J.D. Salinger passed away yesterday, in his home in Cornish, N.H. He died at the age of 91, of natural causes. He was 91.
Salinger is best known for his novel, Catcher in the Rye, which is essentially responsible for half of modern fiction. He also wrote Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roofbeams before his self-imposed isolation out in the middle of bumfuck New Hampshire (I had no idea, but I must have driven fairly near his house five times a year — it’s not to far from poet laureate Donald Hall’s home. I wonder … ).
Salinger and, particularly, Catcher has inspired a lot of heated and mixed reaction on this site, between those that cherish Catcher and those that didn’t get the significance. I’m of the former — Catcher is the only book I re-read once a year. You can see the significance of Catcher’s anti-hero not just in novels (every three months, a book is annointed the next Catcher in the Rye), but in some of the greatest coming-of-age movies of the last half century — The Graduate and half of John Hughes’ oeuvre, to name just a few. Catcher also, sadly, inspired Mark David Chapman to shoot and kill John Lennon. I never really understood that.
It’s hard to say that Salinger will be missed — he hasn’t been around for 50 years, and the only time we ever hear of him is when his lawyers file lawsuits seeking to protect the copyrights of his work (most recently to enjoin a sequel to Catcher). Word is that he’s been writing books, and has a pile of unpublished works, which — I’d like to hope — may finally be released. I’m sure many of you, like me, had Hapworth 16, 1928 on pre-order from Amazon for years before it was finally abandoned.
So long, Mr. Salinger. May all the “phonies” let you rest in eternal peace.