions that "the couple has been 'married for about ten years.'"
  74. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 108.
  75. ^ Circular 38a of the U.S. Copyright Office
  76. ^ a b Mckinley, Jesse. "Iranian Film Is Canceled After Protest By Salinger" (fee required), The New York Times, 1998-11-21. Retrieved on 2007-04-05. 
  77. ^ a b Lutz (2001). p. 42-3.
  78. ^ a b c "Salinger letters bring $156,500 at auction", CNN, 1999-06-22. Retrieved on 2007-04-12. 
  79. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 55.
  80. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 7.
  81. ^ Maynard (1998). p. 94.
  82. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 195.
  83. ^ a b c Malcolm, Janet. "Justice to J. D. Salinger", The New York Review of Books, 2001-06-21. Retrieved on 2007-04-16. 
  84. ^ Whitfield (1997). p. 96.
  85. ^ Kazin, Alfred. "J.D. Salinger: "Everybody's Favorite"," The Atlantic Monthly 208.2, Aug. 1961. Rpt. in Bloom, Harold, ed. (2001) Bloom's BioCritiques: J. D. Salinger. Philadelphia: Chelsea House. ISBN 0-7910-6175-2.  pp. 67-75.
  86. ^ Shuman, R. Baird, ed. Great American Writers: Twentieth Century. Vol. 13. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2002. 14 vols. p. 1308.
  87. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 70.
  88. ^ a b Mondloch, Helen. "Squalor and Redemption: The Age of Salinger," The World & I. SIRS Knowledge Source: SIRS Renaissance. Nov. 2003. Retrieved on 2004-04-02.
  89. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 34.
  90. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 105-6.
  91. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 188.
  92. ^ Brozan, Nadine. "Chronicle" (fee required), The New York Times, 1991-04-27. Retrieved on 2007-07-10. 
  93. ^ Osen, Diane. "Interview with John Updike", The National Book Foundation. 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-10.
  94. ^ Bender, Aimee. "Holden Schmolden." Kotzen, Kip, and Thomas Beller, ed. With Love and Squalor: 14 Writers Respond to the Work of J.D. Salinger. New York: Broadway, 2001. ISBN 978-076-790799-6. pp. 162-9.
  95. ^ Beisch, Ann. "Interview with Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower", LA Youth, November-December 2001. Retrieved on 2007-07-10.
  96. ^ "What Authors Influenced You?", Retrieved on 2007-07-10. Both Hiaasen and Minot cite him as an influence here.
  97. ^ "Author Bio", Louis Sachar's Official Web Site, 2002. Retrieved on 2007-07-14.
  98. ^ Stein, Joel. "The Yips." Kotzen, Kip, and Thomas Beller, ed. With Love and Squalor: 14 Writers Respond to the Work of J.D. Salinger. New York: Broadway, 2001. ISBN 978-076-790799-6. pp. 170-6.


  • Alexander, Paul (1999). Salinger: A Biography. Los Angeles: Renaissance. ISBN 1-58063-080-4. 
  • Crawford, Catherine, ed. (2006). If You Really Want to Hear About It: Writers on J. D. Salinger and His Work. New York: Thunder's Mouth. 
  • Hamilton, Ian (1988). In Search of J. D. Salinger. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-53468-9. 
  • Kubica, Chris; Hochman, Will (2002). Letters to J. D. Salinger. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-17800-5. 
  • Lutz, Norma Jean. "Biography of J.D. Salinger." Bloom, Harold, ed. (2001) Bloom's BioCritiques: J. D. Salinger. Philadelphia: Chelsea House. ISBN 0-7910-6175-2.  pp. 3-44.
  • Maynard, Joyce (1998). At Home in the World. New York: Picador. ISBN 0-312-19556-7. 
  • Salinger, Margaret (2000). Dream Catcher: A Memoir. New York: Washington Square Press. ISBN 0-671-04281-5. 
  • Whitfield, Stephen J. "Cherished and Cursed: Toward a Cultural History of The Catcher in the Rye," The New England Quarterly 70.4, Dec. 1997. pp. 567-600. Rpt. in Bloom, Harold, ed. (2001) Bloom's BioCritiques: J. D. Salinger. Philadelphia: Chelsea House. ISBN 0-7910-6175-2.  pp. 77-105.

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