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J. D. Salinger

Salinger photographed by Lotte Jacobi in 1950,
the last portrait he permitted
Born Jerome David Salinger
January 1, 1919(1919-01-01)
New York City, New York,
United States
Died January 27, 2010 (aged 91)[1]
Cornish, New Hampshire,
United States[1]
Occupation Writer
Period 1940–1965
Notable work(s) The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

Nine Stories (1953) "Seymour: An Introduction" (1963)


Jerome David Salinger (pronounced /ˈsælɪndʒər/, SAL-in-jər; January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010) was an American author, best known for his 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, as well as his reclusive nature. His last original published work was in 1965; he gave his last interview in 1980. Raised in Manhattan, Salinger began writing short stories while in secondary school, and published several stories in the early 1940s before serving in World War II. In 1948 he published the critically acclaimed story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" in The New Yorker magazine, which became home to much of his subsequent work. In 1951 Salinger released his novel The Catcher in the Rye, an immediate popular success. His depiction of adolescent alienation and loss of innocence in the protagonist Holden Caulfield was influential, especially among adolescent readers.[2] The novel remains widely read and controversial,[3] selling around 250,000 copies a year.

The success of The Catcher in the Rye led to public attention and scrutiny: Salinger became reclusive, publishing new work less frequently. He followed Catcher with a short story collection, Nine Stories (1953), a collection of a novella and a short story, Franny and Zooey (1961), and a collection of two novellas, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1963). His last published work, a novella entitled "Hapworth 16, 1924", appeared in The New Yorker on June 19, 1965.

Afterward, Salinger struggled with unwanted attention, including a legal battle in the 1980s with biographer Ian Hamilton and the release in the late 1990s of memoirs written by two people close to him: Joyce Maynard, an ex-lover; and Margaret Salinger, his daughter. In 1996, a small publisher announced a deal with Salinger to publish "Hapworth 16, 1924" in book form, but amid the ensuing publicity, the release was indefinitely delayed. He made headlines around the globe in June 2009, after filing a lawsuit against another writer for copyright infringement resulting from that writer's use of one of Salinger's characters from The Catcher in the Rye.[4] Salinger died of natural causes on January 27, 2010, at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire.[5][6]


Early life

Salinger with his sister Doris in August 1920.

Jerome David Salinger was born in Manhattan, New York, on New Year's Day, 1919. His mother, Marie (née Jillich), was of Scots-Irish descent.[2] His father, Sol Salinger, was a Polish Jew who sold kosher cheese. Salinger's mother changed her name to Miriam and passed as Jewish. Salinger did not find out that his mother was not Jewish until just after his bar mitzvah.[7] He had one sibling: his older sister Doris (1911–2001).[8]

The young Salinger attended public schools on the West Side of Manhattan, then moved to the private McBurney School for ninth and tenth grade. He acted in several plays and "showed an innate talent for drama", though his father opposed the idea of J.D. becoming an actor.[9] He was happy to get away from his over-protective mother by entering the Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania.[10] Though he had written for the school newspaper at McBurney, at Valley Forge Salinger began writing stories "under the covers [at night], with the aid of a flashlight."[11] He started his freshman year at New York University in 1936, and considered studying special education,[12] but dropped out the following spring. That fall, his father urged him to learn about the meat-importing business and he was sent to work at a company in Vienna, Austria.[13]

He left Austria only a month or so before it was annexed by Nazi Germany, on March 12, 1938. He attended Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, for only one semester. In 1939, Salinger attended a Columbia University evening writing class taught by Whit Burnett, longtime editor of Story magazine. According to Burnett, Salinger did not distinguish himself until a few weeks before the end of the second semester, at which point "he suddenly came to life" and completed three stories.[14] Burnett told Salinger that his stories were skillful and accomplished, and accepted "The Young Folks", a vignette about several aimless youths, for publication in Story.[14] Salinger's debut short story was published in the magazine's March-April 1940 issue. Burnett became Salinger's mentor, and they corresponded for several years.[15]

World War II

In 1941, Salinger started dating Oona O'Neill, daughter of the playwright Eugene O'Neill. Despite finding the debutante self-absorbed (he confided to a friend that "Little Oona's hopelessly in love with little Oona"), he called her often and wrote her long letters.[16] Their relationship ended when Oona began seeing Charlie Chaplin, whom she eventually married.[17] In late 1941, Salinger briefly worked on a Caribbean cruise ship, serving as an activity director and possibly as a performer.[18]

The same year, Salinger began submitting short stories to The New Yorker. Seven of Salinger's stories were rejected by the magazine that year, including "Lunch for Three", "Monologue for a Watery Highball", and "I Went to School with Adolf Hitler". In December 1941, however, it accepted "Slight Rebellion off Madison", a Manhattan-set story about a disaffected teenager named Holden Caulfield with "pre-war jitters".[19] When Japan carried out the attack on Pearl Harbor that month, the story was rendered "unpublishable"; it did not appear in the magazine until 1946.[19] In the spring of 1942, several months after the United States entered World War II, Salinger was drafted into the Army, where he saw combat with the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.[18] He was active at Utah Beach on D-Day and in the Battle of the Bulge.[20]

During the campaign from Normandy into Germany, Salinger arranged to meet with Ernest Hemingway, a writer who had influenced him and was working as a war correspondent in Paris.[21] Salinger was impressed with Hemingway's friendliness and modesty, finding him more "soft" than his gruff public persona.[22] Hemingway was impressed by Salinger's writing, and remarked: "Jesus, he has a helluva talent."[2] The two writers began corresponding; Salinger wrote Hemingway in July 1946 that their talks were among his few positive memories of the war.[22] Salinger added that he was working on a play about Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of his story "Slight Rebellion off Madison", and hoped to play the part himself.[22]

Salinger was assigned to a counter-intelligence division, where he used his proficiency in French and German to interrogate prisoners of war.[23] He was also among the first soldiers to enter a liberated concentration camp.[23] Salinger's experiences in the war affected him emotionally. He was hospitalized for a few weeks for combat stress reaction after Germany was defeated,[24][25] 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."[26] Both of his biographers speculate that Salinger drew upon his wartime experiences in several stories,[27] such as "For Esmé – with Love and Squalor", which is narrated by a traumatized soldier. Salinger continued to write while serving in the army, and published several stories in slick magazines such as Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post. He also continued to submit stories to The New Yorker, but with little success; it rejected all of his submissions from 1944 to 1946, and in 1945 rejected a group of 15 poems.[19]

Post-war years

After Germany's defeat, Salinger signed up for a six-month period of "Denazification" duty in Germany[28] for the Counterintelligence Corps. He lived in Weißenburg, and, soon after married a woman named Sylvia Welter. He brought her to the United States in April 1946, but the marriage fell apart after eight months and Sylvia returned to Germany.[29] Some time later in 1972, Salinger's daughter Margaret was with him when he received a letter from Sylvia. He looked at the envelope, and without reading it, tore it apart. It was the first time he had heard from her since the breakup, but as Margaret put it, "when he was finished with a person, he was through with them."[30]

In 1946, Whit Burnett agreed to help Salinger publish a collection of his short stories through Story Press's Lippincott Imprint.[31] Titled The Young Folks, the collection was to consist of twenty stories—ten, like the title story and "Slight Rebellion off Madison", were already in print; ten were previously unpublished.[31] Though Burnett implied the book would be published and even negotiated Salinger a $1,000 advance on its sale, Lippincott overruled Burnett and rejected the book.[31] Salinger blamed Burnett for the book's failure to see print, and the two became estranged.[32]

By the late 1940s, Salinger had become an avid follower of Zen Buddhism, to the point that he "gave reading lists on the subject to his dates"[2] and arranged a meeting with Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki. In 1948, he submitted a short story titled "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" to The New Yorker. The 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.[33] The critical acclaim accorded "Bananafish", coupled with problems Salinger had with stories being altered by the "slicks", led him to publish almost exclusively in The New Yorker.[34] "Bananafish" was also the first of Salinger's published stories to feature the Glasses, a fictional family consisting of two retired vaudeville performers and their seven precocious children: Seymour, Buddy, Boo Boo, Walt, Waker, Zooey, and Franny.[35] Salinger eventually published seven stories about the Glasses, developing a detailed family history and focusing particularly on Seymour, the troubled eldest child.[35]

In the early 1940s, 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.[36] According to Ian Hamilton, Salinger was disappointed when "rumblings from Hollywood" over his 1943 short story "The Varioni Brothers" came to nothing. Therefore he immediately agreed when, in mid-1948, independent film producer Samuel Goldwyn offered to buy the film rights to his short story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut".[36] Though Salinger sold his story with the hope—in the words of his agent Dorothy Olding—that it "would make a good movie",[37] the film version of "Wiggily" was lambasted by critics upon its release in 1949.[38] Renamed My Foolish Heart and starring Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward, the melodramatic film departed to such an extent from Salinger's story that Goldwyn biographer A. Scott Berg referred to it as a "bastardization".[38] As a result of this experience, Salinger never again permitted film adaptations to be made from his work.[39]

The Catcher in the Rye

Cover of The Catcher in the Rye 1985 edition

In the 1940s, Salinger confided to several people that he was working on a novel featuring Holden Caulfield, the teenage protagonist of his short story "Slight Rebellion off Madison",[40] and The Catcher in the Rye was published on July 16, 1951. The novel's plot is simple,[41] detailing seventeen-year-old Holden's experiences in New York City following his expulsion, and departure, from an elite prep school. The book is more notable for the iconic persona and testimonial voice of its first-person narrator, Holden.[42] He serves as an insightful but unreliable narrator who expounds on the importance of loyalty, the "phoniness" of adulthood, and his own duplicity.[42] 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 book ... [I]t was a great relief telling people about it."[43]

Initial reactions to the book were mixed, ranging from The New York Times's hailing of Catcher as "an unusually brilliant first novel"[44] to denigrations of the book's monotonous language and the "immorality and perversion" of Holden,[45] who uses religious slurs and freely discusses casual sex and prostitution.[46] The novel was a popular success; within two months of its publication, The Catcher in the Rye had been reprinted eight times. It spent thirty weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.[41]

The book's initial success was followed by a brief lull in popularity, but by the late 1950s, according to Ian Hamilton, it had "become the book all brooding adolescents had to buy, the indispensable manual from which cool styles of disaffectation could be borrowed."[47] Newspapers began publishing articles about the "Catcher Cult,"[47] and the novel was banned in several countries—as well as 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."[48] One diligent parent counted 237 appearances of the word "goddam" in the novel, along with 58 of "bastard", 31 of "Chrissake" and 6 of "fuck".[48]

In the 1970s, several U.S. high school teachers who assigned the book were fired or forced to resign. 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)[49] The book remains widely read; as of 2004, the novel was selling about 250,000 copies per year, "with total worldwide sales over 65 million".[50]

In the wake of its 1950s success, Salinger received (and rejected) numerous offers to adapt The Catcher in the Rye for the screen, including one from Samuel Goldwyn.[38] Since its publication, there has been sustained interest in the novel among filmmakers, with Billy Wilder,[51] Harvey Weinstein, and Steven Spielberg[52] among those seeking to secure the rights. Salinger stated in the 1970s that "Jerry Lewis tried for years to get his hands on the part of Holden."[53] Salinger repeatedly refused, though, and in 1999, Joyce Maynard definitively concluded: "The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J. D. Salinger."[53]

Writing in the 1950s and move to Cornish

In a July 1951 profile in Book of the Month Club News, Salinger's friend and New Yorker editor William Maxwell asked Salinger about his literary influences. Salinger responded: "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, Dostoevsky, 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."[54] In letters written in the 1940s, Salinger had expressed his admiration of three living, or recently deceased, writers: Sherwood Anderson, Ring Lardner, and F. Scott Fitzgerald;[55] Ian Hamilton wrote that Salinger even saw himself for some time as "Fitzgerald's successor."[56] Salinger's "A Perfect Day For Bananafish" has an ending similar to that of Fitzgerald's earlier published short story "May Day".[citation needed]

After several years of practicing Zen Buddhism, in 1952, while reading the gospels of Hindu religious teacher Sri Ramakrishna, Salinger wrote friends of a momentous change in his life.[57] He became an adherent of Ramakrishna's Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, which advocated celibacy for those seeking enlightenment, and detachment from human responsibilities such as family.[58][59] Salinger's religious studies were reflected in some of his writing. The story "Teddy" features a ten-year-old child who expresses Vedantic insights.[60] He also studied the writings of Ramakrishna's disciple Vivekananda; in the story "Hapworth 16, 1924", the character of Seymour Glass describes him as "one of the most exciting, original and best-equipped giants of this century."[58]

In 1953, Salinger published a collection of seven 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.[61] The book received grudgingly positive reviews, and was a financial success—"remarkably so for a volume of short stories," according to Hamilton.[62] Nine Stories spent three months on the New York Times Bestseller list.[62] 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 form preconceived notions of them.

As the notoriety of The Catcher in the Rye grew, Salinger gradually withdrew from public view. In 1953, he moved from an apartment at 300 East 57th Street,[63] New York to Cornish, New Hampshire. Early in his time at Cornish he was relatively sociable, particularly with students at Windsor High School. Salinger invited them to his house frequently to play records and talk about problems at school.[64] One such student, Shirley Blaney, persuaded Salinger to be interviewed for the high school page of The Daily Eagle, the city paper. However, after Blaney's interview appeared prominently in the newspaper's editorial section, Salinger cut off all contact with the high schoolers without explanation.[64] He was also seen less frequently around town, meeting only one close friend—jurist Learned Hand—with any regularity.[65]

Marriage, family, and religious beliefs

In June 1955, at the age of 36, Salinger married Claire Douglas, a Radcliffe student. They had two children, Margaret (b. December 10, 1955) and Matthew (b. February 13, 1960). Margaret Salinger wrote in her memoir 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 Lahiri Mahasaya, a guru of Paramahansa Yogananda, which brought the possibility of enlightenment to those following the path of the "householder" (a married person with children).[66] 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., during the summer of 1955.[67] They received a mantra and breathing exercises to practice for ten minutes twice a day.[67]

Salinger also insisted that Claire drop out of school and live with him, only four months shy of graduation, which she did. Certain elements of the story "Franny", published in January 1955, are based on his relationship with Claire, including her ownership of the book The Way of the Pilgrim.[68] Because of 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, she 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."[69] 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."[69]

After abandoning Kriya yoga, Salinger tried Dianetics (the forerunner of Scientology), even meeting its founder L. Ron Hubbard, but according to Claire he was quickly disenchanted with it.[69][70] 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 bathe in "orgone energy."[71][72][73][74]

Salinger's family life was further marked by discord after the first child was born; according to Margaret, Claire felt that her daughter had replaced her in Salinger's affections.[75] 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.[76] 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 13-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, Salinger persuaded her to return to Cornish.[76]

Last publications and Maynard relationship

Salinger published Franny and Zooey in 1961, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction in 1963. Each book contained two short stories or novellas, previously published in The New Yorker, about members of the Glass family. 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."[77]

On September 15, 1961, Time magazine devoted its cover to Salinger. In an article that profiled his "life of recluse", the magazine reported that the Glass family series "is nowhere near completion ... Salinger intends to write a Glass trilogy."[2] However, Salinger published only one other story after that: "Hapworth 16, 1924", an epistolary novella in the form of a long letter from seven-year-old Seymour Glass from summer camp. It took up most of the June 19, 1965, issue of The New Yorker. Around this time, Salinger had isolated Claire from friends and relatives and made her—in the words of Margaret Salinger—"a virtual prisoner."[69] Claire separated from him in September 1966; their divorce was finalized on October 3, 1967.[78]

In 1972, at the age of 53, Salinger had a year-long relationship with 18-year-old 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. Salinger wrote a letter to her warning about living with fame. After exchanging 25 letters, Maynard moved in with Salinger the summer after her freshman year at Yale University.[79] 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 daughter Margaret at a family outing, because Maynard wanted children, and he felt he was too old.[80] However, in her own autobiography, Maynard paints a different picture, saying Salinger abruptly ended the relationship and refused to take her back. She had dropped out of Yale to be with him, even forgoing a scholarship. Maynard later writes in her own memoir how she came to find out that Salinger had begun relationships with young women by exchanging letters. One of those letter recipients included Salinger's last wife, a nurse who was already engaged to be married to someone else when she met the author.[citation needed]

While he was living with Maynard, Salinger continued to write in a disciplined fashion, a few hours every morning. According to Maynard, by 1972 he had completed two new novels.[81][82] In a rare 1974 interview with The New York Times, he 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."[83] According to Maynard, he saw publication as "a damned interruption."[84] In her memoir, Margaret Salinger describes 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."[85] A neighbor said that Salinger told him that he had written 15 unpublished novels.[86]

Legal conflicts

Although Salinger tried to escape public exposure as much as possible, he continued to struggle with unwanted attention from both the media and the public.[87] Readers of his work and students from nearby Dartmouth College often came to Cornish in groups, hoping to catch a glimpse of him.[88] Upon learning in 1986 that the British writer Ian Hamilton intended 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."[89]

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,"[39] 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.[17][89]

Salinger was romantically involved with television actress Elaine Joyce for several years in the 1980s.[79] The relationship ended when he met Colleen O'Neill (b. June 11, 1959), a nurse and quiltmaker, whom he married around 1988.[90] O'Neill, forty years his junior, once told Margaret Salinger that she and Salinger were trying to have a child.[91]

In 1995, Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui released the film Pari, an unauthorized and loose 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,[92] Salinger had his lawyers block a planned screening of the film at the Lincoln Center in 1998.[93] Mehrjui called Salinger's action "bewildering," explaining that he saw his film as "a kind of cultural exchange."[93]

In 1996 Salinger gave a small publisher, Orchises Press, permission to publish "Hapworth 16, 1924", the previously uncollected novella.[94] It was to be published that year, and listings for it appeared at and other book-sellers. After a flurry of articles and critical reviews of the story appeared in the press, the publication date was pushed back repeatedly before apparently being cancelled altogether. Amazon anticipated that Orchises would publish the story in January 2009,[95][96] but at the time of his death it had only a placeholding listing of "currently unavailable."[97]

In June 2009 Salinger consulted lawyers about the upcoming publication in the US of an unauthorized sequel to The Catcher in the Rye written by Swedish book publisher Fredrik Colting under the pseudonym J. D. California. California's book is called 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, and appears to pick up the story of Salinger's protagonist Holden Caulfield. In Salinger's 1951 classic, Caulfield is 17 years old, wandering the streets of New York after being expelled from his private school; the California book features a 76-year-old man, "Mr. C", musing on having escaped his nursing home. His New York literary agent Phyllis Westberg told the British newspaper Sunday Telegraph: "The matter has been turned over to a lawyer." The fact that little is known about the author and that the book is being published by a new publishing imprint called Windupbird Publishing has given rise to speculation in literary circles that the whole thing may be a stunt.[98] District court judge Deborah A. Batts issued an injunction which prevents the book from being published within the U.S.[99] The book's author filed an appeal on July 23, 2009; it will be heard in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.[100]

Later publicity

In 1999, 25 years after the end of their relationship, Joyce Maynard put up for auction a series of letters Salinger had written to her. Maynard's memoir of her life and her relationship with Salinger, At Home in the World: A Memoir, was 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 (dressing like a child), and described Maynard's relationship with him 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; 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.[101]

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

A year later, Salinger's daughter Margaret, by his second wife Claire Douglas, published Dream Catcher: A Memoir. In her 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,"[26] she also painted a picture of her father 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 Salinger and Maynard characterized the author as a devoted film buff. 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.[102] 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,"[103] and his daughter argued 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."[104]

Margaret also offered many insights into other Salinger myths, including her father's supposed long-time interest in macrobiotics and involvement with "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."[105]


Salinger died of natural causes at his home in New Hampshire on January 27, 2010. He was 91.[6] Salinger's literary representative commented to The New York Times that the writer had broken his hip in May 2009, but that "his health had been excellent until a rather sudden decline after the new year."[106] The representative believed that Salinger's death was not a painful one.[106]

Literary style and themes

In a contributor's note Salinger gave to Harper's Magazine in 1946, he wrote: "I almost always write about very young people", a statement which has been referred to as his credo.[107] 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."[108] 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.[109]

Salinger identified closely with his characters,[84] and used techniques such as interior monologue, letters, and extended telephone calls to display his gift for dialogue. Such style elements also "[gave] him the illusion of having, as it were, delivered his characters' destinies into their own keeping."[110] 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,"[111] the disconnect between teenagers and "phony" adults,[111] and the perceptive, precocious intelligence of children.[27]

Contemporary critics discuss 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.[105][112] Ian Hamilton adheres to this view, arguing that while Salinger's early stories for the "slicks" boasted "tight, energetic" dialogue, they had also been formulaic and sentimental. 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 1950s.[113] By the late 1950s, as Salinger became more reclusive and involved in religious study, Hamilton notes that his stories became longer, less plot-driven, and increasingly filled with digression and parenthetical remarks.[114] Louis Menand agrees, 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."[27] 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."[105]


Salinger's writing has influenced several prominent writers, prompting Harold Brodkey (himself an O. Henry Award-winning author) to state in 1991: "His is the most influential body of work in English prose by anyone since Hemingway."[115] 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 ... [Reading Salinger] stick[s] in my mind as really having moved me a step up, as it were, toward knowing how to handle my own material."[116] The critic Louis Menand has observed that the early stories of Pulitzer Prize-winner Philip Roth were affected by "Salinger's voice and comic timing."[27]

National Book Award finalist Richard Yates told The New York Times in 1977 that reading Salinger's stories for the first time was a landmark experience, and that "nothing quite like it has happened to me since."[117] Yates describes Salinger as "a man who used language as if it were pure energy beautifully controlled, and who knew exactly what he was doing in every silence as well as in every word." Gordon Lish's O. Henry Award-winning short story "For Jeromé—With Love and Kisses" (1977, collected in What I Know So Far, 1984), is a parody of Salinger's "For Esmé—with Love and Squalor."[118]

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."[27] He classed among them Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (1963), Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971), Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984), and Dave Eggers's 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: "[I]t 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."[119] Authors such as Stephen Chbosky,[120] Jonathan Safran Foer,[121] Carl Hiaasen, Susan Minot,[122] Haruki Murakami, Gwendoline Riley,[123] Tom Robbins, Louis Sachar,[124] and Joel Stein[125] have cited Salinger as an influence.

A film released in 2000, Finding Forrester, was loosely based on Salinger's life. Sean Connery plays a reclusive author whose only published novel was considered a masterpiece. After publishing the novel, Connery's character had become reclusive and remained so for nearly 30 years.

In popular culture

Songs which have been inspired by Salinger's work include:

List of works


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

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)


  1. ^ a b "J.D. Salinger Is Dead at Age 91". Wall Street Journal. 2010-01-28. Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Skow, John (1961-09-15). "Sonny: An Introduction". Time.,9171,938775,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  3. ^ See Beidler's A Reader's Companion to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.
  4. ^ Gross D. "Lawsuit targets 'rip-off' of 'Catcher in the Rye'". CNN. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
  5. ^ "JD Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye, dies at 91". BBC. Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Italie, Hillel (January 28, 2010). "'Catcher in the Rye' Author J.D. Salinger Dies". ABC News. Retrieved 28 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "J.D. Salinger". 1919-01-01. Retrieved 2010-01-30. 
  8. ^ Alexander (1999). p. 32.
  9. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 10.
  10. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 31.
  11. ^ Alexander (1999). p. 42.
  12. ^ Fiene, Donald M. "A Bibliographical Study of J. D. Salinger: Life, Work, and Reputation", M.A. Thesis, University of Louisville, 1962.
  13. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 39.
  14. ^ a b Alexander (1999). pp. 55–58. Burnett's quotes were included in Fiction Writer's Handbook, edited by Whit and Hallie Burnett and published in 1975.
  15. ^ Alexander (1999). pp. 55, 63–65.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ a b Sheppard, R.Z (1988-03-23). "Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted: In Search of J.D. Salinger by Ian Hamilton". Time.,9171,967473-1,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  18. ^ a b Lutz (2001). p. 18.
  19. ^ a b c Yagoda, Ben (2000). About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made. New York: Scribner. ISBN 0-684-81605-9.  pp. 98, 233.
  20. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 58.
  21. ^ Lamb, Robert Paul (Winter 1996). "Hemingway and the creation of twentieth-century dialogue – American author Ernest Hemingway" (reprint). Twentieth Century Literature. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  22. ^ a b c Baker, Carlos (1969). Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 0-020-01690-5.  pp. 420, 646.
  23. ^ a b Salinger, M (2000). p.55
  24. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 89.
  25. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 7.
  26. ^ a b Salinger, M (2000). p. 55.
  27. ^ a b c d e Menand, Louis (2001-10-01). "Holden at Fifty: The Catcher in the Rye and what it spawned" (reprint). The New Yorker. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  28. ^ Salinger, M. (2000), p. 67.
  29. ^ Alexander (1999), p. 113.
  30. ^ Salinger, M. (2000), p. 359.
  31. ^ a b c Alexander (1999), pp. 118–20.
  32. ^ Alexander (1999), pp. 120, 164, 204–5.
  33. ^ Alexander (1999). p. 124.
  34. ^ Alexander (1999). p. 130.
  35. ^ a b Crawford (2006). pp. 97–99.
  36. ^ a b Hamilton (1988). p. 75.
  37. ^ Fosburgh, Lacey (1976-11-21). "Why More Top Novelists Don't Go Hollywood" (fee required). The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-04-06. 
  38. ^ a b c Berg, A. Scott. Goldwyn: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989. ISBN 1-57322-723-4. p. 446.
  39. ^ a b "Depositions Yield J. D. Salinger Details" (fee required). The New York Times. 1986-12-12. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  40. ^ Alexander (1999). p. 142.
  41. ^ a b Whitfield (1997). p. 77.
  42. ^ a b Nandel, Alan. "The Significance of Holden Caulfield's Testimony". Reprinted in Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Interpretations: J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2000. pp. 75–89.
  43. ^ Crawford (2006). p. 4.
  44. ^ Burger, Nash K (1951-07-16). "Books of The Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  45. ^ Whitfield, Stephen J. "Raise High the Bookshelves, Censors!" (book review), The Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2002. Retrieved on 2007-11-27. In a review of the book in The Christian Science Monitor, the reviewer found the book unfit "for children to read", writing that they would be influenced by Holden, "as too easily happens when immorality and perversion are recounted by writers of talent whose work is countenanced in the name of art or good intention."
  46. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 117.
  47. ^ a b Hamilton (1988). p. 155.
  48. ^ a b Whitfield (1997). p. 97.
  49. ^ Whitfield (1997). pp. 82, 78.
  50. ^ Yardley, Jonathan (2004-10-19). "J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Aging Gracelessly". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  51. ^ Crowe, Cameron, ed. Conversations with Wilder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. ISBN 0-375-40660-3. p. 299.
  52. ^ "PAGE SIX; Inside Salinger's Own World". New York Post. 2003-12-04. Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  53. ^ a b Maynard (1998). p. 93.
  54. ^ 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.
  55. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 53.
  56. ^ Hamilton (1988) p. 64.
  57. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 127.
  58. ^ a b Hamilton (1988). p. 129.
  59. ^ Ranchan, Som P. (1989). An Adventure in Vedanta: J. D. Salinger's The Glass Family. Delhi: Ajanta. ISBN 81-202-0245-7. 
  60. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 12.
  61. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 92.
  62. ^ a b Hamilton (1988). pp. 136–7.
  63. ^ Leigh, Alison (2010-01-03). "300 East 57th Street, Salinger’s Last Known Manhattan Home". Retrieved 2010-01-30. 
  64. ^ a b Crawford (2006). pp. 12–14.
  65. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 30.
  66. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 89.
  67. ^ a b Salinger, M (2000). p. 90.
  68. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 84.
  69. ^ a b c d Salinger, M (2000). pp. 94–5.
  70. ^ Smith, Dinitia (2000-08-30). "Salinger's Daughter's Truths as Mesmerizing as His Fiction". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-09. 
  71. ^ Salinger, M (2000). pp. 94–5. Mentions Salinger's interest in Christian Science, Edgar Cayce, homeopathy, acupuncture, and macrobiotics.
  72. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 195. Mentions Salinger's interest in fasting and vomiting to remove impurities.
  73. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 219. Mentions Salinger's interest in megadoses of Vitamin C.
  74. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 96. Mentions Salinger's interest in urine therapy, glossolalia, and orgone energy.
  75. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 115.
  76. ^ a b Salinger, M (2000). pp. 115–116.
  77. ^ "People", Time, 1961-08-04. Retrieved on 2007-07-10.
  78. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 35.
  79. ^ a b Alexander, Paul (1998-02-09). "J. D. Salinger's Women". New York. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  80. ^ Salinger, M (2000). pp. 361–2.
  81. ^ Maynard (1998). p. 158.
  82. ^ Pollitt, Katha (1998-09-13). "With Love and Squalor". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  83. ^ Fosburgh, Lacey (1974-11-03). "J. D. Salinger Speaks About His Silence". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  84. ^ a b Maynard (1998). p. 97.
  85. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 307.
  86. ^ "JD Salinger's death sparks speculation over unpublished manuscripts", The Telegraph, January 29, 2010
  87. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 33.
  88. ^ Crawford (2006). p. 79.
  89. ^ a b Lubasch, Arnold H (1987-01-30). "Salinger Biography is Blocked". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-04-14. 
  90. ^ Alexander, Paul (1998-02-09). "J. D. Salinger's Women". New York. Retrieved 2007-04-12.  The 1998 article mentions that "the couple has been 'married for about ten years.'"
  91. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 108.
  92. ^ Circular 38a of the U.S. Copyright Office
  93. ^ a b Mckinley, Jesse (1998-11-21). "Iranian Film Is Canceled After Protest By Salinger". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-04-05. 
  94. ^ Lundegaard, Karen M. "J.D. Salinger resurfaces ... in Alexandria?", Washington Business Journal, November 15, 1996. Retrieved on August 13, 2008.
  95. ^ Lutz (2001). pp. 42–3.
  96. ^
  97. ^ "HAPWORTH 16, 1924 (June 19, 1965 The New Yorker) (Paperback)". Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  98. ^ Sherwell, Philip (2009-05-30). "JD Salinger considers legal action to stop The Catcher in the Rye sequel". The Daily Telegraph. 
  99. ^ Chan, Sewell (2009-07-02). "Judge Rules for J.D. Salinger in 'Catcher' Copyright Suit". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  100. ^ "Appeal Filed to Overturn Ban in Salinger Case". Publisher's Weekly. 2009-07-24. Retrieved 2009-08-28. 
  101. ^ "Salinger letters bring $156,500 at auction". CNN. 1999-06-22. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  102. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 7.
  103. ^ Maynard (1998). p. 94.
  104. ^ Salinger, M (2000). p. 195.
  105. ^ a b c Malcolm, Janet (2001-06-21). "Justice to J. D. Salinger". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  106. ^ a b New York Times article: "J. D. Salinger, Enigmatic Author, Dies at 91".
  107. ^ Whitfield (1997). p. 96.
  108. ^ Kazin, Alfred. "J.D. Salinger: "Everybody's Favorite"," The Atlantic Monthly 208.2, August 1961. Rpt. in Bloom, Harold, ed. edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom. (2001). Bloom's BioCritiques: J. D. Salinger. Philadelphia: Chelsea House. ISBN 0-7910-6175-2.  pp. 67–75.
  109. ^ Shuman, R. Baird, ed. Great American Writers: Twentieth Century. Vol. 13. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2002. 14 vols. p. 1308.
  110. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 70.
  111. ^ a b Mondloch, Helen. "Squalor and Redemption: The Age of Salinger," The World & I. SIRS Knowledge Source: SIRS Renaissance. November 2003. Retrieved on 2004-04-02.
  112. ^ Lutz (2001). p. 34.
  113. ^ Hamilton (1988). pp. 105–6.
  114. ^ Hamilton (1988). p. 188.
  115. ^ Brozan, Nadine (1991-04-27). "Chronicle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  116. ^ Osen, Diane. "Interview with John Updike", The National Book Foundation. 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-10.
  117. ^ Yates, Richard. "Writers' Writers" (fee required), The New York Times, 1977-12-04. Retrieved on 2007-10-24. Relevant passage is excerpted on
  118. ^ "Gordon Lish Criticism". Retrieved 2010-01-30. 
  119. ^ 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.
  120. ^ Beisch, Ann. "Interview with Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower", LA Youth, November-December 2001. Retrieved on 2007-07-10.
  121. ^ Epstein, Jennifer. "Creative writing program produces aspiring writers", The Daily Princetonian, 2004-12-06. Retrieved on 2008-10-30.
  122. ^ "What Authors Influenced You?", Retrieved on 2007-07-10. Both Hiaasen and Minot cite him as an influence here.
  123. ^ "You have to trawl the depths", The Guardian, 2007-04-25. Retrieved on 2007-12-26.
  124. ^ "Author Bio", Louis Sachar's Official Web Site, 2002. Retrieved on 2007-07-14.
  125. ^ Stein, Joel. "The Yips". Kotzen, Kip, and Thomas Beller, ed. With Love and The Squalor: 14 Writers Respond to the Work of J.D. Salinger. New York: Broadway, 2001. ISBN 978-076-790799-6. pp. 170–6.
  126. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Pemberton, Pat "10 Songs Inspired by J.D. Salinger" on


  • 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. edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom. (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, December 1997. pp. 567–600. Rpt. in Bloom, Harold, ed. edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom. (2001). Bloom's BioCritiques: J. D. Salinger. Philadelphia: Chelsea House. ISBN 0-7910-6175-2.  pp. 77–105.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The religious life, and all the agony that goes with it, is just something God sics on people who have the gall to accuse Him of having created an ugly world.

Jerome David Salinger (born 1919-01-01) is an American author, most famous for his novel The Catcher in the Rye.

See also: The Catcher in the Rye



  • I'm aware that many of my friends will be saddened and shocked, or shock-saddened, over some of the chapters in The Catcher In the Rye. Some of my best friends are children. In fact, all my best friends are children. It's almost unbearable for me to realize that my book will be kept on a shelf out of their reach.
    • As quoted in The Twentieth Century (1972) by Caroline Farrar Ware, p. 429
  • There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. ... It's peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I live to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure. ... I don't necessarily intend to publish posthumously, but I do like to write for myself. ... I pay for this kind of attitude. I'm known as a strange, aloof kind of man. But all I'm doing is trying to protect myself and my work.
    • Statements to New York Times reporter Lacey Fosburgh, as quoted in Salinger : A Biography (2000) by Paul Alexander; also in If You Really Want to Hear About It : Writers on J.D. Salinger and His Work (2006) by Catherine Crawford

The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day...
This is just a sample, for more from this work see: The Catcher in the Rye
  • Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye, and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy.

Nine Stories (1953)

A Perfect Day for Bananafish (1948)

  • "I see you are looking at my feet," he said to her when car was in motion.
    "I beg your pardon?" said the woman.
    "I said I see you're looking at my feet".
    "I beg your pardon. I happened to be looking at the floor," said the woman, and faced the doors of the car.
    "If you want to look at my feet, say so," said the young man. "But don't be a God-damned sneak about it."
    "Let me out here, please," the woman said quickly to the girl operating the car.
    The car doors opened and the woman got out without looking back.
    "I have two normal feet and I can't see the slightest God-damned reason why anybody should stare at them," said the young man.

Just Before the War with the Eskimos (1948)

  • Outside the building, she started to walk west to Lexington to catch the bus. Between Third and Lexington, she reached into her coat pocket for her purse and found the sandwich half. She took it out and started to bring her arm down, to drop the sandwich into the street, but instead she put it back into her pocket. A few years before, it had taken her three days to dispose of the Easter chick she had found dead on the sawdust in the bottom of her wastebasket.

For Esmé — with Love and Squalor (1950)

  • He said I was unequipped to meet life because I had no sense of humor.
  • I remember wanting to do something about that enormous-faced wristwatch she was wearing — perhaps suggest that she try wearing it around her waist.

De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period (1952)

  • The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid.
  • Everybody's a nun.

Teddy (1953)

  • Life is a gift horse in my opinion.
  • "I don't know. Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They're always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions".
  • "You love God, don't you?" Nicholson asked, with a little excess of quietness. "Isn't that your forte, so to speak? From what I heard on that tape and from what Al Babcock —"
    "Yes, sure, I love Him. But I don't love Him sentimentally. He never said anybody had to love Him sentimentally," Teddy said. "If I were God, I certainly wouldn't want people to love me sentimentally. It's too unreliable."
  • "You know Adam?" Teddy asked him.
    "Do I know who?"
    "Adam. In the Bible."
    Nicholson smiled. "Not personally," he said dryly.

Franny and Zooey (1961)

Franny (1957)

  • It's everybody, I mean. Everything everybody does is so — I don't know — not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless and — sad-making. And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you're conforming just as much only in a different way.
  • "I'm just interested in finding out what the hell goes. I mean do you have to be a goddam bohemian type, or dead, for Chrissake, to be a real poet? What do you want-some bastard with wavy hair?"(p.19)
  • "as much as anything else, it was the stare, not so paradoxically, of a privacy-lover who, once his privacy has been invaded, doesn't quite approve when the invader just gets up and leaves,

one-two-three, like that."

Zooey (1957)

Jesus knew — knew — that we're carrying the Kingdom of Heaven around with us, inside, where we're all too goddam stupid and sentimental and unimaginative to look...
  • The religious life, and all the agony that goes with it, is just something God sics on people who have the gall to accuse Him of having created an ugly world.
  • You still can't love a Jesus as much as you'd like to who did and said a couple of things he was at least reported to have said or done — and you know it. You're constitutionally unable to love or understand any son of God who throws tables around. And you're constitutionally unable to love or understand any son of God who says a human being, any human being — even a Professor Tupper — is more valuable to God than any soft, helpless Easter chick.
  • Jesus knew — knew — that we're carrying the Kingdom of Heaven around with us, inside, where we're all too goddam stupid and sentimental and unimaginative to look? You have to be a son of God to know that kind of stuff.
  • When you don't see Jesus for exactly what he was, you miss the whole point of the Jesus Prayer. If you don't understand Jesus, you can't understand his prayer — you don't get the prayer at all, you just get some kind of organized cant. Jesus was a supreme adept, by God, on a terribly important mission.
  • I like to ride in trains too much. You never get to sit next to the window anymore when you're married.
  • I can't see why anybody — unless he was a child, or an angel, or a lucky simpleton like the pilgrim — would even want to say a prayer to a Jesus who was the least bit different from the way he looks and sounds in the New Testament. My God! He's only the most intelligent man in the Bible, that's all! Who isn't he head and shoulders over? Who? Both Testaments are full of pundits, prophets, disciples, favorite sons, Solomons, Isaiahs, Davids, Pauls — but, my God, who besides Jesus really knew which end was up? Nobody. Not Moses. Don't tell me Moses. He was a nice man, and he kept in beautiful touch with his God, and all that — but that's exactly the point. He had to keep in touch. Jesus realized there is no separation from God.
How in hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man when you see one if you don't even know a cup of consecrated chicken soup when it's right in front of your nose?
  • I swear to you, you're missing the whole point of the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer has one aim, and one aim only. To endow the person who says it with Christ-Consciousness. Not to set up some little cozy, holier-than-thou trysting place with some sticky, adorable divine personage who'll take you in his arms and relieve you of all your duties and make all your nasty Weltschmerzen and Professor Tuppers go away and never come back. And by God, if you have intelligence enough to see that — and you do — and yet you refuse to see it, then you're misusing the prayer, you're using it to ask for a world full of dolls and saints and no Professor Tuppers.
  • Even if you went out and searched the whole world for a master — some guru, some holy man — to tell you how to say your Jesus Prayer properly, what good would it do you? How in hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man when you see one if you don't even know a cup of consecrated chicken soup when it's right in front of your nose? Can you tell me that?
  • "You can say the Jesus Prayer from now till doomsday, but if you don't realize that the only thing that counts in the religious life is detachment, I don't see how you'll ever even move an inch. Detachment, buddy, and only detachment. Desirelessness. 'Cessation from all hankerings.' It's this business of desiring, if you want to know the goddam truth, that makes an actor in the first place. Why're you making me tell you things you already know? Somewhere along the line — in one damn incarnation or another, if you like — you not only had a hankering to be an actor or an actress but to be a good one. You're stuck with it now. You can't just walk out on the results of your own hankerings. Cause and effect, buddy, cause and effect. The only thing you can do now, the only religious thing you can do, is act. Act for God, if you want to — be God's actress, if you want to. What could be prettier? You can at least try to, if you want to — there's nothing wrong in trying." There was a slight pause. "You'd better get busy, though, buddy. The goddam sands run out on you every time you turn around. I know what I'm talking about. You're lucky if you get time to sneeze in this goddam phenomenal world."
  • You raved and you bitched when you came home about the stupidity of audiences. The goddam 'unskilled laughter' coming from the fifth row. And that's right, that's right — God knows it's depressing. I'm not saying it isn't. But that's none of your business, really. That's none of your business, Franny. An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's.
There isn't anyone anywhere that isn't Seymour's Fat Lady. Don't you know that? Don't you know that goddam secret yet?
  • Seymour'd told me to shine my shoes just as I was going out the door with Waker. I was furious. The studio audience were all morons, the announcer was a moron, the sponsors were morons, and I just damn well wasn't going to shine my shoes for them, I told Seymour. I said they couldn't see them anyway, where we sat. He said to shine them anyway. He said to shine them for the Fat Lady. I didn't know what the hell he was talking about, but he had a very Seymour look on his face, and so I did it. He never did tell me who the Fat Lady was, but I shined my shoes for the Fat Lady every time I ever went on the air again — all the years you and I were on the program together, if you remember. I don't think I missed more than just a couple of times. This terribly clear, clear picture of the Fat Lady formed in my mind. I had her sitting on this porch all day, swatting flies, with her radio going full-blast from morning till night. I figured the heat was terrible, and she probably had cancer, and — I don't know. Anyway, it seemed goddam clear why Seymour wanted me to shine my shoes when I went on the air. It made sense.
  • I don't care where an actor acts. It can be in summer stock, it can be over a radio, it can be over television, it can be in a goddam Broadway theatre, complete with the most fashionable, most well-fed, most sunburned-looking audience you can imagine. But I'll tell you a terrible secret — Are you listening to me? There isn't anyone out there who isn't Seymour's Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy. And all his goddam cousins by the dozens. There isn't anyone anywhere that isn't Seymour's Fat Lady. Don't you know that? Don't you know that goddam secret yet? And don't you know — listen to me, now — don't you know who that Fat Lady really is? . . . Ah, buddy. Ah, buddy. It's Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy.
  • For joy, apparently, it was all Franny could do to hold the phone, even with both hands.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1963)


  • If there is an amateur reader still left in the world--or anybody who just reads and runs--I ask him or her, with untellable affection and gratitude, to split the dedication of this book four ways with my wife and children.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters (1955)

  • Franny has the measles, for one thing. Incidentally, did you hear her last week? She went on at beautiful length about how she used to fly all around the apartment when she was four and no one was home. The new announcer is worse than Grant — if possible, even worse than Sullivan in the old days. He said she surely dreamt that she was able to fly. The baby stood her ground like an angel. She said she knew she was able to fly because when she came down she always had dust on her fingers from touching the lightbulbs.
  • Charlotte once ran away from me, outside the studio, and I grabbed her dress to stop her, to keep her near me. A yellow cotton dress I loved because it was too long for her.
  • How terrible it is when you say I love you and the person on the other end shouts back 'What?'
  • I'm a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.
  • The human voice conspires to desecrate everything on Earth.
  • Marriage partners are to serve each other. Elevate, help, teach, strengthen each other, but above all, serve. Raise their children honorably, lovingly and with detachment. A child is a guest in the house, to be loved and respected - never possessed, since he belongs to God. How wonderful, how sane, how beautifully difficult, and therefore true. The joy of responsibility for the first time in my life.

Seymour: An Introduction (1959)

I don't really deeply feel that anyone needs an airtight reason for quoting from the works of writers he loves, but it's always nice, I'll grant you, if he has one.
  • Do you know what I was smiling at? You wrote down that you were a writer by profession. It sounded to me like the loveliest euphemism I had ever heard. When was writing ever your profession? It's never been anything but your religion.
  • "Could you try not aiming so much?" he asked me, still standing there. "If you hit him when you aim, it'll just be luck." He was speaking, communicating, and yet not breaking the spell. I then broke it. Quite deliberately. "How can it be luck if I aim?" I said back to him, not loud (despite the italics) but with rather more irritation in my voice than I was actually feeling. He didn't say anything for a moment but simply stood balanced on the curb, looking at me, I knew imperfectly, with love. "Because it will be," he said. "You'll be glad if you hit his marble — Ira's marble — won't you? Won't you be glad? And if you're glad when you hit somebody's marble, then you sort of secretly didn't expect too much to do it. So there'd have to be some luck in it, there'd have to be slightly quite a lot of accident in it."
  • Please accept from me this unpretentious bouquet of very early-blooming parentheses: (((()))).
  • I don't really deeply feel that anyone needs an airtight reason for quoting from the works of writers he loves, but it's always nice, I'll grant you, if he has one.
The true poet has no choice of material. The material plainly chooses him, not he it.
  • I say that the true artist-seer, the heavenly fool who can and does produce beauty, is mainly dazzled to death by his own scruples, the blinding shapes and colors of his own sacred human conscience.
  • But where does by far the bulk, the whole ambulance load, of pain really come from? Where must it come from? Isn't the true poet or painter a seer? Isn't he, actually, the only seer we have on earth? Most apparently not the scientist, most emphatically not the psychiatrist.
  • The hallmark, then, of the advanced religious, nonsectarian or any other (and I graciously include in the definition of an "advanced religious," odious though the phrase is, all Christians on the great Vivekananda's terms; i.e, "See Christ, then you are a Christian; all else is talk") — the hallmark most commonly identifying this person is that he very frequently behaves like a fool, even an imbecile.
  • It naturally follows that the creature you love next best is the person — the God-lover or God-hater (almost never, apparently, anything in between), the saint or profligate, moralist or complete immoralist — who can write a poem that is a poem.
  • Extremes, though, are always risky and ordinarily downright baneful, and the dangers of prolonged contact with any poetry that seems to exceed what we most familiarly know of the first-class are formidable.
  • The true poet has no choice of material. The material plainly chooses him, not he it.
Seymour once said that all we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next.
  • For the faithful, the patient, the hermetically pure, all the important things in this world — not life and death, perhaps, which are merely words, but the important things — work out rather beautifully.
  • He wanted to tell me that he thought he finally knew why Christ said to call no man Fool. Christ had said it, Seymour thought I'd want to know, because there are no fools. Dopes, yes — fools, no.
  • What is it but a low form of prayer when he or Les or anybody else God-damns everything? I can't believe God recognizes any form of blasphemy. It's a prissy word invented by the clergy.
  • I asked him what, if anything, got him down about teaching. He said he didn't think that anything about it got him exactly down, but there was one thing, he thought, that frightened him: reading the pencilled notations in the margins of books in the college library.
  • If sentiment doesn't ultimately make fibbers of some people, their natural abominable memories almost certainly will.
  • I don't suppose a writing man ever really gets rid of his old crocus-yellow neckties. Sooner or later, I think, they show up in his prose, and there isn't a hell of a lot he can do about it.
  • Seymour once said that all we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next.


  • The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.

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J.D. Salinger
Born Jerome David Salinger
January 1, 1919
Manhattan, New York
Died January 27, 2010
Cornish, New Hampshire
Occupation Novelist and writer
Writing period 1940–1965
Notable work(s) The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

Jerome David Salinger (born January 1, 1919 – died January 27, 2010)[1][2] was an American author, best known for his 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye.



Raised in Manhattan, New York, Salinger began writing short stories while in secondary school. He went to work in Austria in 1936, but left two years later, just before Germany took Austria over. He published several stories in the early 1940s before serving in World War II. In 1948 he published the story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" in The New Yorker magazine, which also published most of his following work. In 1951 Salinger, released his first novel, The Catcher in the Rye, an immediate popular success.[3] The novel remains widely read, selling around 250,000 copies a year. Salinger died at his home in New Hampshire on January 27, 2010.


Salinger did not like publicity: He never published an original work after 1965 and was never interviewed after 1980. In fact, he told his agent to burn any mail that fans sent him.[4] He also did not want his photograph on the jacket of his books.[5]



  • Kubica, Chris; Hochman, Will (2002). Letters to J.D. Salinger. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-17800-5. 
  • Salinger, Margaret 2000. Dream catcher: reflections on reclusion. Scribner, N.Y. ISBN 0-671-04281-5

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Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
NAME Salinger, J. D.
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Salinger, Jerome David
SHORT DESCRIPTION American novelist and writer
DATE OF BIRTH January 1, 1919 (1919-01-01) (age 92)
PLACE OF BIRTH Manhattan, New York
DATE OF DEATH January 27, 2010 (aged Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "{")

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